Amazon Fire TV Stick Initial Thoughts

After 12 hours with the Amazon Fire TV Stick, some thoughts…

The remote feels exceedingly cheap compared to the premium clicker that ships with the full-fledged Fire TV box and I had some difficulty removing the battery cover. Having said that, a flimsy remote is infinitely more valuable than no remote… versus Google Chromecast, which requires a smartphone for interaction.

In the app department, the Fire TV UI remains somewhat unwieldy compared to Roku given its expected emphasis of Amazon services – but it’s certainly manageable, More importantly, the third party content selection is still lacking. For example, our kitchen TV is perfectly suited for CNN or Sky News (as seen on Apple TV) background noise, yet neither are available. Also missing, but expected soon, is HBO GO. I had no problems streaming Netflix and WatchESPN – both looked great. Plex also seems to be working well

When announced, there was some confusion as to whether or not the Fire TV Stick could be powered purely over USB without requiring a wall wart. And, having received my streamer, the answer remains somewhat fuzzy. Amazon highly recommends using the included adapter to “provide a reliable power source, allow fast wake up, and enable automatic updates.” Indeed, my first attempt at a software upgrade failed and, while I’m not sure which device to blame, my Vizio TV used for initial testing (and USB power) rebooted. A lot. And while the set has a history of flakey behavior, it’s been nothing but rock solid as a Chromecast host.

Prime members who bought Fire TV Sticks direct from Amazon for the extremely low price of $19 and intend to gift or ebay them better head to this page, click on the Devices tab, and deregister the streamer from their accounts… before footing the bill for an Amazon Instant movie marathon since they shipped linked to an Amazon account. And if you wanted an Amazon Fire TV Stick for Chrismahanukwanzakah, Amazon is fresh out. However, Best Buy and perhaps other brick and mortar retailers will have inventory (at $39 a pop).

71 thoughts on “Amazon Fire TV Stick Initial Thoughts”

  1. I’m hoping mine settles in a bit today. It lagged so much I thought for a second I was using the Roku Stick.

    I’ll be keeping mine, but I don’t see a need for any more, I’ll be sticking to the Chromecast. At least until my Nexus Player gets here.

  2. Scott, it supposedly does support games and the game controller. I didn’t try as that doesn’t interest me.

    Gregg, supposedly Amazon will push out an update at some point that allows you to log onto guest WiFi networks via a browser component – suitable for hotels. We’ll see what it looks like, whenever it shows – probably will require smartphone app to configure. But this is definitely a motivating factor for me as well.

  3. Thanks for the heads up on deregistering it. I got one at $19, and that was too good of a price to not be a stocking stuffer for Dad.

  4. I did watch about half of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes via Plex at 720p and the only way you knew which device (Roku, full Fire TV, or Stick) you were using was the very cheap remote. Although I was happy to find the batteries for the remote were not shrink wrapped.

    This evening I might get a chance to play a game or two on it. We have the game controller as the kids like to play Minecraft and Sonic on the full Fire TV. I’ll see about downloading a racing game and see how it handles that.

  5. Ordered mine Oct 27, but still says not shipping until 12/8 … you folks must have been at the front of the line, and I guess it was a longer line than I thought. I bought two during the $19 sale for Prime members, seemed cheapest way to get Netflix and Amazon prime on my bedroom tv .. which actually could do Netflix if I had ethernet in that room … but the wifi adaptor for the Sony is expensive and flaky from what I have researched.

  6. I ordered one on October 27th as well, and it initially said it wasn’t shipping until 12/8. I got an email this week saying it was shipping early, and the estimated delivery date is this Monday (November 24th.)

  7. Every time I try to track it on Amazon’s order page, I get a different tracking number from a previous order. I got “Not shipped yet”, “Delivered 11/10”, and “Out for Delivery”.

