Taking square aim at an increasingly crowded field of streaming media devices, Amazon recently launched a massive new salvo with it’s portable and powerful Fire TV Stick. Looking to recover from the debacle that was the Fire Phone, and with established competitors like Apple TV, Roku, and Google’s Chromecast, already clamoring for your cord cutting dollars, Amazon needed to make a splash, and it did.
Packed with features and boasting a nominal price, $19 at pre-launch, $39 regularly, the stick has a small form factor that plugs into your tv and works in concert with an included remote to give you access to a huge network of both free and paid content. Specs look impressive on paper: a dual core processor, 1 GB of memory (4x the storage, and 2x the memory of Chromecast), up to 1080p HD video, voice command search (via an app), and Dolby Digital Plus sound. Like other streaming devices, the goal is to drive users to the manufacturer’s content network, in this case Amazon’s massive 200,000+ title library, but additional content channels are available that are both free and subscription-based. The Stick also comes with a free 30-day trial of Amazon Prime giving you a chance to test drive the Prime Instant Video selection and Amazon’s original content before you commit to a subscription.
Outside of Amazon’s network, the Fire Stick’s channel roster includes Netflix, Watch ESPN, Hulu Plus, NBA Gametime, Bloomberg TV, Crackle, Twitch, A&E, History, and Showtime Anytime, to name a few. HBO Go is a notable absence, but if Amazon knows what’s good for ‘em (I’m sure they do) it will likely be added in the very near future. Additional content features include music services like Pandora and Spotify, plus over 200 games. The Stick also includes predictive technology to help curate suggestions based on what you are watching and interested in. For the road warriors out there, you’ll be happy to know that future features include special wifi authentication capabilities that will give the user the ability to use the device on hotel and other public wifi networks, something that Chromecast and the Roku stick can’t do.
If you’re in the market for a streaming device, the good folks over at CNET put together a super-handy list of available channels across the 4 primary streaming devices. Check it out here. These lists are ever-evolving with new channels and options added regularly.
Bottom line? This looks like an impressive piece of tech. It improves upon its competitors in both form and specs and offers some intriguing room to grow. We’re so sold on it that we went ahead and ordered our own just in time for some post-holiday dinner binge watching. Who's popping the popcorn?