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Eye on Demand | August 18, 2017

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Amazon Fire TV Stick Review

Amazon Fire TV Stick Review

Review Overview

Value For Money
9
User Interface
6
Availability And Quality Of Services
7
7.3

Rating

Streaming boxes have been getting smaller and smaller since the days of DVD Players, but if an STB is still too large for you, the new rave is HDMI Sticks – dongles small enough to just hang out the back of most TVs. So how well does this cut-price version of the Amazon Fire TV compare to the larger and more expensive box?

These days, if the $100 mark is too expensive for a streaming set-top-box, you can always opt for a cheaper HDMI stick. Although a few unofficial Android devices were available first, it was the Chromecast and Roku Sticks that initially stole the limelight. Costing south of US$50 depending on the model, these cost-effective devices can give you a lot of punch for your dollar.

In the case of the Amazon Fire TV Stick, you get a lot for $39 (£35, €39). This is a great little dongle for its size and price-point, and can not only suffice extremely well as an IPTV platform, but also as a gaming platform as well – although it has to be pointed out, the gaming side is rather more restricted than the more expensive and power STB version.

There are two things that set this stick apart from its competition. The first is unfettered access to Amazon Prime in any of the three countries that support this service (pending individual subscriptions of course) – namely the US, UK and Germany. And as far as Amazon Prime goes, there are no better platforms to make use of this streaming service – Amazon quite simply pulls out all the stops for their own app, so if accessing Amazon Prime or Instant Video is what you are specifically after, you would be hard pressed finding a better platform than this one (outside the more expensive AFTV Box).

The second great feature is not an official one, but is almost too good to be true if you are a Smart DNS user. Most platforms allow you to switch regions. On an Apple TV, this is simply done via the menu, whereas the Roku is a bit more complicated and requires a 10minute procedure. Samsung TVs can also switch regional hubs via a hidden menu. In almost all cases though, outside of the expensive game consoles such as the Xbox One or PS4, it is a choice between one hub or the other, and this for the most part is not practical.

But the Amazon Fire TV has a “back-door” way that allows people to mix apps from multiple regions onto the single hub, allowing the BBC iPlayer to sit alongside Hulu Plus or Zattoo. However, before you get too excited, few of these apps outside of their official region will work unless you also have a Smart DNS service such as those offered by Unblock-Us or OverPlay.

For people just looking to use this for services available in their current country, there are still ample choices available, although as the device is still quite new, there are not as many apps as Roku has quite yet.

 

  • The beauty of HDMI sticks such as the Amazon Fire TV, is their incredibly small size. These things are so tiny and practical, they hide behind most TVs in the space of an HDMI socket.

    Plug TV

    For most TVs, this is not a problem at all. But every now and again you get a poorly designed set where the dongle will either stick out too far, or directly out of the back making it difficult to mount on to a wall. Supplied with the box is a tiny extension cable for this very problem if it occurs.

    As for the dongle itself, it is really small, measuring a scant 25.4 x 84mm and resembles a circa 2005 USB flash drive. Unlike the Amazon Fire TV box which has a selection of ports including optical out and Ethernet, the stick has absolutely nothing – except a micro-USB port used for power.

    AFTV Stick Dim

    Also supplied in the box is a USB power socket and cable, with the instruction guide recommending to plug this into your wall socket.

    We tend to ignore this suggestion and have always had our power supplied directly from the 5V 0.5amp USB port at the back of our TV. This is not recommended by Amazon, but we have never had any issues with it. In fact, it has the advantage that the device is powered down when the television switches off, which is very handy when using the AFTV with live streaming content such as provided by the Sling TV, TVPlayer or Zattoo apps.

    Whilst the main dongle itself looks and feels very well made, the remote control is completely the opposite. This also contrasts sharply with the excellent remote supplied with the more expensive Amazon Fire TV box. Unlike that remote, the Stick version doesn’t provide any voice search options, although if this really bothers you, a free Android or iOS app can facilitate that feature.

    Quite frankly, this is the cheapest, and most horrid feeling remote that I can actually remember using. And I’m being honest here, this isn’t just written for dramatic effect. Whilst the Box remote feels solid and extremely pleasant in the hand, the Stick remote feels like it will fall apart within a few weeks of usage. Each click of a button moans of creaking plastic and fills me with apprehension and anxiety, although in its defense, it still actually functions despite my reluctance to have faith in it.