  8. My *second stick* is scheduled to arrive 12/12. Debating whether or not I let the order complete. Amazon doesn’t let me list my original Fire TV box for resale on their site, as they do for nearly every other gadget I own, and given the Stick is not yet a slam dunk, maybe I’ll cancel. Also my mom will get two new TVs shortly and I have a feeling the integrated apps will be good enough for her basic needs and tolerance. For me, Chromecast and Roku also have Slingplayer…

  9. Anyone else find the location of the power jack somewhat poorly designed? On the chromecast the power port is located at the end of the device and the mini usb cable just comes out the side nicely. On the Fire Stick the port is in the middle of the device and when the mini usb cable sticks out on my Panasonic TV it bumps into the next hdmi cable. I have to re-locate all my cables and make the Fire the device in slot 1. Kinda strange. I wonder if there are other brands where having the power in the middle of the device is useful?

  10. Remote: My kids refuse to use Chromecast because it does not have a remote. What happens is they would stream something, start doing other things on their phones and then want to pause the TV, but couldn’t remember which app they’d used to launch stream, and even if they could, it was a pain to get back and find the controls to pause.

    Hotel: I fantasize about this too, but most hotel wifi is too weak for streaming and I fear hours of buffering. And there are all sorts of odd security things on hotel wifi – boxes that need to be checked, etc. before you can log in

  11. And ports that can be blocked… I took one of the first Roku boxes or maybe even THE first to a hotel and managed to get it onto the WiFi, but whatever port or protocol was being used for streaming Netflix was blocked by the hotel (and there was no method to change those settings like we could in the old SlingPlayer software). WHEN I have coverage, I usually tether – performance is often better, security is definitely better. Maybe I should velcro a tablet to the front of the TV.

  12. Dave, do you know if the remote that ships with the Fire TV $99 box can work with the stick? And if the cheap remote can work with the $99 box? I’d sure love to repurpose that great remote and then eBay my FireTV box with the lousy remote even if it doesn’t raise much cash. I don’t game, so why have a $99 box when the $20 does everything else the same.

  13. That’s one of my tests to run tonight. That remote (or one like it?) is an upsell, so I should be able to relink it from og Fire TV to Stick. The idea of bundling the IR remote with the box is an interesting one – will need to test that permutation as well. Hm.

  14. Scott and Dave, the remotes are interchangeable. I’ve used the voice remote with the stick and the cheap remote with the Fire TV.

    It does feel very cheap compared to the voice remote, but I actually prefer the cheap remote.

  15. No, Fire TV Stick is not MHL (like the original, perhaps MHL-bastard Roku Stick) and cannot draw power from a HDMI-shaped port. What I mean is USB into a USB port on the TV or other device versus USB cable into a (provided) wall wart.

  16. I’m considering canceling mine, specially since the Amazon Instant update JUST showed up on my TiVo (YAY) and that was half the reason I wanted the stick (music being the other). I ordered mine towards the second day of the sale and still have a January 9 shipping estimate, wth Amazon.

    Already have a Nexus Player on this TV (and a Chromecast elsewhere), not sure the Amazon stick adds much for me beyond music, tho I do buy a lot music on Amazon… Usually end up re-uploading it or having it identified by Google (for access thru the Google devices and Play Music account).

    Does the Amazon stick support HDMI CEC like the Google devices? That’s a really nice feature IMO, makes it real easy to get music going without reaching for a remote (or changing inputs, or turning the TV on).

  17. hmmm… I just went to the device page listed in the article. There are already two FireTv sticks listed there for me. Even though Amazon is showing a delivery date of December 5th and they have not been shipped yet.

  18. I’m not cancelling mine for several reasons:

    1) I hate Roku. Put mine in my Daughter’s room. Works ok… but I just never cared for the interface. Amazon has a pretty slick interface.

    2) Screen mirroring (Roku wins here too). Chromecast mirrors pretty well from an Android (if it’s running the right OS version and is “blessed by Google” or you downloaded a third party hack and are rooted). But from Chrome, it’s awful. Miracast to the FireTV I have has been working very well. Dave – can you test Miracast performance to the Stick?

    3) Voice search via remote. It’s really helpful, and as more third party providers get integrated, it’s only going to get better. To Frank’s comment above, it is true that TiVO has universal search nailed (albeit not via voice… oh well!).

