Just before Thanksgiving, Amazon was running a special promotion listing an Amazon Fire TV for $19 for Amazon Prime members. We had just signed up for a Prime account to get some deals on our Christmas items so we figured it would be a great deal. The Amazon Fire TV stick apparently could go head to head with a Roku, so I figured we would give it a shot. At that price I was only out a fast food style meal with the family if it wasn’t truly worth it. So the Mrs. ordered one and we were very excited that we would be getting a new tech toy to play with.
So a day or two went by and our FREE Amazon Prime 2 day shipping didn’t deliver our shiny new tech. It turns out we failed to see the fine print, they were on back order until mid December.. Oh well, for $19 we could wait. So life went on, and we discovered that we could actually stream Amazon Prime video via our Wii and we were happy. We were off exploring all that Amazon Prime had to offer without the Amazon Fire TV Stick.
A few weeks before Christmas, I came home to a wonderful surprise. One of the magical (yes magical), delivery companies left my Amazon Fire TV stick at my front door. For me I was like a kid right before Christmas! I let my oldest help me open the Amazon box and even he seemed excited about the contents. Our lives tend to be fairly busy and as much as it pained me to shelve the Amazon Fire TV stick, it would have to wait for a weekend. So life went on.. Saturday would be the day that the Amazon Fire TV stick would be unleashed upon my household.
Like almost every other Saturday I woke up with he boys, poured my oldest some Alphabits, and we watched some PBS. At 9am Motor Week comes on and we know it’s time the cartoons are over. Time to play with some new tech! So the boys and I unpacked the Amazon Fire TV stick and quickly plugged it into the TV. For such a small device, the packaged contents are a bit impressive. The Amazon Fire TV stick plugs into the HDMI port of the TV almost like a USB thumb drive, but it needs to be powered as well. A fairly lengthy USB cord and power brick are supplied. The idea is that you would leave the Amazon TV Fire stick powered up all the time to receive updates and always be ready to go. I strayed a bit from the prescribed hookup method though.
Instead of running yet another cord in my jumble of TV cables, I decided to plug the Amazon Fire TV Stick directly into the USB power on my TV. Since it is so close to the HDMI port, both cables wouldn’t fit in at the same time. Good thing that Amazon thought ahead though and they provided a short little adapter cabled that plugs into the HDMI port of the TV and then the Amazon TV Fire Stick plugs into it. Perfect for tight squeezes, or where the Fire Stick would cause issues with other cables.
So there we were, all hooked up TV turned on, and we got a beautiful Amazon Fire TV splash screen. Good to know that our hookup worked! Just like with any other media streaming device, there was a short setup process. I had to select my home wi-fi connection and plug-in my password. Since we purchased the Amazon Fire TV Stick directly from amazon and not a 3rd party, my wife’s amazon account was already configured and ready to go. Short of a slight warning that they somehow knew it was connected to the USB port of the TV, the setup was very easy, and anyone can do it if you know your wi-fi credentials. The explanation for a secondary power source is that not all TVs have a USB port powerful enough to power the device and that you may miss automatic updates.
So now we were off an running, and checking out all that Amazon Prime had to offer via a pretty intuitive interface. TV, movies, there whole library was available. I was excited to find a few childhood favorites and went to click on them. Unfortunately the Amazon Prime and non Prime videos are sort of intermingled. Meaning that if you don’t pay attention, you can actually be buying entertainment instead of the stuff included with prime.
Next stop: Parental controls to keep from inadvertently buying stuff! This process was again fairly straight forward. By going into the device settings I could set a password for purchases. Now unless my kids figure out the pin, we’re good to go. I wouldn’t put it past them though, they are a bit sneaky. So now we wouldn’t be expecting any crazy surcharges on our credit card statement because our kids want to rent Frozen a billion times.
We were off and running watching all the Amazon Prime videos we could handle, but what about the other services that I refer to as the big 4? (Amazon Prime, Hulu, Netflix, Apple Video) All of them except the Apple Video store are available via additional applications. I had to download Netflix, and Hulu which are considered separate apps. The step was fairly standard for a streaming device, allowing you to either sign in with your credentials for the service or go to a special website to plug-in an activation code. So with an Amazon Fire TV Stick, you can watch most of your favorites. I don’t suspect that the Apple TV folks will open up their store any time soon to 3rd party vendors, but this comes pretty close to all of them.