    I know Amazon had to keep the price down here, but did they seriously have to send such an awful remote as the one supplied?AFTV Stick Remote

    As for under the hood, while the box version was a veritable workhorse of power, the Amazon Fire TV Stick seems to just hover at the edge of usability.

    To put that into perspective, it does the job. But unlike the Amazon Fire TV box which flies through everything with ease and fluidity, the Stick groans and whimpers at every turn. Although it works perfectly well with all the current range of streaming services thrown at it, I have to wonder if this will still be the case in two years time from now.

    From the limited time that the device has been available, generally speaking all of the major IPTV apps that exist for the AFTV Box also are available for the Stick. Due to the lower specs of this device however, the gaming options are far fewer.

    • Size: 84mm x 25.4mm.
    • Weight: 25.1 grams.
    • SOC Platform: Broadcom BCM28155 (Capri).
    • GPU: Broadcom VideoCore IV GPU/VPU (Capri VC4 device).
    • Storage: 8GB.
    • Memory: 1GB (512MB system, 512MB video).
    • WiFi: Dual-band, dual-antenna Wi-Fi (MIMO). Supports 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi networks.
    • Bluetooth: 3.0.
    • HDMI: 720p and 1080p.

     

     

    Unblocking geographic restrictions on this device is supported by the following Smart DNS providers:

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  • Although the Amazon Fire TV will happily work with approved 3rd party apps such as Netflix, Hulu Plus and the BBC iPlayer, Amazon’s own video streaming service is set entirely apart and built directly into the UI.

    The advantage of this is a unified ecosystem designed to easily direct customers to Amazon’s own content. The home screen has direct links to Amazon titles and the Amazon Watchlist, with even the search option bringing up Amazon video content alongside apps and games.

    You don’t actually need an Amazon Prime account to use the Fire TV, but there is no doubt that having one adds dramatically to the platform’s potential. With or without a Prime sub, Amazon’s video library will always be visible on the home screen.

    But one of the big differences many seasoned on-demand users will notice, is the immediate playback of content once selected. Amazon pre-load movies and TV shows onto the device even when browsing their info screens, so as soon as a show is selected, it begins immediately. This only works for Amazon content, but it really does make a difference.

    Although it is possible to rent or buy Amazon movies and TV shows, there is still a Prime-only menu ensuring everything you browse there will be part of your monthly sub. And a selection of categories helps find that specific film or episode including Recently Added Prime TV or Movies, Recommend TV or Movies, Exclusive Prime Movies, Originals, Most Popular, Kids and Genres.

    The Watchlist is also easily available directly from the main Hub, and if you already had a Prime account when ordering the device, your Watchlist will be populated upon first setup.

    In fact, when specifically regarding Amazon Prime content, there isn’t really anything to complain about here. It is, quite simply, the best UI I have seen on any platform for Amazon’s own service.

    Amazon Instant Video & Prime Pros:

    • Brilliant UI.
    • Directly accessible from Home screen.
    • Instant playback.
    • Watchlist and Resume.
    • Beautiful 1080p HD streams averaging 10,820kbps*

    Amazon Instant Video & Prime Cons:

    • No Netflix-style region switching via Smart DNS.
    • Poor on-screen keyboard for searching.
    • Instant start exists, but is not as fast to fire up as the AFTB Box.

    (Accessing Amazon Prime outside of the designated regions may require a compatible Smart DNS or VPN service. If using OverPlay, ensure the JetSwitch for Amazon Prime or Instant Video is set to the country where you have an Amazon subscription.)

    Switching between all three core Amazon Prime services on this device is supported by the following Smart DNS providers:

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  • A streaming platform is only as good as the services it supports, and unlike the current Apple TV3, but like most of its competitors, the Fire TV supports 3rd party apps. These are however treated completely separately to Amazon’s own Instant Video and Prime service.

    If you are used to the vast range of apps available for the Roku platform, you may be a tad disappointed here, although as far as IPTV goes, it is not terribly bad for US on-demand support.

    The two big contract-free subscription services, Netflix and Hulu Plus are here, as well as a pile of free apps as well, from PBS, PBS Kids, A&E, Lifetime, History and Crackle, not to mention other pay-wall services like Showtime Anytime, HBO Go, Sling TV & Watch ESPN.

