Amazon Fire TV Stick Basic Edition, review: the new "Chromecast", an essential gadget for its price
Amazon introduced its new HDMI stick, the Amazon Fire TV Stick Basic Edition. A device with which they not only seek to extend their services, but also allow users to access others as popular as Netflix, YouTube, Spotify, as well as games and applications, among other options.
At Xataka we have been able to analyze it, so if you are interested in an option that directly rivals Chromecast, which can turn your TV or monitor into a whole Smart TV at a very reduced price (especially if you are a Prime user), here we tell you all about it .
Fire TV Stick, technical characteristics
For price and features, the Fire TV Stick is positioned as a new must-have, rivaling Chromecast
The Fire TV Stick data sheet will not surprise anyone but it is logical seeing the price of the device. Despite this, it offers good performance and power for the uses for which it is intended. Making us consider it as a new essential for our televisions.
A functional and practical design
Constructed of plastic and without much of a breakthrough design flair, the best definition of this Fire TV Stick is comfortable and practical. Its dimensions are small although it is true that there may be problems when connecting due to its width. If we have or want to occupy the adjacent HDMI ports we may not be able to. The solution, use the HDMI extender that Amazon integrates.
The control on the other hand, somewhat larger than the stick itself, works with two AAA batteries and all its buttons are mechanical. Even the upper circle is nothing more than a classic crosshead that will serve to move between the different menus as well as for game control.The remote control of this Fire TV Stick does not include a microphone since Alexa does not yet support Spanish, so Amazon has not considered including this feature
As a detail, this command does not integrate a microphone. We discuss this because you may have seen other versions that do. The reason is that these Fire TVs offer a support for Alexa that this Basic Edition does not. Because Alexa doesn't speak Spanish yet.
With qualifications as functional and practical, it was evident that the configuration process had to be very simple. So much so that we can even save ourselves from entering our Amazon data because when requesting it, it already comes with our account configured as it happens with the Kindle. If we do not want it to happen for whatever reason, we will have to mark it as a gift.
Once connected to the television, screen or projector we will only have to connect the micro USB cable to the stick and the power adapter. If we want to connect it to a USB port, we will have to make sure that it offers enough power to turn it on.
With everything ready, once you turn on and load the operating system we will have to go to the configuration and connect to our Wi-Fi network. Then, if we look at the different options that it offers us, we see some striking ones such as the possibility of connecting bluetooth devices such as headphones, speakers or game controllers. As well as some options related to image, sound or mirror video adjustments.
Finally, although its use with the controller is very comfortable and practically the best option, if we want we can resort to applications for iOS or Android that allow us to emulate this control.
Android based system but not compatible with Play Store
The operating system of the Fire TV Stick is based on Android but neither does it use Google services nor does it allow you to install any application available in the Play Store. Here, although we can install .apk manually, all apps must be compatible with Fire OS. So basically the apps are reduced to those that Amazon lists on its website.Fire OS is based on Android but that does not imply that all the applications of the Play Store can be installed
With a grid-based interface, operation and handling is easy. As soon as we start we will see three sections: Home, Categories and Settings.
- Home is the main screen, where we can see all the installed apps. Being able to access them as well as see related or available content in them.
- Categories is a section where all available applications are classified by categories. A good idea although it is also true that here comes one of the problems of Fire TV: there is no application search engine. It is not the worst thing that could happen to us, but searching for the exact application that we want to install is sometimes very annoying as well as slow. So let's hope Amazon fixes it with a search engine in future system updates.
- Finally, in Configuration we will find all the adjustments that we can make to the device. Which we have already discussed ranging from information on installed apps, started accounts, image options, sound, replicate screen, etc.
All the menus are quite easy to understand and it is enough to spend a few minutes to know everything that allows us to configure. To highlight the mirror video option and the settings to pair audio devices such as bluetooth headphones.
Good performance and a user experience that can improve
Let's talk about performance. The Fire TV Stick offers modest hardware but still able to cope easily with 1080p content. But nothing to reproduce 4K content, much less HDR like the one that Amazon itself offers through Prime Video or Netflix among other services.
The most we can play here is 1080p content at 30 fps. Keep this in mind when loading content that you have locally. If you do it with apps like Plex, it will have to be transcoded so that it can be reproduced. Therefore, if you want to take full advantage of the quality of your UHD television, you will have to resort to other products such as Nvidia Shield or Apple TV itself. Although their prices are four times higher.
Regarding performance, both the transitions between menus and applications execute well although sometimes it suffers certain lag. It is not a major problem if we consider the price. And of course it does not affect once the content has started to play. At that time, removing the subject of the maximum resolution, you forget that it is being played through a Fire TV Stick.Despite its modest hardware, the performance of the Fire TV Stick is very good. There are times when some lag is seen but it is not a big problem
So both the Mediatek processor and its Wi-Fi connectivity and BT support, the Fire TV Stick offers a pleasant user experience. Similar or better to what some high-end televisions offer. Whose price is true that they are more justified by the quality of image and sound but their smart tv platforms leave a lot to be desired.
Using the Amazon Fire TV Stick as a gaming platform is possible. We have different games available although here you have to make two notes. Unless you use a bluetooth controller, the control experience with the included controller or even with the mobile app is not as satisfactory. Although the most important thing is that these are casual games.
There are some other more powerful titles, but then its tight hardware makes the drop in fps appreciated and not so much enjoyed. But if we want to throw a few punctual games to titles like Stranger Things: The Game, Galaxy Zero, Asphalt 8 or even some Final Fantasy like III, V or VI (they are paid) we can.
For 59.99 euros or better yet, for € 39.99 if you are a Prime user, the Amazon Fire TV Stick seems to us a product that we could consider essential. It is true that it competes to a certain extent with the Google Chromecast although there are some differences between them that can make you opt for one or the other depending on the preferences you have.Fire TV Stick rivals you to you with the Google Chromecast for the title of essential gadget for the TV
Fire TV Stick has the great advantage of good performance at a very reasonable price and not needing to use a smartphone, tablet or other device to send content to it. Here the Amazon stick works independently while Chromecast depends on the smartphone or other device that sends content.
Regarding usability, services and available applications, it is true that there are no such as HBO but the mirror video support solves those problems for us. For the rest, with Amazon Prime Video as the main value and services such as Netflix, Spotify or YouTube, not to mention apps like Plex, Fire TV becomes a very complete product.
The big problem, beyond the lack of a search engine to find the apps that we want to install faster, is that we can only play content at 1080p and 30fps resolution. There will be those who do not consider it as such but seeing that having 4K televisions is increasingly common and that the content at that resolution also increases the logical thing is to want to have that possibility. Still, the Fire TV Stick is a great product at a very attractive price.