So what else can you do with an Amazon Fire TV stick? How about lots of apps? Everything from games to music streaming services like Pandora are available. We’re not much of a gaming family, but you can actually purchase gaming remotes if you’re more into it for the gaming. We didn’t really check out the games, but instead we focused more on the streaming apps. This includes the PBS kids app, which give access to lots of great kids videos that we generally watch with our over the air TV antenna. May family loves Peg + Cat!
Speaking of apps and music, we were pleased to find that the Amazon Fire TV stick also supports the Prime music service. You may not realize this, but your Amazon Prime membership includes a streaming service that rivals Pandora and Slacker Radio. In addition to having established channels, you can set your own playlists from prime content, and even albums that you have purchased via amazon. It’s a pretty nice bonus. In addition, most of the songs actually show you the words karaoke style as they are being played. You would be surprised what the actual lyrics to your favorite songs actually are!
Another really awesome feature of the Amazon Fire TV stick that I wanted to mention is the remote control. It’s an RF type of remote, meaning it works on a radio signal instead of an infrared signal like traditional remotes. This makes sense since the Amazon Fire TV stick would generally always be behind the TV or at the very least off to the side. I haven’t really pressed the boundaries of the remote, but I seem to have some great coverage in my living room, kitchen and dining room. You can purchase another one with the voice search but I didn’t think that would be such a great value.. I mean the streaming device was only $19, so I didn’t expect all the bells and whistles.
What you can however do to avoid purchasing one of the fancy voice control remotes is to just download the free app that’s available on Android and iOS. It’s also nice to have an additional way to control your Amazon Fire TV Stick without the actual remote control. I have a master remote control that I use for just about all of my AV stuff in the living room, but since the Amazon Fire TV Stick remote control is RF, I can’t clone it like a regular TV remote. The remote control app on my iPhone works great and means I don’t necessarily need to have another tiny remote floating around my couch cushions.
In regards to Amazon Prime, a membership is $99 annually which sounds like a huge sum for a streaming service, but if you break it down that’s only $8.25 per month. However there is no monthly billing option like Hulu or Netflix so it’s a considerable investment right off the bat. In addition to streaming lots of video including TV,movies and music , you also get some benefits of a few free e-books if you have a Kindle or the Kindle app on another device. If you purchase quite a bit from Amazon directly, you can also get Free 2 day shipping on most items, so over the course of a year, it can really pay off. Click here if you want to try Amazon Prime Free for 30 Days. Alternatively, you can purchase an amazon gift membership for someone if you plan on being an Amazon Fire TV for someone as a gift.
Amazon also has the Fire TV box available for purchase as well, but all we really needed was the stick. The standard Amazon Fire TV comes in at around $99, and has a few more horses under the hood including a faster processor as well as the voice search remote and the ability to connect via an ethernet cable. It’s also a bit better if you’re looking for a heavy-duty gaming experience. It wasn’t worth it for us, but if you want your kids to be able to play MineCraft, you may want to pickup the “non stick” version.
While I’m making recommendations here, you may want to pickup one of the small USB cables that are available online as well. It’s not a big deal, but the cable that comes with it is like 6 feet long. I can just tie it all up behind the TV, but since I’m powering the device from the television and not the power brick, Santa was kind enough to get me a small USB cable that makes for a much cleaner final installation.
So am I happy with the purchase of my Amazon Fire TV Stick? Absolutely! I found it to be an awesome deal on sale at $19, and still a very fiscally responsible choice at $39! With such a great price, I’m sure this can help a few of the cord cutters out there. I should point out that you don’t need to have an Amazon Prime membership to use an Amazon Fire TV Stick, as you can download other apps, but if you have Prime, you NEED one of these, it’s so much easier that other streamers I have experienced. Since it comes with everything you need to get up and running, then you really can’t go wrong. I’m in the process of figuring out a way to take it on the road with us as well, so stay tuned!
Want to get one for your family?
Select a version of Amazon Fire TV to get started:
Amazon Fire TV Stick $39.99
Amazon Fire TV Box $99.99
Add on these extras to the Amazon Fire TV Stick:
Amazon Fire Game Controller $39.99
Amazon Fire TV Voice Remote $29.99
Amazon PRIME Gift Membership $99.00