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Media Streamers

Amazon Fire TV Stick adds hotel-friendly Wi-Fi sign-in

A software update for Amazon's $40 or £35 streaming dongle also brings "captive portal" Wi-Fi access, while the Fire TV box gets expandable USB storage and Bluetooth headphone support.

Sarah Tew

Editors' Note: The original version of this story mistakenly reported that the Fire TV Stick would get Bluetooth headphone support and USB storage expansion capability. Those updates will be reserved for the Fire TV box only.

Amazon's Fire TV Stick has always been a great bargain, but a free software update coming over the next couple of weeks adds a nice selection of new features to both it and the Fire TV box , including the ability to more easily connect to Wi-Fi networks in hotels and elsewhere.

One of the most intriguing features Amazon has teased since launch is known by the name "captive portal Wi-Fi" access.

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Screenshot by John P. Falcone/CNET

The Stick's small size makes it very travel-friendly, and this feature seems to one-up Chromecast and Roku's Stick by making the Fire TV Stick compatible with Wi-Fi authentication systems, which force the device to see a special Web page to sign in before using the Internet normally. Such systems are common in hotels and college dorms, for example.

This is a really cool feature, and we're excited to test it. Amazon says the update that includes captive portal access will roll out over the next couple of weeks to Fire TV devices in all countries.

That update also includes a few other extras. The new software will allow you to hide your access PIN from your kids, employ shortcuts to the sleep function or display mirroring via a long-press on the Home key, and Prime members to easily access "hand-crafted" and "expertly curated" Prime music playlists.

Those upgrades will come to both the Stick and the box, but there are also a couple of other additions reserved for the more-expensive box only. Its USB port will be able to connect to external USB storage devices, such as USB keys. The idea is to expand storage beyond the paltry 8GB included onboard (only 5.5 of which is free) to better suit larger games.

The box will also be upgraded to work with Bluetooth headphones for "private listening," a none-too-subtle counter to the cool headphone-jack-equipped remote found on the Roku 3 and Roku 2 (but not the Roku Stick). Again, the stick will not receive this feature upgrade.

These upgrades come hot on the heels of the Fire TV Stick gaining HBO Go access in the US, making it even more appealing. Now if only Amazon revamped the interface so it didn't so desperately push Amazon's own content (fat chance).

We'll update our comprehensive Fire TV Stick review , and evaluate how it compares to other sticks and streamers, when we get the chance to test out the new features.

On sale in the US for $40 since November, the Stick is also available to order today at Amazon's UK (£35) and Germany (39 euros) stores. It will ship April 15 to those countries, with Prime customers new and current enjoying discounts.

The app selection appears similar to what's offered on the UK and German versions of the Fire TV box , which will remain on sale for £79 and 99 euros, respectively.