The Amazon Fire TV Stick looks a bit like a memory stick on steroids and is designed to plug straight into an HDMI port on your TV. It’s a neat all-in-one design housed in plastic. It will creak a little if squeezed, but feels tough enough for purpose.
At 9cm long and around 3cm deep, it will need a bit of room on your TV back panel though, particularly when you consider making room for its micro USB cable power supply. Thankfully if this is too much of a squeeze, Amazon includes an HDMI extender in the box to free up some space.
The accompanying remote is the same one that you’ll find included with the pricier Fire TV box. It’s pretty simple, offering a D-pad for navigation, a handful of playback controls and the all-important voice input key. It’s nice that this is included now, although the iOS and Android app does an equally good job and can activate the same Alexa commands.
AMAZON FIRE TV STICK (2017) – SET UP AND INTERFACE
Setting up your Fire TV Stick is really simple. Just plug it into a spare HDMI slot on your TV, and its USB cable into a power source. Some on-screen instructions will get your Alexa remote paired and the Fire TV Stick hooked up to your home network. Once you’re signed into your Amazon account, you’re ready to go.
If you’re familiar with the previous Fire TV Stick, you’ll notice immediately that the interface has been redesigned. The main navigation menu has moved from the side to along the top, and a new picture-led carousel with suggested content dominates the top half of the screen. The idea is that the Fire TV Stick will learn your viewing habits over time and tailor this to you, with video teasers to draw you in. During a week’s testing, the selection it surfaced improved to include programmes and films I’d be more likely to choose, including content from other providers like Netflix.
Detail pages have been improved too, with a large picture backdrop and more in-depth programme information. Once you start to watch a show, clicking upwards on the remote will open up Amazon’s X-Ray IMDb feature, for finding about more about the cast.
Besides downloading apps, I found the homepage was the only place I needed to be. In a side-scrolling menu beneath the carousel, you’ll find your recent shows and apps for quick access. Beneath that, you can browse and organise your downloaded apps, scroll through several menus of Prime suggested content, and even one for Netflix (subscription dependent).
That’s what’s particularly refreshing about this version of the Fire TV Stick. While Amazon Prime content is still its bread and butter (and dominates its menus) it's not as difficult to find content from other providers as it was before.
For example, Amazon Prime offers Breaking Bad as a paid-for box set, whereas it’s free to watch on Netflix. If you search for it, Fire TV will suggest you watch it on Netflix first, with the option to buy it in a “More Ways To Watch” menu. It feels more like it’s working for the user, and not for itself, which is how it should be.
It’s still very much a device aimed at Prime subscribers though, and I’d certainly recommend signing up for the service to get the most out of it. With its new monthly subscription option (£7.99/$8.99 per month), it’s much more accessible now too. If you’re not interested in Prime, you may well find you’re better serviced by a Chromecast or similar streaming stick.