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Should You Get the Amazon Fire TV Stick?

By Brian
Published 06/06/2019
 | Updated 11/05/2021

The Amazon Fire TV Stick and Fire TV Stick 4K are among the most popular streaming players out there. They're great because of their ease of use, excellent search functionality, Alexa integration, and plethora of streaming apps.

For this review, I purchased the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K. The 4K Stick can display higher resolution (i.e., not just HD, but 4K resolution), and the 4K's remote has TV volume, mute, and power controls.

Since there is only a $10 difference between the 4K stick and regular stick, I would recommend the Fire Stick 4K even if you don't have a 4K TV. Getting the power and volume controls on the remote alone is worth $10. The Stick 4K also has a more powerful processor and is faster. And if you ever upgrade your TV to 4K, you'll be all set.

What You Get

The Amazon Fire TV Stick comes with a surprising amount of stuff: remote control with batteries, power adapter and USB cable, quick start guide, and short HDMI extender cable so you can mount the stick behind your TV easier.

Amazon Fire TV 4K and everything that comes with it
Amazon Fire TV 4K and everything that comes with it

Installation

Installing the Stick on your TV is pretty simple with a few caveats.

First, Amazon recommends using the HDMI extender for optimal Wi-Fi performance. If you can plug in your stick directly into the side of your TV, and it works fine (as it did with mine), then leave it. Otherwise, plug the stick into the extender, then plug the extender into your TV.

For power, Amazon recommends using the included power adapter rather than plugging the USB cable into your TV for power. In addition to being a better quality source of power, the power adapter allows your Fire TV Stick to get firmware updates when the TV is off.

I went with Amazon's recommendation and plugged the stick into a power strip.

The Fire TV Stick plugged directly into the side of my TV.
The Fire TV Stick plugged into the side of my TV with USB power coming from a power strip.

Note that the USB port on the Fire Stick can only be used for power. You can't, for example, hook a hard drive up to it and expect to play content from the drive like you can with Roku.

Setup

When I turned on my TV and selected the proper HDMI input, I saw the Fire was up and running. Using the direction keys, I selected English as my language, then found my Wi-Fi network and entered my Wi-Fi password using the letter-picker. This part is cumbersome, but common to all set-top boxes when using Wi-Fi and is unavoidable.

Amazon Fire TV Stick letter-picker
Amazon Fire TV Stick letter-picker

My unit went through a firmware upgrade and re-booted, then asked me again for my language.

If you purchased an Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K, you'll go through a brief setup process for your remote's volume controls.

Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K setup for volume controls
Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K setup for volume controls

Now, the last time I bought an Amazon Fire TV, it came pre-programmed with my Amazon account information, which made setup a breeze!

Unfortunately, it seems that Amazon is no longer doing that (perhaps for security reasons, or cost). Now, you have to enter your email address and Amazon password using the cumbersome letter picker.

After starting up, there is a short introductory video which points out the main features of Fire TV. You can also select some commonly-used apps to install.

The Home Screen

Amazon re-vamped their home screen layout a while ago, and to me, it's not as straightforward as, say, the Roku home screen. I also didn't like having the Sprint ad right in the middle of my app grid!

Amazon Fire TV Stick home screen
Amazon Fire TV Stick home screen

But, that's not a showstopper and overall, it's simple to navigate around using the four-way directional buttons on the remote, once you get used to it.

Channels

There are all of the standard pay channels that you would expect, including Netflix, Hulu, and so forth. However, Amazon content always has priority on the Fire Stick, something which some folks have complained about.

I love free channels, so I found many of the ones I like such as Tubi TV, Crackle, and Pluto TV.

I'm also really into YouTube, but due to the feud between Amazon and Google, the YouTube app has been pulled off of the Amazon Fire TV store a few times. Currently, it's back on there, but the YouTube TV and YouTube Kids app are not available.

In any case, you can still watch YouTube on the Fire TV using Amazon's Silk browser. The experience is nearly the same as using a native YouTube app. There's even a shortcut to the YouTube site in the app store, so the lack of a native YouTube app is not really a problem.

Voice Search

The Fire TV was one of the first streaming media players to have voice search, which is really handy because it’s so cumbersome to enter anything using letter-picker. Just hold down the microphone button and say the name of the TV show or movie that you're searching for.

The voice recognition works well, as you would expect it to from the makers of the Echo.

In the original Fire TV, voice search would only give you results from Amazon. Now, it still gives Amazon results more prominently, but if you click "More Ways to Watch", it will show other sources, even free ones like Pluto TV, if available there!

Amazon Fire TV search results. Click on "More Ways to Watch" for non-Amazon sources
Amazon Fire TV search results. Click on "More Ways to Watch" for non-Amazon sources, including free sources.

