This could very well be the biggest Google Chromecast competitor. It’s the Amazon Fire TV Stick and it’s aimed to basically dethrone Chromecast by offering more features for a better price. It’s $20 for Amazon Prime members or $40 for everyone else. It consists of an HDMI dongle and remote. Let’s go ahead and open it up and see what is inside.
We can do this by first peeling off the seal thing here and sliding off the outer casing and lifting up the top of the box. Then there we have the two main components: the Fire TV HDMI Stick to the left and the Fire TV Stick remote to the right. The Fire TV Stick is pretty small though. It obviously has an HDMI port on the end of it as well as a microUSB port to provide power to the Stick located on the side. The remote is also pretty basic as it provides buttons to navigate the UI. The major difference to it compared to the say the Fire TV remote is that there is no voice surge button unfortunately.
If we take a look at what lies underneath, we will (first of all) find the basic Fire TV Stick Setup and Getting Started packet. Then we will find a couple of AAA batteries to power the remote control. As always, it’s nice to see them included in the box. Next, we’ll find the microUSB charging cable that will be used to power the Fire TV Stick. It’s a pretty long cable so that it can reach this wall adaptor that is actually required to effectively power the Fire TV Stick. You won’t be able to power it via a USB port on your TV unfortunately.
The last item is the HDMI extension cable. We saw Google include this with the Chromecast. But since the Fire TV Stick is fairly large, it might not fit in the HDMI slot in your TV, especially if you have a lot of ports being used in close proximity with each other. If that is the case though, this just allows you to basically plug in the Fire TV Stick to your TV from a slightly further away distance.
So that is all that is inside the box, quite a bit for a $20-$40 piece of equipment. I’m going to connect my Fire TV Stick to my TV now and actually the first problem I ran into was that I tried to power it via a USB port in my TV but that’s not actually the preferred choice. As you can see here, I got this warning message. So I had to unfortunately plug it into the power brick, which kind of sucks because it’s just one more cord that will be dangling down below my TV. I mean it’s not a huge deal—they included a pretty long microUSB cable but maybe I’m just spoiled from Chromecast.
I’m going to speed past this setup. Basically you just have to connect to Wi-Fi. Actually the longest part of this setup process is just the video that you have to watch. It goes over a lot of common sense stuff although it does mention you can download the Fire TV Stick app on Google Play to turn your phone or tablet into a remote control with voice surge functionality and you can also play your favorite apps through your TV or mirror your phone or tablet to your TV similar to Chromecast.
The layout on the UI on the Fire TV Stick was pretty darn simple. You have categories for Search, Home, Prime, Video, Movies, TV, Watchlist, Video, Library Games, Apps, Music, Photos, and drumroll please: Settings. In terms of apps, there’s a pretty decent selection such as YouTube, NBA Game Time, Pandora, Google +, WatchESPN, Netflix and quite a bit of other ones. On top of all that, you do get access to all the Prime TV, movies, and music too; which is pretty awesome. There is even a few games that can run on this modestly specked Google device.
So there you have it. That is the first look at the Fire TV Stick by Amazon. It seems to run pretty well. It’s not the fastest thing in the world but then again, it does have “four times the storage and two times the memory of Chromecast plus a dual-core processor and 1GB of RAM.” All of which is $20-$40, which is an absolute steal of a deal.