    4) The future browser update. I get Chromecast working in hotels via a travel router, but it’s kludge at best and takes time. The one I have (HooToo) also won’t work from an iPad, so I have to lug out my laptop to get it connected to an upstream WiFi provider. That tidbit came from their support too, so it’s not that I’m missing something.

    5) I can’t believe this is last. The remote. :) I have a wife, and two young children. A remote is compatible with them. Pulling out a phone and opening an app (but only a compatible one) isn’t. Again, to Frank’s point, TiVO has displaced much of this at home, but we travel enough that having a remote is a big win.

  19. Speaking of Miracast, does anyone know of a HDMI dongle or USB dongle (or DisplayPort or Thunderbolt for that matter) that’s a Miracast TRANSMITTER? I’ve seen tons of HDMI receivers, but I’d love a transmitter. My Surface Pro can do it. My phone can do it. My iPad can’t. My MacBook can’t. I know Apple won’t add it because they want to sell AppleTVs but I sure would love a small dongle that I can plug into my laptop and do Miracast.

  20. Huh, I didn’t realize the Fire stick featured Miracast… I might keep the order just for that then, makes it seem like an even better value. I had read it’d do mirroring in passing a few times but figured it was some Fire tablet exclusive feature or something.

    Should’ve realized what it was… I actually already have a small Netgear Miracast (and WiDi) box for traveling, tho it’s bigger, and I occasionally use it in the living room. Guess I can now keep that one in the travel bag now. Can’t say I’ve seen a Miracast transmitter before…

  21. Miracast was originally a Fire tablet exclusive. Will test tonight from my Asus tablet. Not aware of a beaming device, but I assume something must exist. Also will check CEC – given what I was doing yesterday on a TV without an antenna and no other inputs, I wouldn’t have triggered it. Who knows if that old TV does it anyway – will test on my primary set as perhaps a more representative experience.

  22. A short report on gaming. It looks like Amazon is restricting games on the Stick. I don’t know if it’s the slower cpu or the 1GB of ram that is the cause.

    I first went to the games menu and was disappointed to not see all of the games we have on the full Fire TV. My first choice was going to be Asphalt 8: Airborne, but it’s not available on the Stick. Another glaring omission that will keep my 3rd grade son from even bothering with the Stick is Minecraft. For that reason alone I wouldn’t be able to get rid of the full Fire TV. The games are are available on the Stick seem to be more of the casual games. I downloaded Sonic and played for a few minutes.

    If you’re looking to play games and don’t want to be more disappointed than the already poor selection that is the Amazon App Store get the full Fire TV and not the Stick.

  23. Jason, are you drawing power from a USB jack or the wall wart? Do your gaming options change with more power is what I’m wondering or is the line in the sand based on the lesser processor of Stick v Box?

  24. Dave, no change. I plugged it into the wall and the only thing that changed was the naga screen on boot was gone. The wall wart is only a 5 watt power supply anyway, so my TV is giving it that much power itself. I then went to the app page for the racing game; and noticed that the full Fire TV is listed for me to send it there, but the Stick is missing. So this restriction is happening on the server and not the stick.

  25. Some more testing and thoughts…

    Browsing the UI is definitely a step or two slower and less smooth than the full-on Fire TV box. However, it’s perfectly fine – “good” even, nothing like TiVo-slow. But new to the Fire TV UI is a banner ad at the top, that I can’t say this dense interface benefits from:

    Miracast is pissing me off at this point. I didn’t bother comparing it to Fire TV box, Chromecast mirroring, or Roku. But here’s the deal. For your non-Amazon phone or tablet, you have to manually initiate the screen mirroring each time you want a “guest device” to use it. From both my Asus tablet and Galaxy S5 smartphone, it wouldn’t connect on the first attempt. Was able to successfully mirror both devices, but had connectivity issues from the Asus which might not be Amazon. Mirroring CNN live tv from S5 to TV was decent but I wouldn’t call it good, with occasional dropped frames and stuttering audio. For sharing family photos, it’s fine. But for video I’d much rather use some other solution (like Airplay) or nothing at all. Of course, your mileage may vary – many factors at play here, plus personal pain thresholds.

    Three pics here fwiw:

    Will test HDMI-CEC and remotes next.