Alexa Integration - Like Getting an Echo for Free

The integration with Alexa means that you can do even more than just search using your voice. You can give commands like "rewind five minutes" or "fast forward 30 seconds" if you hold the microphone button on the remote.

But even better, the Alexa integration means it's like having an Amazon Echo included. I was able to tell Alexa to play my music and it started playing my Amazon songs. You can ask for the weather or dinner recipes or nearby Mexican restaurants, just like you could with an Echo. Cool!

Web Browser - A Real Bonus!

Fire TV comes installed with Amazon's Silk browser. This allows you to watch videos embedded on some websites (some are blocked when watching on streaming players).

Navigation using the remote works, but is nowhere near as easy as using a mouse or touch screen. It's fine for light browsing duties.

I personally was glad to have a web browser so I could watch embedded videos on my local PBS station's website!

Roku does not have a native browser. There are third-party ones, but they either require monthly subscription or have low ratings. So, the native web browser on Fire TV Stick is a really nice distinguishing feature!

My Overall Recommendation

The Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K is a great player, no question. The picture quality is great, and the user interface is snappy. If you're into Alexa, this player is for you. Even if you don't own a 4K TV, I would get this over the regular Fire TV Stick.

If you're not so much into Alexa or the Amazon ecosystem, I would recommend the Roku because it has more apps, more 4K content, supports Apple AirPlay, and is perhaps a tad easier to use.

Where to Get It

Click the link below to get Amazon Fire TV Stick on Amazon:

Disclosure: Some of the links on this page are affiliate links. This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission at no extra cost to you. I test or research each product or service before endorsing. This site is not owned by any retailer or manufacturer. I own this site and the opinions expressed here are mine. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

What was your experience with Amazon Fire like? Please leave a comment below. - Brian

Did You Like This Article?

Brian Shim, DisableMyCable.com
If you did, please share it and sign up for my email updates. I'll send you my new articles, no more than once a month.

Check out my other site, thefrugalnoodle.com, with ideas on saving money and living simply.

Ask a Question or Tell Me Your Story

If you have a question about this article, leave a comment below. I personally read and answer each one. If you want advice on TV reception, leave your zip code. 

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I'd also love to hear how you're saving money on TV. Tell me your story!  Thanks! - Brian
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arthur collins
arthur collins
2 years ago

I got it a couple of weeks and its so worth it. I kinda regret not waiting for the pre black friday deals though. However theres an 82% off on purevpn so ill get that as an add-on and save there

Ronald Myers
Ronald Myers
4 years ago

Do you need a cable provider for Fire Stick . Because I have Sling TV and Ruko but when you want to watch a show on Ruko they say that you will need a cable provider.

Brian
4 years ago
Reply to  Ronald Myers

Hi Ronald,

Just like on Roku, some of the apps on Fire Stick do require a cable TV login in order to work.

But there are many other apps that don't require cable provider. Some are free (like Crackle and YouTube), while some require subscription (like Hulu and Netflix).

Best,
Brian

Bobby
Bobby
4 years ago

Currently on sale http://amzn.to/2slqrHc

Jaredius
Jaredius
5 years ago

Acorn TV fans beware! In order to get the Acorn TV app and access to content you must be an Amazon Prime subscriber or become one. You cannot just install Acorn TV like you can with Roku. This can be a huge negative for those of us that want Acorn TV but do not want Amazon Prime.

Brian
5 years ago
Reply to  Jaredius

Hi Jaredius,

Thanks for the head's up!

Brian

Tracee R
Tracee R
5 years ago

Does the fire stick allow you to watch live tv? or do you need to still have cable to do that? I'm concerned about not being able to watch local news of CNN live?

Brian
5 years ago
Reply to  Tracee R

Hi Tracee,

No, none of these types of set-top boxes or sticks will let you watch live TV. These are for watching pre-recorded shows from the Internet using services like Hulu, Netflix, YouTube, etc.

If you have stations in your area, and you have a modern TV, your best bet for free live TV is to use an antenna. Check the Station Finder:
https://www.disablemycable.com/station-finder/

Best,
Brian

Jaredius
Jaredius
5 years ago
Reply to  Tracee R

Yes, live TV is available through the SlingTV app and a $20/mo subscription. I love it! I get all my Tigers games, History, TBS and more.

Turnercrew
Turnercrew
5 years ago

How do you get around apps that require you to sign in with a cable provider? It defeats the purpose of us using the amazon stick to replace cable

Brian
5 years ago
Reply to  Turnercrew

Hi Turnercrew,

Unfortunately, there's no way around that. Some content you might have to pay for a-la-carte. It's still worth it if the total cost is less than what you would pay for cable.

Plus, there are free apps like YouTube.

