The brand new Alexa Voice Remote has power, mute and volume controls for your TV
With its latest Fire TV Stick, Amazon hasn’t tried to reinvent the wheel. If you weren’t a fan of previous Fire TV Stick hardware, there’s not much here to change your mind. However, if you’ve been using a Fire TV Stick for a few years, there are some great under the hood improvements that could make it a worthwhile upgrade.
Express.co.uk was busy bingeing box sets, streaming movies and asking Alexa to organize our calendar from the comfort of our sofa. Here’s our in-depth review of the brand new Fire TV Stick from Amazon.
Amazon Fire TV Stick (2020) review: price and availability
Amazon unveiled its latest Fire TV during its annual hardware presentation in September. In the weeks that followed, the updated HDMI dongle landed on the shelves. The Fire TV Stick costs £ 39.99 and is available on Amazon as well as a number of stores.
Amazon Fire TV Stick (2020) Review: Hardware
Fire TV Stick is still a stick. Amazon managed to squeeze it all into a little dongle with an HDMI port on the end to plug it right into your TV. There is also an included charging cable that you can plug into any free USB port on your TV. Otherwise, Amazon includes a charging plug for connecting to the mains.
It has always been and still is an elegantly simple design. Once everything is plugged in, it’s neatly hidden and out of sight. Provided you have a free USB port, there are not even cables dangling from your TV. This is especially useful if you are wall mounted at home.
Of course, most of Amazon’s competitors now offer very similar streaming options. Google, Roku, and others offer elegant HDMI dongles. So the most important hardware differentiator for all of these devices is the remote control.
Amazon’s new Fire TV Stick comes with a new and improved remote control. Or rather, it comes with a remote control previously only available on more expensive models, including the £ 109 Fire TV Cube that doubles as a Fire TV Stick and Amazon Echo Dot.
Typing with a remote is always slow, so voice control is very welcome
Unlike older models, the new Alexa Voice Remote that comes with the Fire TV Stick has special power, volume and mute buttons for your TV. Once everything is set up, all you have to do is reach for a single remote control to turn on your TV, select a movie, and adjust the volume as needed. It’s a minor change, but one that you’ll appreciate every time you start a new box set.
As the name suggests, Alexa takes center stage on the Fire TV remote. It is a very good thing. Entering movie titles, director names, or apps into the search bar using the D-pad on any remote is quite a chore, so the ability to just ask Alexa is excellent.
If you already have a house with Amazon Echo speakers and other smart home kits, you can use the Alexa Voice Remote to control your lights, set your central heating, and much more – without moving an inch for your sofa. Bliss.
Amazon Fire TV ranks second after Roku when it comes to supporting streaming services like NOW TV, Apple, and Google
Amazon Fire TV Stick (2020) Review: Fire TV Operating System and Apps
Unless you’re already deeply invested in Alexa-enabled devices, the software is one of the best reasons to buy the Fire TV Stick over similar-priced competitors from Roku and Google.
Fire TV got quite a major overhaul late last year, and the results are great. For our money, Fire TV always has one of the most visually striking software to show. While Roku has the most comprehensive library of apps, it has a pretty functional (but boring) interface. Chromecast with Google TV looks fine, but some of the apps are missing. Fire TV hits a great sweet spot between the two.
It has rich, high-resolution graphics from movies and shows across the operating system, as well as convenient shortcuts to your favorite streaming services and apps.
With the latest update, up to six individual profiles could be added for the Fire TV Stick. This means that every single family member or roommate can have their own personalized 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, the functionality hasn’t been extended to the Fire TV hardware itself. As such, shows and movies would be suggested based on everything seen on television. Hence, Fire TV would suggest new movies based on the films parents saw in the evening and children in the morning.
After a software update at the end of 2020, Amazon added profiles to the device as well as a live tab for sports games and other events
Needless to say, this could lead to rather confusing suggestions or make younger viewers stumble upon a post-watershed show that is shown front and back on the Fire TV homepage.
Likewise, links for continuing box sets are displayed side by side, without any distinction being made between who saw the show.
With the arrival of these new user profiles, these links are now divided according to who was logged in when going through a series. So if you only have a few episodes of Game Of Thrones and Industry but your partner has made it to the season finale, they will be shown separately and only shown if the correct person is signed in.
Additionally, each user profile has its own watchlist, so you can queue up a list of movies and shows that you dearly want to see – and this will not affect other people watching the same thing on TV as they have their own lists can create. Profiles should ensure that everyone gets a highly personalized experience while using a Fire TV. So far this has only applied to those who live alone … or have a different Fire TV Stick in each room of the house.
In addition to the profiles, Amazon has optimized the recommendations. The update adds a new Search tab at the top of the user interface that aggregates all of the box sets and movies that Amazon thinks you’ll like based on your previous ad.
It will still contain recommendations from various streaming services – not just Prime Video. So expect new box sets from Disney +, Shudder, and Netflix too. In our time with the Fire TV Stick, this has done admirably and made some great suggestions that suit our tastes.
Our only minor issue is that Amazon is still using IMDB results for the Fire TV Stick, unlike the Rotten Tomatoes results found on Chromecast with Google TV and for our money the quality of a movie or series, that you do not know better reflect with.
With NOW TV, Disney +, YouTube, BT Sport, BritBox and Apple TV +, not much is missing in the Fire TV Stick’s app library these days. The only thing you might be missing compared to its competitors is the amazing Cast feature in Chromecast that allows friends and family to cast their photos, playlist requests or Chrome web browser tabs on the big screen with one click.
If you plug it into the HDMI port on the back of your TV, you won’t even notice the Fire TV Stick
Amazon Fire TV Stick (2020) Review: Final Verdict
- Advantages: Large selection of streaming services and catch-up apps, nice menu, Alexa is handy to check for new shows, volume control on the remote control
- Disadvantage: No press enter on the remote, for £ 10 more, Amazon sells you a Fire TV stick with all of this and Ultra HD support
If you’re still streaming on one of the original Fire TV Sticks, a remote-less Chromecast, or an aging Smart TV, the latest Fire TV Stick is a solid investment.
Navigating the menu is incredibly fluid. Alexa is a convenient way to search for movies and actors without the nightmare of typing with an on-screen keyboard. Thanks to the new profile function, you can keep Amazon’s clever AI suggestions based solely on your viewing history.
Thanks to the improved Alexa Voice Remote, you don’t have to juggle three different remotes to control the sound system volume, turn on the TV and select the episode you want to watch (although the Chromecast with Google TV improves this slightly by adding an enter button on the Universal remote so you can switch between HDMI connections to find the streaming dongle without using another remote!)
For € 39.99 the price for the Fire TV Stick is very high. If you can wait until Prime Day, Black Friday, or a number of other sales events, you can probably pick these up from Amazon for even less. It’s worth noting that Amazon is selling a Fire TV Stick that is compatible with 4K Ultra HD streaming for an extra ten. Of course, you need a fiber optic broadband connection (and a smart TV) that is suitable for viewing in this pixel-rich quality. However, if you have both, this might be a better option.