  26. Can’t confirm HDMI-CEC yet… will let it sit longer and try again.

    Update: Pretty sure this isn’t HDMI-CEC. Can anyone else confirm?

  27. I’ve got one coming next month. However what I really want is a much revamped Apple TV. It’s way past due!

  28. Even with the Fire TV Stick plugged into the wall wart, vs USB into television’s USB jack, it reboots my Vizio television during power up if the TV is on and the HDMI input is set to Fire. Further, a Twitter follower with a Samsung set reports the same. So it must be sending a jacked up signal or power over HDMI to trigger this. I’ve tested a gazillion devices and never seen anything like it. Will keep the Stick far away from my “real” televisions until hopefully a software update changes the behavior. Given this, some of the other documented limitations, combined with the fact that Amazon won’t let me resell my original Fire TV box on Amazon, I’ve canceled my second Stick order. I’ll save that $19 for the next thing. Chromecast 2? Apple TV 2015?

  29. A second report from a second Stick on a different brand of TV is trend enough for me. Not to mention I’ve expended enough effort at this point, will toss the first in a drawer until more apps and a software update hit (hopefully including browser-based login for travel). However, I’m still game for an Echo if Amazon ever delivers the invite. Was in the midst of replacing my Sonos Play:3s for Play:1s given form… and could go an entirely different direction.

    One last point, the mid-Stick power jack did force me to re-order my HDMI inputs during one of my test runs as someone else above had mentioned. Not a big deal, since my real TVs allow me to label inputs, but fyi.

  30. Dave, rumor is, the Echo invite is tied to purchases made. Everyone I’ve talked to who got the invite, also owns a Fire HDX. I bought an HDX 2 weeks ago when they were doing the sale on refurbs and got the Echo invite on Day 1.

    My fire stick is hooked up, but hasn’t seen much use beyond tinkering when I first set it up. My Echo is in use basically constantly when I walk in the door.

    I’m hoping that Amazon has the foresight to link the two… let me tell the echo what I want to play on my fire stick!

  31. I also got in on the refurb HDX deal…

    On reading the other guy’s tweet again, I think he meant his Stick was rebooting versus his TV. So it could still be my Vizio versus the Stick. Hm. Regardless, I’m sufficiently concerned and will not tempt fate. Until I do (like when I put it on the Panasonic plasma last night – no problems).

  32. “Even with the Fire TV Stick plugged into the wall wart, vs USB into television’s USB jack, it reboots my Vizio television during power up if the TV is on and the HDMI input is set to Fire. Further, a Twitter follower with a Samsung set reports the same. So it must be sending a jacked up signal or power over HDMI to trigger this.”

    Obviously a feature, not a bug.

    Must be silently updating the TV firmware to stop them from accepting Chromecast, Roku, Apple TV, etc…

  33. Well that sucks about the Echo. I traded in my three Fire tablets last year in favor of a Google Nexus 7 tablet. I was hoping to be able to get an invite for the Echo. I wouldn’t mind paying $100 for it, but I’m not going to pay $200 for it.

  34. I’ve heard the rumor about the Echo invites going to Fire tablet owners, and that doesn’t bother me at all. As long as Amazon is still selling them for $99 when my number comes up, I’ll probably still go ahead and get one.

    At $199, I’m not interested at all. I’d take Sonos Play:1’s for that money.

  35. Shame about the Echo thing. I own a HDX, but since I share a Kindle account with my Dad, I put my HDX on his account so as to keep access to the books. Bought the HDX in BestBuy, so there’s no record of me owning it. I guess I’ll request an invite through his account.

  36. So I’ve tempted fate… tested the Fire TV Stick on my 2008 and 2012 Panasonic plasma sets. No launch problems whatsoever. However, back on my 2010 Vizio set (Model M221NV) using either of the two HDMI ports and with or without the HDMI extender, if the TV is on with the relevant input set, the TV will reboot during the Fire TV Stick boot process. Every time. So whatever is coming across the Stick’s HDMI connection is confusing the television in some way. I assume I (or my set) represent the corner case.

