HomeTechnologyFire TV Stick review: Small price, smaller changes – this is a winning formula from Amazon
Fire TV Stick review: Small price, smaller changes – this is a winning formula from Amazon
January 25, 2023
Fire TV Stick review: The all-new Alexa Voice Remote includes power, mute and volume controls (Image: AMAZON • GETTY)
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Fire TV Stick is affordable, compact, and packed with all of the streaming services and games you could ever want
What We Love
Great Selection Of Streaming Apps
Beautiful Menu Design
Alexa Makes Discovery Easy
Volume Controls On The Remote
New, Speedier Processor
What We Don’t
No Source Input Button
Just £10 Extra For 4K Ultra HD
From the outside, nothing has changed with the latest revision of the Fire TV Stick. While that might sound like a criticism, honestly, changing the brilliantly functional design of the Fire TV Stick for the sake of it would be wholly unnecessary. Fire TV fits snugly behind your telly into any HDMI port and is never seen again.
Inside, the latest chipset means the Fire TV Stick is 50% faster than the 2019 Fire TV Stick, but unless you’re playing games on this lightweight dongle you’re unlikely to really notice the improvements. What that extra oomph really means is that Amazon will be able to continue supporting this Fire TV Stick with the latest version of its Fire OS operating system for years to come.
It’s the software that’s the real superstar in the Fire TV formula.
Amazon’s operating system looks stunning, with gorgeous high-resolution artwork, trailers baked into the main menu, and IMDB scores to quickly assess whether you’re about to queue-up an Academy Award winner …or a Razzie nominee.
Alexa is available at the touch of a button and lets you search for movies and actors without the nightmare of typing with an on-screen keyboard. Those who are deeply invested in smart home gadgets will be able to summon Alexa with the remote to control smart lightbulbs, adjust Wi-Fi connected thermostats, and check the video feed from a Ring Doorbell.
Even at full price, Fire TV Stick is great value. But if you can snag on the best Fire TV Stick deals around, this is an unbeatable bargain.
Fire TV Stick (2020) review
With its latest Fire TV Stick, Amazon hasn’t tried to reinvent the wheel. In fact, it made very few changes to the wheel at all.
That means if you weren’t a fan of previous iterations of the Fire TV Stick streaming dongle, there really isn’t much here to change your mind. However, if you’ve been using a Fire TV Stick for a few years now (and your current device is starting to show its age) there are some nice quality-of-life tweaks to the new Fire T Stick that could make it a worthwhile upgrade.
And if you’ve never owned a Fire TV gadget from Amazon, but are looking for a simple and affordable way to bring the biggest streaming services, the best VPN services, and games from Lumia to any television with an HDMI port, the latest generation Fire TV Stick is a great place to start.
We’ve been busy bingeing boxsets, streaming movies, and asking Alexa to organise our calendar from the comfort of our sofa (it’s a tough gig, but someone has to do it…). Our in-depth Fire TV Stick review has everything you need to know about this latest streamer.
Easily the biggest hardware change to the new Fire TV Stick is the upgraded Alexa Voice Remote (Image: AMAZON)
Fire TV Stick is still, well, a stick. Amazon has managed to squeeze everything into a small dongle with an HDMI connector at the end to plug directly into your telly. There’s also a bundled charging cable, which you can connect to any spare USB ports on your TV or, failing that, Amazon includes a charging plug to connect to the mains.
It always was an elegantly simple design and it still is. Once everything is plugged in, it’s neatly concealed and out of sight. Provided that you have a spare USB port, there won’t even be any trailing cables dangling from your TV — that’s particularly useful if you’ve got a wall-mounted set-up at home.
If you weren’t a fan of previous Fire TV Stick hardware, there isn’t much here to change your mind
Of course, most of Amazon’s competitors now offer very similar streaming options. Google, Roku and others all offer sleek HDMI dongles. So, really, the main differentiating bit of hardware for all these gadgets is the remote.
And Amazon’s new Fire TV Stick ships with a new and improved remote control. Or rather, it ships with a remote that was previously only available on pricier models, including the £109 Fire TV Cube which doubles as both a Fire TV Stick and an Amazon Echo Dot.
The upgraded Fire TV Stick arrives with support for Dolby Atmos – perfect for soundbar owners (Image: AMAZON)
Unlike older models, the new Alexa Voice Remote that ships with the Fire TV Stick has dedicated Power, Volume and Mute buttons for your telly. Once everything is all setup, that means you’ll only have to reach for a single remote to switch on your TV, choose a movie, and adjust the volume as needed. It’s a small tweak, but one that you’ll be grateful to have every time you start a new boxset.
As the name suggests, Alexa takes centre-stage on the Fire TV remote. That’s a very good thing. Typing out movie titles, names of directors, or apps in the search bar using the directional pad on any remote is pretty arduous, so the ability to just ask Alexa is brilliant.
If you already have a home filled with Amazon Echo speakers and other smart home kit, you’ll be able to use the Alexa Voice Remote to control your lights, set your central heating, and more — all without moving an inch for your place on the sofa. Bliss.
Like the rest of the Fire TV lineup, the dongle remains out of sight plugged into the HDMI port (Image: AMAZON)
Fire TV OS and Apps
Unless you’re already deeply invested in Alexa-enabled gadgets, one of the best reasons to pick up the Fire TV Stick over similarly-priced rivals from Roku and Google, is the software.
Fire TV recently enjoyed a pretty comprehensive overhaul at the end of last year, and the results are great. For our money, Fire TV has always boasted one of the most visually striking software. While Roku has the most comprehensive library of apps, it has a pretty functional (but dull) interface. Chromecast with Google TV 4K looks great but lacks some of the apps. Fire TV hits a great sweet-spot between these two.