    But there are also a lot of omissions that may help decide against this box including any of the main free OTA catch-up networks (ABC, CBS, NBC and FOX) which is especially notable for CBS as they are not on Hulu.

    Apps are easily found either via a separate app menu, or the Recent menu at the top of the Home Page. I especially like this treatment, as it lists all the last apps you have used recently, which makes a quick way to access your favourites.

    Of particular note, Hulu Plus, Crackle, Netflix and PBS are especially well designed.

    Screen Shot 2014-10-30 at 13.27.56


  • In the UK, the Amazon Fire TV’s greatest competition is not only from the Chromecast and the Roku Stick, but also the £10 box that delivers the best value in television from Now TV. Either the Roku or Now TV box will offer free-of-charge, all of the UK’s main FTA catch-up services, from the BBC iPlayer to ITV Player, 4oD and Demand 5, not to mention Now TV for Sky content.

    That Now TV box lacks Netflix, which kills it for many people, and although this is available on the Roku platform, Amazon Prime is not.

    That means if a UK user wants a single box to access both their Netflix and Amazon Prime content and doesn’t already have a Samsung Smart TV, then the Fire TV box could be their best option.

    But it does come at a serious cost. While offering the BBC iPlayer, BBC Sport and Demand 5 apps, missing are 4oD and ITV Player, which is a bit like having a cheesecake without the biscuit base.

    Thankfully STV Player can almost make up for the loss of ITV, but life without 4oD may be a little too bleak for some. Still, there are a few other gems on here including of course Netflix and Curzon, but the hidden jewel is TVPlayer, which offers good quality live streams from the main UK FTA channels – entirely for free!

    FireTVUKApps


  • Whereas the UK and US are flooded with viable competitors, Germany doesn’t really have a lot of 3rd party set-top-boxes that could get in the way of the Fire TV.

    Roku hasn’t reached these shores yet (outside of an overpriced Sky box), and although the Apple TV is here, outside of Netflix and Watchever, there really isn’t a lot going for local apps. Chromecast is quite well supported however, but not everyone is comfortable with an device that doesn’t actually have its own user interface.

    Which makes this little box quite an attractive choice in this country.

    What is especially interesting, are the plethora of FTA catch-up services, that are otherwise difficult to find on any other set-top-box, including Eins, ARD Mediathek, ZDF, ZDF Heute, Arte, BR and ServusTV. These alone make this box worthwhile for German viewers, but with the addition of Netflix and Zattoo (which offers live TV streams in near HD quality), this could become very popular in Germany.

    Keep in mind that Zattoo Germany doesn’t offer the wonderful Recall or PVR features of the Swiss version, so although Zattoo have pulled off their finest UI yet for this release, it may not be quite the perfect solution for Swiss users (or those accessing Zattoo in Switzerland via Smart DNS).

    But the biggest omissions would be Watchever and Maxdome, although Maxdome is said to be on the way.

    FireTVDEApps

  • Any form of technology is only as good as its user interface. It can have all the apps and specs that some people love to drool over, but if the UI fails to perform, it really is good for nothing.

    Despite the Amazon Fire TV Stick having a slightly sluggish CPU running it all, it still has a wonderfully user-friendly UI sitting on top.

    The vast majority of menu items on the Home screen are aimed squarely at Amazon Prime and Instant Video. Access to Prime Video, Movies, TV, the Video Library and even the Watchlist, account for just under 50% of all menu options, and leaps over if you include the Search and Recent options which are heavily Amazon biased.

    Of course, hard core Prime users will benefit enormously from this, but if you tend to spend far more time in Hulu, Netflix or the BBC iPlayer, a lot of screen real-estate will start to look wasted.

    The Search function is a great point in hand. Although it can be used to find installed apps on the device (it worked great for Demand 5, but failed for Netflix), it really comes into its own when searching Amazon’s own library – just don’t expect results to turn up from many 3rd party services.

    As there is no built-in voice search on the cheaper AFTV Stick, it is all done from the onscreen keyboard – a method that could have been so much better designed, but instead is terribly ineffective and slow.

