Hoping to compete with similar dongle-sized TV streaming devices, like the various Roku models or the Google Chromecast, Amazon recently announced something called the Amazon Fire TV Stick. Considering the amount of video content offered on Amazon Prime and the availability of the larger Fire TV box, creating their own small footprint streaming device makes perfect sense for the online retailing giant, but does it make sense for your home’s entertainment center?
If this streaming device gains Amazon more subscribers for their Prime service, the Fire TV Stick would be a winner. It is currently available for pre-order, with a scheduled ship date on November 19th. With all that in mind, let’s take a closer look at the Fire TV Stick’s features, functionality, and price.
The Amazon Fire TV Stick Priced to Compete with Chromecast
The Fire TV Stick retails for only $39, and if you are already an Amazon Prime subscriber your price is actually $19. So for the cost of a large, robustly-topped pizza, Prime subscribers can pick up their own media streaming dongle. This price point places the Fire TV Stick directly in competition with the Google Chromecast currently available for $35; a Roku unit generally retails for around $50 depending on the specific model.
With the larger Fire TV Box retailing for $99, Amazon might have made the Fire TV Stick’s older brother obsolete. Customers who recently picked up the Fire TV Box may be regretting their decision, as the dongle-sized model sports pretty much the same functionality as the more expensive version.
The Fire TV Stick Offers Typical Media Streaming Functionality
From a functionality standpoint, the Amazon Fire TV Stick definitely competes well with the Roku and Chromecast. Like other dongle-sized video streamers, the Fire TV Stick plugs directly into an HDMI port on your TV or audio-video receiver. A remote control is also included, but it doesn’t offer the same voice search functionality as the remote that came with the Fire TV Box. Fire TV Stick apps for iOS and Android offer voice remote control, or you can spring for a $30 mic-equipped remote control.
The Fire TV Stick supports a wide array of apps and online streaming services, including Netflix, Hulu Plus, and of course, Amazon’s own Prime content. In a similar manner as the Fire TV Box, the user interface tends to favor Amazon content at the expense of others. With that said, HBO Go is pretty much the only major streaming service not supported by the Fire TV Stick; you’ll need a Roku or Chromecast to stream your Game of Thrones.
Video gamers will be happy to note that the Fire TV Stick is compatible with the same Fire Game controller supported by the Fire TV Box, available for $40. Third-party game controllers are also supported. This gives gamers another option for big screen game action, this time using a media streaming device.
Amazon also touts that its Fire TV Stick works better for travelers compared to Roku and Chromecast. The WiFi services offered at hotels generally require navigation to a web page to sign in to the network, and the Chromecast and Roku don’t support these captive portal authentication pages. Amazon says the Fire TV Stick is compatible, so now you can get your streaming on when hitting the road.
A Great Choice for Amazon Prime Subscribers
Ultimately, the Amazon Fire TV Stick is a great choice as a media streaming device for Amazon Prime subscribers, considering the better price and an interface optimized for finding Amazon content. Its cheaper price also makes it a better deal than Amazon’s own Fire TV Box, since the functionality between the two is essentially the same. Better support for the captive portal authentication schemes found with hotel WiFi networks also gives it a leg up on the Roku and Chromecast for travelers.
With another easy to use dongle-sized streaming device now on the market, the rapid changes to how we watch our favorite TV shows continue to evolve. Will wearable versions from Amazon, Google, Roku, and even Apple be the next evolution in media streaming devices?