Amazon Fireplace TV Stick Lite evaluation: Succesful streamer, low-cost value

Roku is the most important title in streaming {hardware}, with seven completely different streamers accessible proper now, and much more TVs and soundbars. Amazon has been gunning for Roku’s slice of the pie ever for the reason that first Fireplace TV ($34 at Amazon) appeared. However what Amazon hasn’t had is an ultracheap choice, till now. The $30 Amazon Fireplace TV Lite is the corporate’s newest try and compete with Roku’s least expensive participant, the Roku Specific. Should you needed an ultracheap Amazon streamer for the value of a DVD, it is lastly right here.

Like

  • Filth-cheap
  • Contains Alexa voice distant
  • Big selection of streaming apps, together with HBO Max
  • Integrates nicely with Echo audio system

Do not Like

  • Voice instructions do not work with each app
  • No app for Peacock but
  • Extra advanced menus than Roku
  • HDR with out 4K is kinda pointless

Amazon launched not one however two new streamers on the similar time — the opposite was the up to date $40 Fireplace Stick — however I’d argue that the Fireplace Stick TV Lite is the higher deal. The principle distinction is that the costlier Stick has a special distant with energy, quantity and mute buttons to manage your TV. Should you’re solely utilizing this streamer on an affordable TV anyway, it is value saving the cash, except you really need TV management.

So is the $30 Fireplace TV Lite higher than the $30 Roku Specific? They principally have the identical collection of apps, with two primary exceptions: Roku has Peacock whereas Fireplace TV does not; Fireplace TV has HBO Max whereas Roku does not. In any other case the essential variations are within the menu programs and voice help. The Lite’s built-in entry to Alexa is a giant benefit when you like talking as a substitute of typing whenever you seek for exhibits and launch apps. Ultimately, I favored the Fireplace TV Lite a bit higher, though the Roku Specific continues to be a wonderful alternative too. In case your TV has an HDMI port, the Fireplace TV Stick Lite is a good way to equip it with a wealth of streaming for not a lot cash.

What’s it?

Sarah Tew/CNET

The Fireplace TV Lite is a USB stick-sized system which plugs right into a spare HDMI port in your TV. For 30 bucks it provides numerous options, together with that devoted voice distant that enables integration with the Alexa voice assistant. There’s additionally dozens of supported streaming companies amongst its 1000’s of obtainable apps.

The distant hasn’t bodily modified a lot for the reason that first Fireplace TV and I did not like the texture as a lot because the Roku distant or the new Google TV distant. Amazon’s clicker additionally lacks the shortcuts to Netflix or different often-used companies, however it does embrace a brand new stay TV button. 

The Lite distant ought to look acquainted to Fireplace TV customers.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Urgent that new backside button brings up a grid-style stay TV information populated by default with “channels” of free exhibits from Pluto TV and Starz. Surprisingly Amazon’s personal IMDb TV is just not a part of the stay TV grid, regardless that it has its personal program grid when you open the app. Should you occur to subscribe to YouTube TV, you will additionally see exhibits and channels from that service within the information, though it did not work with Sling TV (subscribers must use the Sling app as traditional).

The stick itself comes with an influence adapter which Amazon strongly recommends you employ. When you may use the USB ports in your system to energy it I discovered it may trigger the unit may behave surprisingly. For instance, Dolby Atmos content material would not work in any respect when plugged right into a TV USB port, regardless of the system declaring “Dolby Atmos” — the sound got here out as 5.1.

One function on the Lite’s function listing appears somewhat misplaced: HDR compatibility. That is the primary system we have seen to supply HDR however not 4K decision, and it raises the query of what sort of TV it is designed for. There are a whole lot of 4K HDR TVs on the market however, primarily based on a search of the Finest Purchase website, there are solely 4 1080p TVs that may do HDR. For most individuals with 4K HDR TVs, we would suggest getting a streamer that may really do 4K as a substitute of a 1080p streamer just like the Lite.