    At the very top of the screen is the well thought out Recent list. This will display any of the last games, IPTV streaming apps and Amazon Instant Video content that you have last used – in the order you used it. So, if you find yourself constantly accessing Hulu Plus, Netflix and the BBC iPlayer, they will always be found at, or near the top of the screen for easy access.

    Tip: If you mixed apps from different regions as described in the Combine Regional Apps tab, all of your Apps that are used, regardless of where they come from, will also be found here.

    Mixed in with them are also Amazon’s own content, so TV shows will likewise find themselves on the list as well, making it a great way to easily hop back into a series that you are currently watching.

    AmazonFireTVBanner

    As far as performance goes, the user interface is notably more sluggish than that of the AFTV Box. There can be odd pauses as the stick catches up with the reality surrounding it – not enough to make this a deal killer, but significant enough to be noticeable if you also have a Fire TV Box.

    This doesn’t affect playback at all however, which works perfectly, and Amazon content is prebuffered to allow fast and rapid access to their TV shows and movies.

    Don’t expect the same prebuffering for 3rd party content though, as Amazon reserve this feature for themselves. But that doesn’t mean you’ll be making a cup of tea after pressing the play button either, as although the content will need to fill the buffer first, 3rd party apps perform for the most part without any serious pause or delay.

    One thing I didn’t really like was how apps don’t always close when you switch between them. This depends entirely on the app. Whilst the iPlayer fully shuts upon exit, Netflix doesn’t (so if you change the Netflix region via Smart DNS, you will need to manually restart it). But the biggest issue could be with live streaming apps such as Zattoo or TVPlayer.

    Simply switching off the TV doesn’t stop the stream, so Zattoo or Sling TV in particular could suck more than a gigabyte per hour if you forget to switch it off – a frightening prospect for those with data caps. And since there is no off button, viewers will have to remember to actively stop the live stream when finished.

    Outside of that, my biggest gripes here would be the lack of a global search (as featured on the Roku box), and a global Watchlist. Imagine how great that would be, to have your favourite shows from say the BBC iPlayer, Amazon and Netflix all in one Watchlist!

    All in all, the Amazon Fire TV has one of the best user interfaces of any streaming set-top-box around.

    UI Pros:

    • Amazon content prebuffers before playback.
    • Integrated use of Amazon content.
    • 3rd Party apps available.
    • Apps from multiple regions can be (unofficially) installed onto single hub.
    • Excellent Recent list.

    UI Cons:

    • Amazon has too much priority.
    • UI can be a tad sluggish.
    • No true global search.
    • No global Watchlist.
    • Terrible on-screen keyboard (for searching).

    Unblocking geographic restrictions on this device is supported by the following Smart DNS providers:

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  • If you bought an Amazon Fire TV Stick in one country, and you want to switch the hub to another one, this is easily possible.

    Why would anyone want to do this? Well, if for instance you were living in the US and moved to Britain, you may choose to use a UK-based Amazon Prime account in order to make use of the local service.

    Alternatively, you may have bought the Stick in the UK and wish to continue using an American Prime Instant Video account from the US or Germany.

    In any event, this particular method will change the hub to one of the three Amazon Prime regions that exist. It is only really needed to do this in order to access an Amazon Prime Account in a different country (Once you switch, the hub and all apps will disappear and only the new regional apps will be easily accessed). If you wish to mix apps from multiple countries on to the single hub, you must use the method described in the next tab.


    To change from one region to another, you will need the following:

    • An Amazon Fire TV Stick (goes without question).
    • An Amazon account in the country of choice (You don’t actually need a Prime account for this to work, just a normal one, but without a Prime account you will not be able to access any of the Amazon Prime* content or features from this device).
    • A good VPN or Smart DNS to access any region blocked content. (Only required if you are accessing a region where you do not physically reside, i.e. accessing Hulu from the US when in another country).

    Note: * The Amazon Prime account will only work in the region you have switched to. In other words, if you have a German Amazon Prime sub, and switch to the UK hub, unless you have an actual UK Amazon Prime subscription, you will not be able to access Amazon Prime content from the UK hub.

     

    Step 1: Create the new Amazon account.

    Before you go any further, you will need an Amazon account in the country of choice. This is just a normal account where you can buy content from Amazon, and should be done either at www.amazon.co.uk (for UK accounts), www.amazon.de (for German accounts) or www.amazon.com (for US accounts). Even if you have no intentions to purchase anything from that country’s store, you will still need an account, with a local address and a payment method identified.