Best,
Brian

Jaredius
Jaredius
5 years ago
Reply to  Turnercrew

SlingTV for $20/mo

greybeardprof
greybeardprof
6 years ago

I am sick of dealing with the crappy service from Comcast. I am hooked on DVRs, and am looking for the best alternative. I see so many options, I am overwhelmed. So, something like the ChannelMaster DVR combined with a Roku or Amazon Fire? I have pretty good wireless, so that shouldn't be an issue. Would I also need a computer. My TVs are only a few years old and pretty high end and support a lot of options. Please help.

Brian
6 years ago
Reply to  greybeardprof

Hi greybeardprof,

A few things...

If there are stations in your area, I would recommend getting an antenna to get the networks and local stations for free. Enter your zip code into the Station Finder to see how many channels you can get: https://www.disablemycable.com/station-finder/

Note that DVRs like the Channel Master DVR+ only record from an antenna, not from Roku or Amazon Fire. If you have multiple TVs, I would actually recommend Tablo, but you must have a Roku or other set-top box to go with it: https://www.disablemycable.com/dvr/

My top pick for set-top box is a Roku, or you can attach your computer to your TV to get much of the same content (but it's a bit less convenient): https://www.disablemycable.com/computer/

Best wishes,
Brian

greybeardprof
greybeardprof
6 years ago
Reply to  Brian

Brian,

Looks like I could watch all of the PBS shows I would ever want over the air, other than that, I have few options, so an antenna based system doesn't seem optimal. I guess my main question is whether the Fire, Chrome, etc. in combination with the Roku provide me with a DVR type experience. I don't care if I have to wait a day or two before I can access a show, or if I must pay a nominal fee - I am just sick of $100+ every month for wretched customer service. But if I don't have the ability to fast-forward / pause / etc, I will still hold my nose and deal. Thanks for all your help.

Brian
6 years ago
Reply to  greybeardprof

Hi greybeardprof,

What you can do to see if these devices will work for you is try to find the shows you want on Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, iTunes, Hulu, etc. If they are on these services, then you will be able to watch them using these set-top devices (with a fee).

The reason why I like broadcast TV is that it's totally free.

Thanks,
Brian

Mamag30
Mamag30
6 years ago

I'm new to this world. We are dropping cable and getting the Amazon Firestick. I read the article but still not sure if I can use the firestick as a means for streaming online content from a website (nbc.com or something like that that airs their shows for free). I have never mirrored before. We have a computer but it can't be connected to our computer without us buying additional adaptors to make it work. My question is, is there a way to get Internet content steamed (other than the apps that come programmed with the firestick) from the firestick to my tv? With the Chromestick I see you have a Chrome browser...does Firestick have something like this or are we going to have to figure out how to connect our computer to the tv?

Brian
6 years ago
Reply to  Mamag30

Hi Mamag30,

I'll have to look into your question and get back to you on this!

Thanks,
Brian

Brian
6 years ago
Reply to  Mamag30

Hi Mamag30,

I didn't find anything online on how to cast your computer to your Fire Stick. You can can an Android device though.

Anyone else know of a way?

Brian

Turnercrew
Turnercrew
5 years ago
Reply to  Brian

Do you mean like air play? If so, we use an app on the firestick called airplay/dlna receiver (pro)

Brian
5 years ago
Reply to  Turnercrew

Hi Turnercrew,

Wow, thanks for letting us know about this app!

Brian

Keren
Keren
6 years ago

I just got myself a streaming box, its called Stroom box. It actually works amazingly. I am able to watch any movie I want, and TV show and they are all commercial free. I have the fire stick but it wasn't helping me with lowering my cable bill bc I still had to pay for a Netflix account, plus my HBO go. With my stroom box I was able to cancel my Netflix and just keep basic cable as I didn't need any fancy channel bc it was all available on the box, stroombox.com i believe that was the website. Its def another alternate to look into

Sam
Sam
6 years ago

This may seem like a silly question, but can you use the Amazon Fire Stick if you have cable? Or is it something to use only when no longer have cable?

Brian
6 years ago
Reply to  Sam

Hi Sam,

Not a silly question. Yes, you can use the Amazon Fire Stick if you have cable, as long as your TV has a spare HDMI input available (most TV's have multiple inputs).

Thanks,
Brian

jbrazell
jbrazell
6 years ago

We just purchased a Sharp smart tv. We haven't hooked it up yet and don't know how it works. We are in our 60's, so are a little challenged on what to do. We have DISH satellite, but it is much too expensive, as we have one of the bigger packages. Can you tell me what all we can do with just our smart t.v. and what we need to add to get local channels for news. Also, we would like to be able to get national news channels. I know this t.v. can get YouTube, Netflix, HuluPlus, Vudu, etc. Do I need to get Amazon Fire, Roku or what? Do I need a recorder of some sort? I have two t.v.'s. The other t.v. is not a smart t.v.

