Competing against the Roku and Now TV devices we’ve looked at previously is Amazon’s Fire TV Stick 4K Ultra HD with all-new Alexa Voice Remote, an update of its previous 4K Fire TV set top box which has been downsized to fit into the increasingly popular ‘stick’ form factor and integrates the retailer’s popular voice assistant straight into the device.
Costing £49.99, the Fire TV Stick 4K is available from various high street and online retailers as well as direct from Amazon.co.uk where it’s offered at the same one-off cost or for 5 monthly payments of £10.
The Fire TV Stick 4K plugs into a spare HDMI port on your TV, but as it’s fatter than a standard HDMI cable you’ll likely struggle to squeeze it in alongside any other cables you’ve already connected
Luckily Amazon has bundled an extension cable in the box to get around this problem, though that does effectively double the length of the stick and leave it dangling loose behind the TV.
You’re also likely to need a spare electricity plug near your TV as the Fire TV Stick is pretty power hungry and won’t work with the USB port on the back of most TV sets.
Once you’ve made the necessary connections you’ll be prompted for both your Wi-Fi password and Amazon account details, after which the stick will automatically download any software updates, configure its remote control to operate your TV’s on/off and sound functions – a nice touch which helps to avoid needless swapping of controllers when using the stick – and finally ask which third party video streaming apps you want to install.
As you’d expect, the flagship content offering here is Amazon’s own Prime Video streaming service which enjoys a rich, image-led User Interface which easily beats the experience offered by the service’s apps on third party TVs and devices.
Because the Fire TV Stick 4K also supports HDR, buyers with a compatible TV will be able to enjoy Amazon’s original shows, such as Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan, in the best possible quality.
But don’t worry if you have a 4K TV which lacks HDR support, you’ll still get to enjoy Ultra HD pictures so it makes sense to still buy this model over Amazon’s HD-only version.
In addition to Prime Video the range of add-on third party services includes YouTube, Netflix, BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, All4, and UKTV Player plus BT TV’s recently launched app which allows its TV subscribers to access channels and content in additional rooms.
That’s an impressive line-up of content which will satisfy the needs of many telly fans but sadly the stick’s not quite a one-stop shop for all premium content providers as it lacks support for Sky’s Now TV streaming service.
The reverse limitation applies to the Now TV range and it’d be great if both firms resolve whatever obstacles are preventing them from offering their apps on each other’s devices, but in the meantime that leaves the Roku+ as the only comparably priced option to support Now TV, Prime and Netflix.
As well as video services, the Fire TV Stick 4K also provides access to Amazon Music and includes a web browser should you wish to surf the internet or check your webmail on your large screen telly, and you can even install games on it.
One of the headline features is the inclusion of Amazon’s voice assistant Alexa, allowing you to summon up Prime Video films and shows just by speaking into the remote control.
This worked well in our tests and was much faster and more convenient then using an on-screen keyboard.
Of course, some rival streaming devices also offer voice search but the Fire TV Stick 4K offers so much more with Alexa’s full capability, including controlling smart home devices, playing Amazon Music and accessing third-party skills, all at your disposal.
The stick’s 1.5GHz quad-core processor is powerful enough to deliver a lag-free, responsive experience with seamless screen and menu changes and speedy voice searches.
All this means the Fire TV Stick 4K is undoubtedly the best way of experiencing Prime Video on a TV and its fast, reliable performance – which extends to third party apps – makes viewing effortless fun, which is how it’s meant to be.
The Fire TV Stick 4K is a great choice for Prime subscribers looking to enjoy Amazon’s growing catalogue of original shows on their big screen TV and even if you already have a Smart TV, the stick will likely offer a notable performance boost over the Prime Video apps on most tellies.
The inclusion of the full Alexa experience means it also doubles as an excellent introduction to the world of voice assistants and smart home technology for those who’ve yet to take the plunge.