    Tip! Make sure you use a different email address to any other Amazon account you may have to avoid confusion as the hub switching process uses your email address to determine the country that it will switch to.

    Installing free apps like TVPlayer, Zattoo, ARD, etc will not be charged to your credit card, but one needs to be set up. (Credit cards are not region specific, so your normal credit card should suffice).

    If you already have an Amazon account in the region you wish to switch to, you can skip to the next step.

     

    Step 2: Switch on “1-Click”

    You must have 1-Click purchasing switched on for the required Amazon account, otherwise you will see an error message when trying to download apps (free or otherwise).

    To do this, click Your Account at the top right of the screen, then 1-Click Settings from the selection available.

    1Click

    On the next page, select the address that you have in the country you wish to switch the Smart Hub to, and make sure 1-click is configured.

    1Click2

     

    Step 3: Switching Hubs.

    a: From the Amazon Fire TV, go to Settings >> My Account and select the first option “Amazon Account…”

    b: Select “Deregister” from the only option available.

    Disclaimer: This will not only deregister your current account from the Amazon Fire TV box, but it will also remove content from your device and many features may not work. We have not tested this with purchased or rented content and apps from streaming services or games, so we do not yet know how this will affect every application or service. There is a possibility it could delete owned or rented content that can not otherwise be recovered, although we have not yet seen this happen.

    For this reason, Eye on-Demand is not responsible for any loss of data, content, apps or anything else resulting in any regional changeover as described here.

    c: Select Register.

    d: Enter the username and password of the new account you wish to access.

    e: Select “Yes, continue as…” to access your new region.

    All your previous apps will have disappeared, and you will have to install new apps from the new region. However, if you have visited this region before on the Amazon Fire TV, it will remember the apps you have previously installed, so although it is not practical to switch between countries on a regular basis (as it takes about 5minutes to do so once the accounts are set up), you won’t have to install Netflix or any other apps that you have previously installed.

    Any regionally blocked service will require a VPN or Smart DNS service to function.

    Unblocking geographic restrictions on this device is supported by the following Smart DNS providers:

    [pro_ad_display_adzone id=”19173″]


  • Combining apps from different regions onto a single hub is effectively the holy-grail for many IPTV users. Whether you are an expat who wants to not only watch local TV, but also content from back home, or you’re a cord cutter looking for more options and viewing services.

    Of course, you could have a different box for each region, say a Roku for the UK and Apple TV for the US, but we all like to look after our energy usage these days, not to mention our budgets, so combining all the apps we want onto a single device and on-screen hub is to be honest, amazing.

    It just so happens that the Amazon Fire TV is one of the few devices that can achieve this. Outside of the more expensive Xbox One and PS4, the only other set-top-box that can mix and match apps is an unofficial Android streaming box similar to the Minix reviewed here, and as great and versatile that this box is, many Google Play apps just don’t work well in a 10-foot environment.

    Of course, nothing is a walk in the park, as although it is possible to mix and match apps from different regions on an Amazon Fire TV, it is not a feature supported by Amazon, nor is it entirely plain sailing. You won’t have to perform any serious hacks such as required to achieve the same result on a Samsung Smart TV, but you will have to fiddle with a few settings.

    What this guide will show you how to do:

    • Combine apps from any of the three countries where the Amazon Fire TV is available (US, UK and DE).
    • The apps will all sit happily together on the single hub without need of changing accounts.
    • Once all foreign apps are installed, your account settings can be normalized and everything will work together.*
    • No additional Amazon accounts are needed.

    What this can’t do:

    • *As many apps are region blocked, you will need an unblocking service such as Unblock-Us or OverPlay to access IP-restricted content.
    • Although many apps are supported by DNS unblocking services, not all will be. If an app is not supported, your best option would be to contact your unblocking service.
    • VPNs are unsuitable for this purpose, as they only allow traffic to one country at a time. Smart DNS on the other hand does not have that restriction, making the Amazon Fire TV a Smart DNS‘s dream machine.
    • Amazon Prime does not operate like Netflix, so you will only have access to the Amazon Prime content in the region you have subscribed to. This means if your sub is with Amazon Prime UK, you must be in the UK hub and none of the other libraries are accessible – switching to the US hub will not access the US library of Amazon Prime, unless you also have a US subscription.
    • This hack does not in any way circumvent any pay-wall, and we do not support any actions that do. If you want to access Amazon Prime, Netflix, Hulu Plus or any other subscription service, you will also need to subscribe to them officially.

