Here's what you need to know about Amazon's compact streamer
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Here at Reviewed, we make a pretty big fuss about media streaming devices: which ones are the best for which people, and why? There's a huge array of great choices from companies like Roku, Apple, Google, Nvidia, and so on.
While we think the other streamers are great (and in some cases better choices), our readers maintain a lot of loyalty to the Amazon Fire TV Stick. Available at a very affordable $40 price point, the Fire TV Stick (and Fire TV Stick 4K) maintain best-seller status month after month, especially when they receive big discounts during events like Prime Day.
If you've been thinking about picking up a media streaming device and you've been wondering which streaming device is the best, you might want to consider the Amazon Fire TV Stick. Here's a few reasons why.
One of the best reasons to spring for either the Amazon Fire TV Stick or Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K is to use Alexa, Amazon's voice assistant, which is built right into the remote on both of the most recent models.
If you're already familiar with Alexa, this is a great way to integrate your TV with that ecosystem to a degree. No, you won't be able to control any smart home device just because you have Alexa (you'll need additional hardware for that), but you'll be able to use voice search and issue voice commands to look for music, movie, and TV content, especially within the Prime Video ecosystem. You can do any Alexa commands that already work, such as setting reminders, ordering products, and so on.
In the past, I've found the convenience of this feature is marred a bit—just a bit—by how often Amazon recommends and prioritizes its own movie and music streaming options over other options. Not that there's really any difference between a $2.99 rental on Prime Video or VUDU, but things like constantly shilling for Prime or advertising Amazon things can be distracting compared to a more content agnostic system like Roku.
This one's a simple enough point, but, it's worth pointing out that the Fire TV and Fire TV 4K sticks are not just good for Alexa users, but all Amazon Prime members. Subscribers get a decent amount of free movie and TV content, though a good amount of it is original Prime programming, to no one's surprise.
Even if you're not a Prime subscriber, you can still make use of the Fire TV stick, especially if you don't already have a smart TV. You'll get access to apps like Netflix, YouTube, Hulu, HBO Now, Spotify, and so on.
Almost regardless of which smart TV you have, the Fire TV Stick is a good investment because it will stay updated more faithfully—sorry TV smart platform makers, it's true. Over time, especially after a year or two, you'll have snappier performance and generally better WiFi connectivity, in our experience. And if the Stick starts to slow down, at least you're only out $40–$50.
If you already own a 4K TV or have just bought one, you're probably planning on watching some 4K content on Netflix or Prime Video (both of which now have a decent selection of 4K and HDR titles available to stream). However, your old streaming method—be it a DVD or Blu-ray player, or by plugging your laptop into your TV—is not going to be able to stream 4K.
This is less of an issue these days, but it's worth keeping in mind: for $50, not only can you get the Fire TV Stick 4K and all of its app-equipped and Alexa-voice-control functionality, but it also serves up the chips and codecs you'll need to stream 4K, HDR, HDR10, and Dolby Vision content.
Can your new 4K TV do this too? Yes, of course. But in our experience, not only are media streamers better organized and easier to use overall, they have better processing, which can make for more reliable streaming of higher bandwidth 4K and HDR content. Just keep in mind you'll need the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K to stream 4K/HDR content—the $40 Fire TV Stick doesn't do 4K.
If any of this sounds like something you might need, you can get either of the Fire TV Sticks for pretty cheap all year 'round, but they can be especially affordable during events like Prime Day, or during the upcoming holidays/Black Friday/Cyber Monday.
You can get the Fire TV Stick from Amazon for $40, but if I were you, I'd spring for the Fire TV Stick 4K for $50. The ability to stream 4K/HDR that way gives you a decent amount of future proofing, even if you don't own a 4K/HDR TV yet.