Amazon is aiming to unseat Roku as the most popular streamer, and byit has already succeeded. And now its cheapest, most popular Fire TV device is getting a major feature bump for 2019.
The updated version of the $40 (£40) Amazon Fire TV Stick goes on sale today, and the main difference between it and theis the addition of volume, mute and power buttons on the remote control -- the Sticks themselves are exactly the same.
And if that TV-control remote seems familiar, that's because it debuted with theand was later added to the .
For the uninitiated, the Fire TV Stick is a little USB-size stick with an HDMI port that plugs into your TV and streams movies, TV shows and music from Amazon Prime, Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, Amazon Prime, Spotify and many, many other sources. Its chief competition is Roku. I generally prefer Roku's streamers to Fire TV because of Roku's superior interface, but the aggressive prices and superior features of the new Fire TV Stick and Fire TV Stick 4K make them more appealing than ever.
Roku also sells streamers with TV control remotes, but its cheapest so-equipped model is the. It's also worth noting that Roku's TV control remote can't command sound bars or receivers, while the Fire TV remote can. Roku's remote is also missing a mute button.
Starting today Amazon is also selling the TV-control remote by itself, sans stick, for half price: $15 (£15). It's compatible with most recent Fire TV devices, but not with Amazon Fire TV (first- and second-gen), Fire TV Stick (first-gen), or Amazon Fire TV Edition smart TVs.
Same easy remote, decent free shows and movies
In my review of the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K I lauded its long list of features -- including excellent Alexa voice integration -- but lamented its menus and user interface. It's arguably prettier than Roku's interface but feels more cluttered, doesn't allow customization, and has too many ads and promos for Amazon's own shows and content.
My quick spin of the new Stick revealed the same interface and the same solid performance from the TV control remote. The idea is that, because the Fire TV's own remote can turn your TV on and off, as well as mute and adjust its volume, you can ditch your TV's clicker. It worked well with all of the TVs I tested, including Samsung, Vizio and LG models, and setup was a breeze.
It also allows TV volume and power control via voice from the remote itself (although using buttons is generally easier) or hands-free if youlike an ("Alexa, turn on the TV"). Check out my for details.
Amazon also highlighted the new Sony Crackle, TubiTV, Pluto TV, and other services -- for free, with ads. IMDb is a wholly owned subsidiary of Amazon, and its Freedive service is also available on computer.service, available on all Fire TV devices. It's an app that offers up "thousands of" TV shows and movies from IMDb Freedive,
IMDb Freedive looks like a viable alternative to Roku's own free-with-ads app, The Roku Channel. While Freedive lacks The Roku Channel's , both have similar TV shows and movies. Here's my quick survey of the first few that appear on each service.
A sample of Roku Channel vs. IMDb Freedive
|Roku Channel Movies||Freedive Movies||Roku Channel TV Shows||Freedive TV Shows|
|True Lies||Awakenings||Paternity Court||Fringe|
|This is Spinal Tap||Foxcatcher||Unsolved Mysteries||Heroes|
|Lawless||Memento||Raising Expectations||The Bachelor|
|The Green Hornet||Monster||Gidget||Without a Trace|
|Marie Antoinette||Run Lola Run||Batman||Kitchen Nightmares|
|Blast from the Past||The Illusionist||Kitchen Nightmares||Arranged|
|Bridges of Madison County||The Last Samurai||Hell's Kitchen||Caprica|
|Made of Honor||True Romance||Dawson's Creek||Playing House|
|Contact||Resident Evil: Apocalypse||Midsomer Murders||Warehouse 13|
|Rambo III||Last Action Hero||Forensic Files||Gilligan's Island|
|Terminator 3||Adaptation||3rd Rock from the Sun||Tiny House Nation|
|Crocodile Dundee||Seven Years in Tibet||Vexed||Born this Way|
|Crocodile Dundee II||Roxanne||Lost in Space||Dallas|
|Stuart Little II||Mary Shelley's Frankenstein||I Dream of Jeannie||The Rifleman|
|The Right Stuff||Lords of Dogtown||Good Times||Rush|
|Interview with the Vampire||Junebug||Bewitched||Neighbours|
The survey was taken on the afternoon of Monday, January 14 around 3 p.m. ET. Roku Channel Movies came from Roku Channel's top "Featured" line; Freedive's Movies from the Fire TV app's top "Popular Movies" line; Roku Channel's TV Shows from the "TV" line; and Freedive's TV Shows from the Fire TV app's "Popular TV" line. Each service has many more free TV shows and movies.
Look for a full review of the 2019 Amazon Fire TV Stick soon.
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