    What is required:

    • An account with Amazon in your local country: Generally most people will use their standard account, or the one already with Amazon Prime, but you may choose to open a whole new account if you wish – keeping in mind that this account should have a working Amazon Prime if you are interested in this service!
    • A method of payment in the other regions: Although most television apps are free, Amazon still require a payment method set up in your account that will work in the country you want to access. This could be an issue for some people. A UK account generally requires a UK credit card, and the same for Germany or the US. However, there are options. Some people have had success with the US region by using Entropay, a virtual Visa credit card. Other methods may be to use Amazon Coins or Amazon Gift Cards. If you choose Amazon coins or Gift Cards, make sure they are bought from the region you want to add apps from. (Some reports suggest this should be set up before switching to that region)
    • An address that can be used for the country you wish to temporarily switch to, in order to access their regional apps.

    The red box of warnings: Although we have never had any problems performing these actions described below, there is always an element of risk. Eye on-Demand takes no responsibility for your actions, and any events that may follow. Changing regions to add apps from different countries may break the terms and agreements made with Amazon, and there is always a small risk that they may cancel your account. Finally, as this is an unsupported and unofficial feature, there is every chance that Amazon may decide to close the back door on this at some stage.

    It is also important to normalize everything afterwards back to your normal country, as your standard payment method may be put on hold until this is done.

    Step 1: Finding the App

    The first thing you should do is to check if the app really can’t be downloaded in your current region. This should be done from the version of Amazon where the app may reside. i.e. go to Amazon.com to look for Hulu Plus, Amazon.co.uk for the BBC iPlayer, or Amazon.de for Zattoo – then search under apps & games:

    Step 1a

    Step 1b

     

    If you are unable to install the app, you will see a message like the one shown here.

     

     

     

     

    Step 2: Manage Content & Devices

    Return to your normal Amazon account and region, and then select “Manage Your Content And Devices” from the menu.

    Step 2

     

    Step 3: Change to a new country

    Go to the settings tab, and then select a new country from the drop down list. Keep in mind the view may look different in another country as shown here.

    Step 3

     

    Step 4 Fill in your address

    At this stage, you must fill in an address for this new country. Any addresses you add here, will be saved for future usage.

    Step 4

     

    Step 5: Install the apps

    Now, go back to the country version of Amazon where you wanted to install the app from, and follow the same procedure as step 1, i.e. search for an app in Amazon.co.uk/.de or .com. This time however, you should encounter the following image. We recommend that while you are in this region, install all the apps that interest you.

    Step 5

     

    Step 6: Syncing to the Fire TV.

    If all goes well, your app should now have automatically downloaded onto your Fire TV Stick. If it is not immediately present at the app list visible at the top of the screen, it could simply mean it is further down the list (after-all, this is a recently used list). Scroll down to look for it.

    If you still can not find it, try pushing it through via the Sync button found on the Settings >> My Account.

    Step 6

     

    Gotchas:

    • The biggest hurdle is often the payment method for a particular region. Some people still failed when trying to pay by coins via the web browser, but it worked when installing directly from the Amazon Fire TV. (We have had success purchasing a £1 gift voucher for the UK store to test this, however we also had to switch off any alternative credit cards before it would fall back to the voucher).
    • Keep in mind some versions of apps are for other devices such as the Kindle.
    • Any purchases from within the Amazon Fire TV (even free apps) requires One-Click Purchasing to be set up for that region.

    If you have any success, failures or tips, please don’t hesitate to comment below. But keep in mind, we can’t help you acquiring foreign credit cards or addresses!

    Found this guide helpful? Why not like us on Facebook and help others find it?

    Unblocking geographic restrictions on this device is supported by the following Smart DNS providers:

    [pro_ad_display_adzone id=”19173″]


  • There are a lot of good streaming set-top-boxes out there right now, so comparing to every one would be a bit too much work. but before we leave Amazon altogether, we should look at the more expensive Amazon Fire TV Box.