    For background, this particular Vizio set has successfully hosted to a number of blog projects, including the DVR+ hands on and WDTV Play review. It’s also proven a TiVo Mini could run over WiFi, validated Mohu’s amazing reception, and lately served as a Chromecast screen.

    At $19, the Fire tV Stick still represents a great value and a solid option. Assuming no permanent harm or widespread issues – which seems to be the case. However, at the non-discounted price I’d probably point most folks to Roku, with more apps and a calmer UI. As Amazon’s platform evolves, I’m sure the gap will close. As I mentioned above, I cancelled my second Stick but am absolutely keeping the 1st.

    By the by, at one of my local Best Buys, both Fire TV and Chromecast have very prominent displays with a ton of product (on both sides).

  37. “So I’ve tempted fate… tested the Fire TV Stick on my 2008 and 2012 Panasonic plasma sets … if the TV is on with the relevant input set, the TV will reboot during the Fire TV Stick boot process. Every time.”

    Uh, oh. More silent firmware upgrades. You’ve now enabled the hidden camera and microphone on both HDTV’s.

    By going to your Amazon public page, I can now access a livestream of your home.

  38. to answer Kravimir, I did install a version of Kodi (tvmc). This is my first experience with xbmc/Kodi and I have to say it is pretty darned slick. It alone makes the FireStick a great purchase. I did not know about AirPlay mirroring, so I didn’t
    Try it. Sounds like a project for this weekend.

  39. I was playing some music today and noticed a couple of things. It occasionally plays a horn like tone instead of skipping. Also it seems to buffer a lot of the music. It kept playing even when I rebooted my router so I’m not sure why it would play the tone.

  40. “Also it seems to buffer a lot of the music.”

    The fascinating thing to me about the Fire box & stick is how aggressively they cache, and thus how they are designed exclusively for high-speed broadband connections.

    You can even see it during the initial out-of-box system update, which only really makes for an acceptable experience if you have a high-speed broadband connection.

    Nothing wrong with that strategy, as far as I’m concerned. Just interesting.

  41. “Can’t confirm HDMI-CEC yet… will let it sit longer and try again.

    Update: Pretty sure this isn’t HDMI-CEC. Can anyone else confirm?”

    Mine was able to tell the AVR to switch inputs so there’s some functionality there.

  42. Thanks for the feedback. David K from CNET also reports similar to me. Not sure why my Panasonic wouldn’t switch inputs – maybe I didn’t give it enough time. Maybe it’s disabled on that port? Who knows.

  43. I think that the particular event that triggered it was taking it out of sleep mode by hitting the home button. This caused the receiver to switch to the Fire TV input.

  44. So I let it sit longer. Overnight to be exact. Hitting the button did flip inputs on the family room Panasonic and it was identified by name on the Vizio input, so we conclude the Stick *is* HDMI-CEC. As to why Amazon simply doesn’t list these things, who knows.

  45. So I picked up one from BestBuy last night and paid $15 out of pocket after my Reward Zone dollars. I still have two coming from Amazon but I will take one of those to my GFs house. For video and music streaming the FireTv stick seems to work as well as my FireTv does. I have no desire to use any FireTv for games so I have no idea how those run.

    Setup and software download and install was very quick. Just like I saw with my fireTV having the same speeds whether wired or wireless. The FireTv stick over wireless seems just as fast. For the lower price the FireTv Stick is an excellent deal.

  46. @Dave : Fire TV Stick support for HDMI-CEC, which allows it to turn on a TV and select the appropriate HDMI port, is buggy. After much experimentation, I found a way to make it work consistently: Scroll down to settings, then over to System, and put it to sleep manually. Turn the TV off. Press the Home button on the remote, and the TV will turn on and switch to the appropriate HDMI port. In my experience with a Sony Bravia 40″ TV, this is the *only* way to get the Fire TV Stick remote to turn on the TV. It doesn’t matter if the Fire TV Stick is plugged into a vanilla HDMI port or a HDMI / MHL port.

    Perhaps this will be fixed in a future software update. I have submitted feedback to Amazon describing the problem and my work-around.

  47. Thanks for reinforcing my sanity. :) But, yeah, several bugs still to be worked out. I assume many or most will be. I’m mostly waiting on more apps.