How does the Fire TV Stick compare to the competition?
It has expansive, high-resolution artwork from films and shows throughout the operating system, as well as handy shortcuts into your favourite streaming services and apps.
The latest update brought the ability to add up to six individual profiles for the Fire TV Stick. That means each individual family member or flatmate can have their own personalised suggestions based on the latest viewing history, their own library of games and apps.
While Amazon’s Prime Video streaming service has had user profiles for a while now, the feature did not extend to the Fire TV hardware itself. As such, shows and movies would be suggested based everything watched on the telly. So, Fire TV would suggest new films based on those watched by parents in the evening as well as children in the morning.
Fire OS remains one of the most beautifully designed, useful menus on any streaming gadget (Image: AMAZON)
Needless to say, that could lead to some pretty confusing suggestions or could lead younger viewers to stumble across a post-watershed show showcased front-and-centre on the Fire TV homepage.
Likewise, shortcuts to resume boxsets would appear side-by-side with no differentiation based on who was watching the show.
With the arrival of these new user profiles, these shortcuts will now be divided based on who was logged in when bingeing through a series. So, if you’re only a few episodes into Game Of Thrones and Industry, but your partner has binged to the season finale – these will be separate and only appear when the correct person is logged in.
Not only that, but each user profile will have its own Watch List, so you’ll be able to queue up a list of films and shows that you’re keen to watch – and it won’t impact anyone else who watches the same telly as they’ll be able to create their own lists. Profiles should ensure that everyone gets a highly personalised experience when using a Fire TV. Until now, that’s only really been true for those who live alone… or have a different Fire TV Stick in every room in the house.
As well as profiles, Amazon tweaked how it makes recommendations. The update adds a new Find tab at the top of the user interface, which is designed to bring together all of the boxsets and movies that Amazon thinks you’ll enjoy based on your previous viewing.
As before, these will include recommendations from a variety of streaming services – not just Prime Video – so expect to see new boxsets from Disney+, Shudder, and Netflix in the mix too. In our time with the Fire TV Stick, this performed admirably and made some pretty great suggestions in line with our tastes.
Our only minor quibble is that Amazon still uses IMDB scores across the Fire TV Stick, unlike the Rotten Tomatoes scores found on Chromecast with Google TV, which for our money, are a better reflection of the quality of a film or series you’re unfamiliar with.
With the addition of NOW TV, Disney+, YouTube, BT Sport, BritBox, and Apple TV+, there’s not a lot missing from the Fire TV Stick’s library of apps these days. In fact, the only thing you might miss when compared to its competitors is the amazing Cast feature on Chromecast, which lets friends and family throw their photos, playlist requests or Chrome web browser tabs onto the big screen with a click.
Price and Availability
Amazon unveiled its latest Fire TV during its annual September hardware showcase back in 2020, with the upgraded HDMI dongle landing on shelves in the weeks that followed. Fire TV Stick costs £39.99 and is available from Amazon as well as a number of high street stores.
The latest revision to the Fire TV Stick doesn’t make any unnecessary changes …in fact, it doesn’t make many changes at all. But while that might sound like a criticism, there’s really no need to change the award-winning formula that Amazon has stumbled upon with its excellent Fire TV lineup. If you’re struggling on with one of the original Fire TV Stick models, a remote-less Google Chromecast, or an ageing Smart TV, the latest Amazon Fire TV Stick is a solid investment that will seriously upgrade your streaming set-up.
Sure, the new hardware is 50% faster than the 2019 Fire TV Stick, but unless you’re playing games on this lightweight dongle you’re unlikely to really notice the improvements from the upgraded processor. Instead, the extra oomph under the bonnet should result in your Fire TV Stick being updated to the latest version of the Fire OS operating system for years to come – unlocking the latest features from Amazon.
The new Fire TV Stick is 50% faster than the previous generation, but unless you’re playing games you’re unlikely to really notice
And it’s the software that is the real star of this show. Aside from maybe the Apple TV, Amazon’s Fire OS has one of the best looking menus on the market. Boxsets and blockbusters are presented with beautiful, high-resolution artwork that fills every corner of the screen, shows are pulled-in from all of your favourite streaming platforms, trailers can be viewed from the main menu, and individual profiles mean you’ll be able to keep Amazon’s clever AI suggestions based solely on your own viewing history.
The improved Alexa Voice Remote in the box with the 2020 Fire TV Stick means you won’t have to juggle three different remotes to control the volume of the sound system, turn on the TV, and select the episode you want to watch (although the Chromecast with Google TV does improve on this slightly by adding an Input button on its universal remote, so you can jump between HDMI connections to find the streaming dongle without picking up another remote!) Not to mention, Alexa is a convenient way to search for movies and actors without the nightmare of typing with an on-screen keyboard.
Those who are deeply invested in smart home gadgets will be able to summon Alexa with the remote to control smart lightbulbs, adjust Wi-Fi connected thermostats, and check the video feed from a Ring Doorbell. Of course, you’ll need to make sure that your existing kit is compatible with Alexa, so those with a Google Nest Hub might want to look at another streaming dongle.
For £39.99, the Fire TV Stick is aggressively priced. Especially if you can find it reduced, which happens on a fairly regular basis. It’s worth noting that for an extra £20, you could upgrade to the Fire TV Stick 4K Max which is compatible with speedier Wi-Fi 6, 4K Ultra HD, Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos.
Of course, you’ll need a fibre broadband connection, Wi-Fi 6 compatible router, Dolby Atmos soundbar, and a 4K TV to take advantage of all of those extra capabilities. But if that describes your setup, that’s a much better option.