    Amazon Fire TV Box: Essentially, the box version supplied by Amazon is pretty much the same as the Stick with four main differences, Price (averaging around $100), Size (It resembles a more angular Apple TV) Power (double the processor) and Voice Search (included on the supplied remote).

    The UI is effectively the same, except due to the greater horsepower under the hood, it is noticeably more fluid. This extra power also means more games are available for the AFTV Box, but with only a few minor exceptions, the same TV apps are available for both. Voice search works really well on the AFTV Box, but it should be worth noting it only functions for Amazon’s own content and Hulu.

    The larger box also means more ports, which can come in handy for the more serious viewer. An Ethernet port means the user will not have to rely on Wi-Fi and with digital audio-out, proper surround sound is possible.

    At the end of the day, the AFTV box does pretty much the same thing as the Stick version, but without the slightly sluggish UI, with voice control, more ports and a better remote.

    Amazon Fire TV

     

    None of the devices below are able to mix apps from different regions, so a choice will have to be made on selecting just one country. If mixing apps from multiple regions is vital, the only real alternatives are the much more expensive gaming consoles such as the Xbox One or PlayStation 4, or mobile devices such as the iPhone/iPad airplaying to an Apple TV, or Chromecast.

    Apple TV: Both set-top boxes don’t actually look too far apart, but inside they are quite different beasts.

    Whereas the Amazon Fire TV accepts 3rd party channels, this has not yet been made available for the Apple TV, despite the hardware and software pretty much supporting it. On the surface, this gives a massive advantage to Roku.

    The Apple TV has a (very) limited choice of apps available, which includes Netflix & Now TV, but no BBC iPlayer, 4oD, Demand 5, ITV Player or pretty much anything UK based. On the American side, there are a few really nice built-in Apps such as Hulu Plus, Netflix and PBS, but a lot of other major services are also missing.

    However, what the Apple TV lacks in built-in apps, it makes up for with AirPlay. AirPlay, when developers do it right, can provide one of the most amazing user interfaces available for streaming television, especially when coupled with the larger iPad screen. Essentially, you can use your hand-held device as the ultimate remote, scrolling and swiping through on-demand and catch-up content, to stream to your television via the Apple TV. What makes this so attractive is that so much content is possible this way. The full BBC iPlayer or ITV Player from Britain, RTE and TV3 from Ireland, ABC iView and SBS from Australia etc as well as using the normal Hulu Plus and Netflix apps on the actual ATV. This is something the Amazon Fire TV simply can not do – but you will need to invest in an additional iOS device if you don’t already have one.

    One final thing to keep in mind with the current Apple TV3 – it’s quite old. Apple have been rumoured for years to launched a completely redesigned STB (or even perhaps a television itself), but although this is bound to happen eventually, the current model is certainly looking its age.

    Generally speaking, the Apple TV goes for around £100, but unlike the Amazon Fire TV, can easily be bought in any country.

    Apple TV small
    Roku Stick: There is no doubt the closest cousin to the Amazon Fire TV Stick is the very similar looking Roku. In fact, it could be almost the perfect box for UK viewers as it offers apps from all the major on-demand and catch-up services bar one – BBC iPlayer, ITV Player, 4oD, Demand 5, Netflix and Now TV are all there, with only Amazon Prime UK missing from the party.

    American users also have it pretty good, with plenty of FTA apps, along with Hulu Plus, Netflix, HBO Go and even Amazon Prime US.

    But this box can only be used in one region or the other, and unlike the Apple TV which is just a simple selector in the settings, the Roku Stick is a bit more complex to shift regions around.

    The rest is a bit of a seesaw situation. Apple has AirPlay, Roku has more US Channels.

    Basically, if you wish to access only US or UK content, the Roku box may very well be the better choice. If you want to make use of AirPlay then the Apple TV is one of the best little boxes out there. But if you want a mix of UK, DE and US apps (and don’t mind the missing ones in hope that they will eventually turn up), then the Amazon Fire TV could very well be the choice.

    Roku Stick

  • Where to Buy

    The Amazon Fire TV Stick is only officially available in a small handful of countries, and this means many online distributers may not ship the item abroad. If you live within one of the officially supported countries, you should have no issues at all, otherwise you may have to find a friend or shipping forwarding company to pass it on to you.

    We recommend Amazon, and the links below will direct you to the official Amazon sites whilst supporting Eye on-Demand at the same time.

