Amazon’s second-generation Fire TV Stick has just gone on sale in the UK. It comes packing a stack of improvements, including a faster processer, refreshed interface and Alexa voice control. Consider this a review in process with some initial impressions – come back for the full review in a few days once we’ve had a chance to get fully acquainted.
The new Amazon Fire TV Stick is the service’s second iteration of its cheapest video streaming device. It aims itself squarely at rivals such as Google Chromecast Ultra and Roku Streaming Stick, squeezing all its streaming know-how into a dongle-sized device.
You can stream Full HD video from Amazon Prime, as well as Netflix and the full roster of the UK’s catch-up services. There are plenty more apps besides, including Prime Music and Spotify, plus access to Amazon’s growing games library.
So , what’s new? For a start, the interface has had a complete overhaul to make it look more attractive and easier to use. This will filter down to older devices over time, though, so the real benefits of the new Stick are its faster processor and the new Alexa voice remote.
While we’ve seen voice remotes before with the likes of the Fire TV box, this is the first time that Alexa has been built into a Fire TELEVISION product. The voice assistant is cleverer than your standard voice command system, so there’s much more you can do.
Setting up your Fire TV Stick is simple: just plug it into a spare HDMI slot on your TV, and its USB cable into a power source. Some on-screen instructions will get your Alexa remote paired and the Fire TV Stick hooked up to your home network, after which you’re ready to go.
If you’re familiar with the previous Fire TELEVISION Stick, you’ll notice immediately that the brand new UI has been redesigned with a more visual focus.
The main navigation menu has moved from the side to along the top, and a new picture-led carousel with Amazon-suggested content dominates the top half of the screen.
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The idea is that the Fire TV Stick will learn your viewing habits over time and tailor this to you, with video teasers to draw you in.
Detail pages have been improved, too, with a large picture backdrop and more in-depth information. Once you start to watch the show, clicking upwards on the remote will open up Amazon’s X-Ray IMDb feature, for finding out more about the cast.
Unless you’re downloading apps, I found the homepage was the only place I needed to be. In a side-scrolling menu beneath the carousel, you’ll find recent shows and apps for quick access. Beneath that, you can browse your downloaded apps, scroll through several menus of Prime-suggested content, and even one for Netflix (subscription dependent).
That’s what’s particularly refreshing about this version of the Fire TV Stick. While Amazon Prime content is still its bread and butter – and dominates its menus – it doesn’t make it as difficult to surface content from other providers as it did before.
For example , Amazon Prime offers Breaking Bad as a paid-for box set, whereas it’s free to watch on Netflix. If you search for it, Fire TELEVISION will suggest you watch it on Netflix first, with the option to buy it in a “More Ways To Watch” menu. It feels more like it’s working for the user, and not for itself – which is how it should be.
It’s still very much a device aimed at Prime subscribers, however , and I’d certainly recommend signing up for the service to get the most out of it. With its new monthly subscription option (£7. 99/$8. 99 per month), it’s much more accessible now too.
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Scrolling through the menus, it’s clear that the new quad-core processor has given the Fire TV Stick a welcome boost of power. Promising to be 30% quicker, it certainly feels slicker to browse and faster to load, as you flick in and out of menus and search for content.
Voice commands work well too. Rather than using the Alexa wake command as you would on the Amazon Echo, you press a button on the remote, hold it in and speak.
The results are incredibly accurate. You can search by actor, genre or film name, and during testing so far, Alexa hasn’t misunderstood a single command.
That said, some of the returned suggestions aren’t always as helpful as they could be. A seek out Brad Pitt offered up five TV shows and movies that don’t feature the actor at all, before finally bringing up movies such as for example Seven and Inglourious Basterds.
Specific movie searches fare better, though, and offer up similar such titles that you might like as well.
Alexa’s talents don’t stop there. You can also ask her about the weather, sports scores, check in on the news, or get her to set a timer. New functionality also means you can ask her to fast-forward or rewind during Amazon shows, which works seamlessly.
The new Fire TELEVISION Stick doesn’t do anything revolutionary, but it does make a good product even better. And at £40, it’s only £5 more than the original.
The Alexa voice commands are a great way to navigate, and the extra speed from the newest processor makes using it a breeze.
With the new interface set to come to older devices later down the line, owners of the original Fire TV Stick might not find the upgrade necessary, but any Prime subscriber that hasn’t made the jump yet may find themselves very tempted now.