  48. “So I let it sit longer. Overnight to be exact.”

    The secret ingredient to the Fire Stick is yeast. So using it ends up being just like baking bread. You need to let the yeast rise overnight to enable HDMI-CEC.

    This should be relatively obvious, folks. It’s right there in the name. If humans hadn’t domesticated fire, we wouldn’t be bread-bakers.

  49. i just got mine. Seems good on my 47″ Bravia. No issues with rebooting. Very annoyed that Comcast is blocking Showtime app in fire stick. It works fine on my Apple TV. Are they in some pissing match with Amazon?

  50. “Very annoyed that Comcast is blocking Showtime app in fire stick … Are they in some pissing match with Amazon?”

    No. It’s not about Amazon. Comcast also blocks HBO Go on Roku.

    Comcast is in a pissing match with their customers. Happily, this being a free market, you can just switch to another MSO. It’s not as if they have a monopoly in most of their territories, or anything like that, of course.

    Or, perhaps you’d like to sign my legally-binding petition to permanently deport Brian Roberts to Uzbekistan. Only 400 more signatures, and we can make this happen!

  51. Mine was showing estimated delivery date of 12/24 and it showed up today (12/10).

    So far so good. Wish it had HBOGo. Also wish it had a app for iPhone as well as seamless AirPlay support.

  52. My Fire Stick will not work with a Denon AVR-790 receiver. The Denon has HDCP and works perfectly with a 2009 vintage Vizio, but apparently the HDCP or some other HDMI negotiation fails and the receiver cycles status and the display continuously.

  53. Scott, I’m not advocating for any particular streaming stick or player, but a travel router like the Netgear Trek or one of the HooToo models would make your traveling life a lot easier.

    Your travel router logs in to the network using whatever authentication method the hotel has and then provides a private WiFi network for all of your devcies. My Netgear is also wired, so when I stay in a hotel with ethernet in the room things are even better.

    I just returned from Pittsburgh and the free hotel WiFi was awful, but I was able to pay the $3.95 per day premium fee (which they normally charge per device) and we got 3 HD streams out of that connection.

    I take a lot of really short trips (3 days, 2 nights in Pittsburgh) and I won’t leave home without my travel router.

  54. Can anyone help? we just got an amazon fire tv stick. We have a Sony TV and we are trying to connect our Samsung Galaxy tabS 10.5 to the fire stick.
    Our tab shows our fire stick, but when we click to connect is says connection failed every time. We have been on both the amazon and samsung support pages and talked to numerous people with no luck.. Anyone have any ideas??

  55. I’m having the same problem as Lauren. Trying to connect galaxy tab s to the fire TV and it’s failing to connect everytime…..anyone figure out a remedy? I’ll need to return it if not.

  56. I’ve had two Fire TV Sticks for about a month. They both work just fine. I have sideloaded Firefox, Chrome, and XBMC on each one. The reason I got these was to be able to watch movies from my Plex server while on the road at the hotel. No problems plugging into the TV. Getting past the hotel captive WiFi initial terms of service screen is sketchy. First time I tried with Firefox and was able to get in just fine. Watching Plex it paused quite a bit. I tried the Plex client on the iPad at the same time and no pauses so I think the Plex client on the AFTS is poor. Netflix and Amazon Prime played just fine too. Some of the other channels like ESPN and CBS exhibited some pausing. I think Netflix and Amazon Prime are optimized for this little device. Next time I tried to connect to the same hotel Wifi I got an Unsecured Network message and Firefox would not let me click the “Its OK” button so no happiness. I’m gonna try Chrome next time but I think the real answer is to get the HDMI adaptor for the iPad (iPad 3) and plug in with an HDMI cable. I have tried the adaptor here and it works super (ios 8.1.2).

  57. Is there any way to turn OFF the HDMI CEC feature on a Fire Stick? I have it plugged into the HDMI port of my AV receiver which is connected to the TV via HDMI 1. But every time I wake up the stupid Fire Stick, it switches my TV to HDMI 3! Hmm, maybe if I plug it into the receiver’s HDMI 1 port….

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