    Flag US Small

    To buy this item from Amazon US, click here.

    Flag UK Small

    Alternatively, to purchase from Amazon UK, click here.

    German Flag

    German Amazon customers can purchase here.

  • After just a couple of weeks of using the Amazon Fire TV box, it has quickly become one of my favourite devices to watch on-demand or even live TV. I wasn’t so quick to shine towards the Amazon Fire TV Stick however, mainly because in comparison I found it a bit more sluggish. That said, I have mostly got used to that by now, and appreciate the other aspects of this great little dongle.

    Quite honestly, I love the UI, and if I want to watch something on Amazon Prime, I fire this little stick up without question.

    I’ve become so used to watching live UK TV via either the TVPlayer or Zattoo apps, that I can’t remember the last time I used them via any other platform, and right now, if I am going to watch something on Hulu Plus, Netflix or the BBC iPlayer, it is the Amazon Fire TV’s HDMI input I switch to.

    A lot of this has to do with combining a great user interface, with the backdoor ability of mixing apps from around the world (Smart DNS required there of course), but also some of the 3rd party apps are amongst the best I have seen on any platform (looking at TVPlayer, Zattoo and Plex here).

    However, nothing is perfect, and one of the biggest letdowns with this platform are the huge gaps in apps that really has to be filled. No UK catch-up hub is complete without all of the main FTA networks, so ITV Player and 4oD really have to jump on board, as well as Now TV and new players like UKTV Play and Wuaki.tv.

    The US hub seriously misses a lot of the OTA catch-up services such as CBS All Access, but it is likely that these will eventually find their way on board.

    Is it worth the US$39? Absolutely, but don’t expect it as fast and fluid as the AFTV Box – and seriously, the remote is definitely a letdown.

    Pros:

    • Great price, small scale.
    • Great range of existing apps including BBC iPlayer, Demand 5, Netflix, Hulu Plus, TVPlayer, Zattoo, ARD, ZDF and of course Amazon Prime.
    • Best Amazon Prime UI of any platform.
    • Ability to mix apps from multiple regions (requires unofficial method).
    • Fast prebuffering of Amazon content.

    Cons:

    • Top heavy on Amazon content.
    • A bit too sluggish for my opinion.
    • Horrible included remote.
    • No prebuffering of 3rd party content.
    • No global search (of 3rd party content outside of Hulu).
    • No off switch (could cause issues with bandwidth caps)
    • Missing many major apps (4oD, ITV Player, HBO Go, Now TV etc).

    Technical Details:

    • Size: 84mm x 25.4mm.
    • Weight: 25.1 grams.
    • SOC Platform: Broadcom BCM28155 (Capri).
    • GPU: Broadcom VideoCore IV GPU/VPU (Capri VC4 device).
    • Storage: 8GB.
    • Memory: 1GB (512MB system, 512MB video).
    • WiFi: Dual-band, dual-antenna Wi-Fi (MIMO). Supports 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi networks.
    • Bluetooth: 3.0.
    • HDMI: 720p and 1080p.

    Log:

    23.03.2015: Review Published: Score: 7.3

     

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    (Note: Some selected photos used in this review are property of Amazon)

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Comments

  1. James

    I’ve managed to get a UK fire stick to download and access German apps. First step was to create an account on Amazon.de, I then got a friend to send me a 2 euro email gift voucher which I then redeemed to my .de account. Turned on 1-click within the account, but left the payment option blank.

    I setup the UK purchased stick through a router with a VPN connection in Germany, and the stick must have used the DE based IP address and from the outset setup itself as a .DE unit. Logged on with my .DE Amazon account. I am able to download apps from Germany without any problems at all, no issues with payment methods.

    • Thanks James. Actually, you should be able to buy the 2€ gift voucher from the UK with a British credit card – at least my German credit card has allowed me to buy UK and US gift cards. But whichever way you get a card, as you pointed out, this is the best method to have no payment issues for free apps from different countries. (tip: if the gift card was bought, make sure your foreign credit card is removed afterwards, so it only looks at the gift card)

      • James

        Yes, you’re quite right. My German friend who sent me the é2 has told me that they did actually use a UK debit card on the .DE amazon site.

        I am quite interested in reading up about ‘sideloading’ apk files onto the stick now.