Amazon FireTV Stick

So I recently got an Amazon FireTV Stick. Actually, I got a few of them. Amazon had a really good deal for Prime members, 50% off for preordering it. My whole goal is to find the most flexible, compatible, and inexpensive solution to use throughout every television in the house. This might be it.

Upon opening the box, you will find the device, a micro USB cable, and AC adapter. If the USB port on your TV is powerful enough to provide power to the FireTV Stick, you don’t need to use the AC adapter. If you go this route, you will see a warning that it is recommended to use the AC adapter so that it’s always on and receive updates.

The first time I started up the device (USB powered), I ran into a few problems. It wanted me to log in using my Amazon account but it kept rejecting my credentials. I contacted Amazon support for FireTV Stick. I was only on hold for under five minutes. It turns out, the device needed to be updated. There are some bugs associated with my issue but since it wasn’t using the AC adapter, it didn’t install any updates, even though it checked for updates prior to me entering my Amazon account credentials. So I unplugged everything for a minute and used the AC adapter. This time, it found updates and installed it. After it restarted, I was able to log in with my account.

When you first log in and turn on your Amazon FireTV Stick, it will play an introduction video. You cannot skip the video. It’s kind of annoying and I hope there’s an update that will allow you to skip it in the future.

With kids in the house and having them “accidentally” purchasing apps on our smart phones, I decided to use the parental controls feature. Enabling this, you will need to enter the five digit code set in your Amazon instant video account. If you forgot the pin, you can visit http://amazon.com/PIN and reset it. This pin will be used throughout the environment from viewing content to installing apps – even if it’s free. One of the surprising apps it wanted me to enter a pin is the NBA Gamete app. I guess it’s because of the app rating system.

The only thing you’re able to do is watch off Amazon’s streaming service. For Amazon Prime members, you will be able to access the library included with the service. You can also rent and purchase digital content off Amazon. If you don’t have Amazon Prime, the FireTV Stick comes with 30 days trial. You can also use other providers like Netflix, Hulu Plus, Youtube, Showtime Anytime, and others. I was surprised and disappointed to not find HBO Go. Unsurprisingly, you will not find any Google Play services. For local network content there isPlex support as well. I haven’t tried this yet since I haven’t fully moved to Plex. Many of my media is still usingXBMC (now Kodi). I’ve had issues with Plex transcoding many of my files. These services come in a form of apps. Just install from the list. They should be free. Hopefully, they will add support for HBO Go in the future. I won’t hold my breath on Google Play services – it would be great though.

One thing I noticed is the keyboard layout. When you first turn on the device and enter your Amazon credentials, it is using a keyboard where the keys are in alphabetical order. But when entering account credentials within apps, it will use QWERTY. It’s a minor thing that many may not even notice, but I wanted to bring it up. It may change in future updates if Amazon cared about consistency.

Also, I would review the default settings. Here’s a couple of things to check out.

  • By default “Collect App Usage Data” is on. You can change it under Settings > Applications.
  • In-App purchases are on. You can change it under Settings > Applications > Appstore.
  • The software version during this post is 54.1.0.1.

Here is a list of why the Amazon FireTV Stick has an advatage over Google Chromecast.

  • No need to look for a device to stream from. This is great considering it supports HBO Go. It’s even more flexible with the Chrome browser on your computer since it can stream anything that can be played within the browser. I just didn’t like how unnatural it is. I prefer to have a device that’s a bit more capable without being dependent on another device.
  • The remote control for the FireTV Stick gives it a more natural feeling.
  • It is slightly more expensive but hardware is slightly better (wifi antenna, cpu, and ram). Which is why it is not a streaming device and can work on its own.

CNET has a quick comparison between the Google Chromecast, Amazon FireTV Stick, and Roku Streaming Stick. It also has a nice chart outlining the available service support.

For streaming content at home, I have an Apple TV2, a couple of Google Chromecast devices, a few Amazon FireTV Stick devices, an Amazon FireTV, and a Roku2 XD. I also have a media server running via DLNA. I have yet to find the perfect platform where it has all the services. I also haven’t figure out if I were to go pure digital, which service provider should I buy digital content from. For instance, if I wanted to purchase a license for a movie, should I buy from iTunes, Amazon, Google Play? It’s unfortunate that consumers have to play this game – which is why I haven’t moved toward purchasing digital copies of media yet. I still go the store and buy discs. I am glad that Ultraviolet digital copies come with many movies and hopefully that content is accessible outside of a computer.

With the smaller form factor like we see with the FireTV Stick and its lower price tag, I don’t see why you shouldn’t have at least 1 of the 3 (Google, Amazon, Roku) devices to increase accessibility at home. It is somewhat inconvenient but it increases assurance of compatibility.

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FireTV Stick Box
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FireTV Stick and remote control
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Box contents
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Chromecast next FireTV Stick

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