The Fire TV Stick is a content streaming device that plugs into your TV’s HDMI port, allowing you to stream TV/movies (Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, etc.), music (Pandora, Spotify, Amazon Music), and games.
The device was super simple to set up — it’s about the same size as a Chromecast, but unlike the Chromecast, there’s an included HDMI extender in case your HDMI ports are really close together. I’ve found that the Chromecast is so thick that it makes it hard to use the neighboring HDMI ports. (Update: We just got a Chromecast in our office, and apparently they now ship with an HDMI extender as well.)
So next, I plugged the device into my TV and then plugged it into power (the power cord is really short — a lot of people will probably need an extension cord to power it, unless there’s a USB port on your TV, which works as well). On startup, it had automatically logged me in with my Amazon Prime account, but it gave the option to sign in as a different user. Once logged in, it searched and found my network and subsequently checked for updates (surprise, surprise), which took about 10 minutes to download and install.
Once that was done, a simple animation started to walk me through the basic interface and show me what was available from various apps. There’s a walkthrough of how to use the remote along with an explanation of how to download a remote app for your phone (the iOS version isn’t out yet, but it’s coming soon). I found the remote to be nice and simple, almost like a combination of an Apple TV remote and an Android phone.
Overall, the initial startup video was well done — short, but informative — and at the end, they even tell you where the video is located in the settings, just in case you need to reference it again in the future.
This is the first device I’ve used that puts its main navigation on the left side (like Roku does). AppleTV, Xbox, and Playstation all keep the main navigation on the top of the screen.
Viewing apps was a bit of a frustrating experience — you can’t tell if an app is free or not until you actually go into the app details page. This resulted in a lot of diving in and out of apps just to find a few free games to try out.
Game apps are definitely an interesting aspect of the Fire TV Stick, as some games can be played with the included remote while others require a separate game controller. Luckily, though, it’s clearly noted whether or not any given game needs the controller or can just be played with the remote.
The Spotify app stood out to me, as it’s basically just a streaming app that connects devices on your network that have Spotify (phone, tablet, PC) to your TV. Similarly, the Netflix and YouTube apps can be downloaded straight to the Fire TV Stick, or you can just run them on another connected device and stream it through the Stick. This makes sense if you want to save space on your Fire TV Stick for downloading a lot of games and other apps.
On the topic of space, there’s 8GB of space on the device for downloading apps, which is decent for this type of device. But in my opinion, it would have definitely made more sense to support some type of memory card to allow for more space as needed. Or, if that was the case, then you could even switch out cards for different users.
Going forward, I think it’ll be interesting to see how they develop the game side of the device, which is something that other devices like Chromecast and Apple TV don’t have. Ultimately, its capabilities really extend between a casting device and a streaming device. Overall, the Fire TV Stick is a solid entry into the streaming device space.