A number of streaming apps (however no Peacock)

The Fireplace TV Lite helps a variety of apps.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Like different streaming units the variety of companies that Amazon Fireplace TV helps is bettering on a regular basis. It could actually entry nearly the entire main streaming apps, together with Amazon Prime Video ($9 at Amazon), Netflix, Hulu, Sling TV, Crackle, Pluto TV, Tubi TV, Amazon Music, Pandora, Spotify and lots of, many extra. With so many companies supported it is nearly simpler to listing the companies the adapter does not have: particularly NBC’s Peacock. Roku and Chromecast with Google TV each supply Peacock and, just like the Fireplace TV Stick, the latter additionally contains HBO Max. 

The brand new Stay button on the distant summons a grid-style program information.

Ty Pendlebury/CNET

What it is like to make use of

The wholesome complement of options, tightly built-in voice instructions and its relative velocity makes for a profitable mixture. On the whole opening apps was speedy, and solely navigating the house web page tiles may give a really occasional slow-down, however nothing that spoiled the expertise. 

Utilizing the Fireplace TV Stick Lite distant is straightforward, and Alexa searches with the microphone button have been extra responsive and related than utilizing the Echo as a go-between. Solely every so often did I want for a mute button, and that was often in the course of the autoplay movies that accompany the tiles on the house web page.

I appreciated having the ability to use both the distant or an Alexa speaker for voice instructions, however utilizing an Echo speaker did not work with each app I attempted. Asking for “Umbrella Academy” on Netflix failed, for instance, and I simply obtained a “test your abilities” message (there may be no official Netflix talent within the Alexa app). 

Utilizing the distant as a substitute of a speaker was extra profitable, however even that wasn’t infallible. Provided that YouTube TV is now tightly built-in I hoped that voice search would work higher than it does. As an example I requested for “Battle Bots on YouTube TV” and all I obtained have been YouTube and Amazon “purchase” hyperlinks. Amazon Prime video labored nicely with Alexa voice, nevertheless.

In distinction, Roku could not have the identical sturdy voice capabilities, however textual content and voice searches through the Roku distant are typically extra focused towards the free/included applications slightly than merely pointing to “purchase now” hyperlinks.  

Image and sound high quality have been additionally superb, however the lack of an audio format management past “Finest Out there” may result in some odd issues. For instance, The Legend of Korra on Netflix utilizing the Lite solely gave me stereo sound (although it ought to be able to 5.1), whereas the brand new Fireplace Stick did give me the anticipated 5.1. Different applications, together with Jack Ryan on Amazon, have been performed in Atmos on the Lite so it wasn’t probably a {hardware} functionality challenge. Extra probably a Netflix one, and once I reached out to Amazon for clarification, a spokesperson confirmed the system helps each 5.1 and seven.1. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

There are two completely different faculties of thought on the subject of how streaming units manage their content material. App-centric menus like Roku and Apple TV simply present you a grid of apps, so you may’t really browse for one thing to look at with out clicking by to every app. Amazon Fireplace TV and Google TV take a extra content-focused method, surfacing plenty of titles on the house web page itself. 

Should you wish to graze for content material, the Fireplace TV could be extra interesting, though the “stay tiles” autoplay video could be jarring. If you recognize what you need already, or at the very least what app you need to watch, Roku might be a better option, partially as a result of Amazon’s search outcomes skew closely towards its personal content material (usually at further price). 

Amazon has promised an interface replace later in 2020, which can come first to each the Lite and the 2020 Fireplace TV. It provides a redesigned primary menu and improved looking, plus a brand new part referred to as Alexa Discover with new recipes, inventory experiences and extra.

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Must you purchase it?

If you’d like an ultracheap, succesful streamer and are embedded with Alexa and the Amazon universe, this product makes numerous sense. Chances are you’ll or could not miss the TV management capabilities however the Stay TV Information button is an actual bonus for cord-cutters specifically. At $30 it is a worthy streamer and an incredible stocking filler.

If, alternatively, you’ve gotten the 2019 Fireplace Stick, there’s completely no purpose so that you can purchase both of the 2020 variations. Dolby Atmos and/or Dolby Imaginative and prescient are bizarre add-ons for 1080p units, and in case you have an honest 4K TV then it is best to get an actual 4K streamer — it is simply one other $20.

First revealed Oct. 8.

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