Thanks,
Jan

Brian
6 years ago
Reply to  jbrazell

Hi jbrazell,

Once connected to the Internet (usually by Wi-Fi), your smart TV will enable you to subscribe to the services you mentioned and watch shows and movies. It is NOT a direct replacement for real-time TV like you had on cable.

You do NOT need to get an Amazon Fire or Roku. Your smart TV already has most of that functionality. If you like that functionality, you can get those boxes for your other TVs to make them "smart".

For local news, I would suggest using an antenna if there are stations in your area. Enter your zip into the Station Finder to find out:
https://www.disablemycable.com/station_finder.php

Thanks,
Brian

jbrazell
jbrazell
6 years ago
Reply to  Brian

What if I want to record something? What should I get or do about that?

Brian
6 years ago
Reply to  jbrazell

Hi jbrazell,

If you want to record off of live broadcast TV, I would recommend either the DVR plus or Tablo TV. See this article:
https://www.disablemycable.com/dvr.php

Thanks,
Brian

Tammy
Tammy
5 years ago
Reply to  Brian

Hi Brian,
Thanks so much for all the information you provide on your site, which I've been reading for a couple hours and am now here!

We've been contemplating weather to buy the Amazon Fire TV or not...the question above mentions the Sharp brand smart t.v. ... Your answer made it all come together for me because we have a Sharp smart t.v. and never really checked out all the stuff that's already in our t.v. and all it already offers... I feel so silly and felt the urge to share that silly revelation with you...LOL

Brian
5 years ago
Reply to  Tammy

Hi Tammy,

Thank you for sharing! I'm glad my site was useful to you!

Yeah, definitely check out the smart TV features on your TV... You may not need to buy anything else!

Brian

Amanda
Amanda
6 years ago

Does Fire TV Stick require laptop or tablet, or "mirroring"? Or can you just plug it in and browse via television set?

Brian
6 years ago
Reply to  Amanda

Hi Amanda,

Sorry I didn't make that clearer. No, the Fire TV Stick does not require a laptop or other device. It works by itself. Just plug in and browse via the TV.

Thanks,
Brian

Sodacyn
Sodacyn
6 years ago

I am mostly interested in getting local channels via any free or really cheap source. I live in rural area where an outdoor antennae is not an option. Local channels streaming from my computer to my TV would be great, although I do have a TV that has a wireless receiver. please if anyone knows what is best to just get local channels I would so appreciate your advice. Thanks

Brian
6 years ago
Reply to  Sodacyn

Hi Sodacyn,

Hmmm.. I don't know of a lot of great options for local channels when there are no broadcast channels available. Anyone else have any ideas?

Brian

Autumn
Autumn
6 years ago

We Got Amazon Fire TV a few months ago and just started using in the last month when our contract with cable ended. We are still finding new things to watch. As we are both in our 50's so it was great when our youngest son came in and took over the remote and showed us even more cool stuff :) I didn't know about crackle so now I'll check it out as well :) This really is a plug n play device as I did the setup myself and it was just as you described! Very happy with this purchase and we're saving $60 each month by ditching cable :)

Paul E.
Paul E.
6 years ago

Hi I am interested in the Fire TV stick since my wife already has an Amazon Prime, but I already have Apple TV connected to my TV. Can I still plug the Fire Stick in and have it work?

J
J
7 years ago

Brian, Thanks so much for the information. It has been a lot of fun reading about the different ways to save money. I am going to check into the Amazon Fire. I didn't know it was available, but now I do. Great job.

P
P
7 years ago

Hello, I am interested in the Amazon Fire TV option and wondered if I need a box for every TV in the house or just one? We live in a rural area and only have a limited number of internet providers also. Does the AFT require a certain level of internet? As you can see, I am technically challenged and appreciate your review and any guidance!

J
J
7 years ago

Hi, I’m paying over $85 dollars for Internet and cable TV services. I’m tired of expending money. I’m recently got a new internet and cable provider but I’m not satisfied with the service. I like the internet service but I’m still paying too much for the cable TV. I have a LG Blu-ray player I can watch my show in Hulu but I want the local channel in the regular TV. What recommendation you give me to get rid of the cable? But my wife and Love to watch show I regular TV like ABC, PBS for the kids etc.

eric
eric
7 years ago

With or Kuban I program in or paste up the free TV network station similar to your remote page?

nljackson65
nljackson65
7 years ago

I don't know how I missed the fact that Amazon offered Fire TV. I heard about all the rest. But, I am a big fan of Amazon. I'm going to do some checking on this. Thanks for the informative and thorough review!

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