There is an unmistakable and clear memory of the time when Amazon first launched the Fire TV Stick (which was the second generation, if I remember correctly) in India in 2017. It was the beginning of an era that really simplified things for movie buffs and couch potatoes alike. It solved the one big riddle: how to make a non-smart TV smart, without running out and having to buy a new TV yourself. A few years later, there’s still very little competition for what the Amazon Fire TV Stick brings to your TV, now in its 2020 avatar. Simply put, the Amazon Fire TV Stick plugs into your TV and brings a world of video streaming apps like Amazon Prime Video, Netflix, Disney+ Hotstar, Apple TV, Sony Liv, Jio Cinema, Voot, Zee 5, Discovery+, YouTube, YouTube Kids, Hoichoi, Eros Nu and more. And now Live TV channels are integrated too, with the upcoming update.
It’s been a while since Amazon updated the Fire TV Stick, not to be confused with the Fire TV Stick 4K. This replaces its predecessor at the price of Rs 4,999 but at the time of writing a limited offer deal has this priced at Rs 2,499 meaning the passage of time has not made this more expensive. Though its relevance in the lineup may be a bit less now than it was in 2017 as 4K TVs are now in more households three years later. While the Amazon Fire TV Stick is still capable of Full HD, it now supports the modern elements you would want in the binge-watching experience: Dolby Atmos audio and High Dynamic Range (HDR) support.
Streaming offers galore, save some money too
To get you started, there are also bundled offers for streaming apps. If you subscribe to streaming apps on the Fire TV right now, you’ll also get some discounts. A Sony Liv annual plan which is otherwise priced at Rs 999 will cost you Rs 749 instead, an instant discount from Rs 250. Similarly, the Zee5 year package which costs Rs 999 will be available for Rs 699 which is an instant discount. from Rs 300. There are similar offers on Voot, Discovery+, Alt Balaji, Hungama Play, Eros Now, Hoichoi and more. Remember that in order to take advantage of these discounts, you must subscribe to the premium packages through these apps on the Amazon Fire TV Stick itself.
The more things change, the more they stay the same
Setting it up is quite simple. Connect it to the HDMI port of your TV. You may need to use the HDMI extender because the port is in a place where the Fire TV Stick cannot be connected directly. It is also better to power the Fire TV Stick directly from the mains and not to use a USB port on the TV itself. The design of the Fire TV Stick and the Alexa Voice Remote remains much the same as before. You sign in with your Amazon account (if you buy this on Amazon.in, your credentials will be preloaded).
The home screens are arranged so that you have to scroll vertically to scroll through the content on the different rows and horizontally to select apps or pieces of featured content. There’s just something about the Amazon Fire OS that makes it likeable almost immediately, even after being consistently similar for so many years. There’s a lot going on on the home screen, but it doesn’t feel cluttered or overwhelming. Amazon hasn’t overhauled the interface, meaning if you’ve ever used a Fire TV Stick in the past, you’ll get the hang of it almost immediately. At the very top of the screen are the broader categories, for Movies, TV Shows, Apps, and Settings. Live TV functionality will soon be added to this as soon as the new firmware update is available.
More power for the modern requirements of HDR and Dolby Atmos
The new Fire TV Stick has a MediaTek quad-core processor clocked at 1.7 GHz, 1 GB of RAM, PowerVR GE8300 graphics for audio and video processing, and 8 GB of internal storage for apps. Everything feels smoother, even though the 2nd Gen Fire TV Stick was no slouch and continues to run smoothly even after years of honest service streaming content to our TV. Switching between apps seems faster and so does scrolling through the interface. That said, in-app performance depends on the app itself and more often than not, simply updating it helps. In comparison, the previous Fire TV Stick is powered by a MediaTek quad-core processor clocked at 1.3GHz, 1GB of RAM, Mali450 graphics, and 8GB of internal storage.
This is still for Full HD TVs
While the Amazon Fire TV Stick still runs the Full HD 1080p routine, the new generation gets more power for the HDR formats it now supports: HDR 10, HDR 10+ and HLG. On compatible TVs with apps like Amazon Video and Netflix, this becomes a lot more fun. The newfound processing power makes the new Amazon Fire TV Stick up to 50% more powerful than the one it replaces. This also supports Dolby Atmos audio on content on Amazon Video and Netflix with compatible soundbars. You can set the color depth to 8-bit, 10-bit, or 12-bit, depending on what your TV can display.
Alexa voice remote that you get with the new Amazon Fire TV Stick also has the special Alexa voice control that you can also use to find content. The remote also has dedicated power and volume buttons, which is very useful no matter what TV or soundbar you’re using. You no longer have to deal with multiple remote controls, especially for controlling the volume.
Live TV is on the way, if not already
Soon, the new Amazon Fire TV Stick will also integrate Live TV channels. At the time of writing, that software update still hasn’t landed on the Fire TV Stick I’m reviewing. Once this is the case, channels included in your subscription for apps such as Voot, Sony Liv, Discovery+ and NextGTV will be easily accessible in the new Live TV tab on the home page. What I can see at the moment is the Channel Guide, one of the horizontal rows on the home screen, showing the Sony Liv, Voot and Discovery+ TV channels with the detailed program guide. I don’t subscribe to NextGTV, but anyone who does will see those channels here, if you do. Disney+ Hotstar is currently missing from this list, but Zee 5 is expected to join the party soon.
The last word: competition is tougher than before, but everything is there
To be honest, it really doesn’t get much easier than this. If you still have a Full HD TV, there really isn’t a better way to get the world of video streaming apps in one place. It’s simple, it puts all content in the foreground and there are absolutely no (unwanted) surprises along the way. This is pretty much still the plug-it-and-forget-it device I’ve always appreciated the Amazon Fire TV Stick for. This has changed even though a lot has changed around the Amazon Fire TV Stick and the ecosystem now has Android TV based streaming sticks, including the Mi TV Stick and the Nokia Streamer, both of which are also intended for Full HD TVs.
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