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Amazon Fire TV Stick (2020) review: still a great investment

On: November 12, 2020

Amazon’s Fire TV Stick has been the de-facto choice for a media streaming dongle in the Indian market since its launch in 2017. While there has been some competition in the form of Xiaomi’s Mi TV Stick, other devices like Roku and Chromecast with Android TV haven’t made it to India yet, and the market is still very much in Amazon’s favour.

Also read: Xiaomi Mi TV Stick review: complete Android TV experience at a pocket-friendly price

The Fire TV Stick (2020) is an upgrade over the previous model, and was announced alongside the Fire TV Stick Lite. The new Fire TV Stick bundles an Alexa remote with TV controls, a faster processor and HDR support. I’ve been using the Fire TV Stick (2020) over the last couple of weeks, and here’s my review.

What’s in the box?

The Fire TV Stick (2020) looks identical to the more expensive Fire TV Stick 4K. The form factor is a dongle with an HDMI connector on one end, plugging directly into your TV and staying out of view. Amazon includes an HDMI extender in the box, which is useful if your ports are crowded and also helps with improving Wi-Fi reception.

You get a 2-pin charger and USB cable in the box, and while you can power the Fire TV Stick by plugging the cable into your TV’s USB port, you might faces glitches in performance. Apart from this you get the Alexa voice remote, which lets you control your TV’s power and volume, and eliminates the need to use your TV’s remote altogether. Amazon also bundles two AAA Amazon Basics batteries for the remote, which aren’t included in the Mi TV Stick’s box.

Setting up

Setting up the Fire TV Stick is pretty easy. After connecting to your Wi-Fi network, you need to sign in to your Amazon account either on the TV or your phone. I found the latter to be easier. My unit had a software update out of the box, which took about 15 minutes to download and install.

After this, the Fire TV Stick tries to automatically detect your TV’s IR profile to pair the remote, but in my case, it failed to detect my Vu TV. After selecting the brand name from a list, the remote was still unable to pair with my TV, so I had to choose an IR profile manually. There are a bunch of IR profiles listed, and if you don’t know the correct one for your TV you’ll just have to try them individually. The remote can also control soundbars and A/V receivers, although I couldn’t test this feature.

Interface and performance

I’m a fan of Fire TV’s content-rich interface, although it is heavily skewed towards Prime Video. Amazon has announced that it will be launching a redesigned Fire TV experience this year, with up to six user profiles and easier content discovery. As of now, you get the usual tabs for Home, Movies, TV shows, Apps and the new Live section, which shows you available Live content from compatible apps. The Fire TV Stick comes with support for most streaming apps, including Netflix, Disney+ Hotstar, YouTube, Apple TV+, Discovery+, ZEE5, Sony LIV and many more.

Amazon says the new Fire TV Stick is 50 percent faster than the previous generation device, and this is evident in the near zero-lag I experienced while scrolling through the interface. The Fire TV Stick (2020) supports 1080p streaming at 60fps, and HDR playback too. In markets like the US and Europe, streaming HDR content in 1080p might seem unusual, but in India, users are more wary of the data consumed while streaming in 4K. Prime Video has a large catalogue of HDR titles, and it’s a useful addition to have on a streaming device.

There’s no Dolby Vision support, but if this is imperative, you can just pick up the Fire TV Stick 4K instead. Dolby Atmos audio is supported on select titles, although you’ll also need compatible speakers to take advantage of this.

The Alexa voice remote is useful for searching for content within Prime Video, Netflix and YouTube. You can also use it to search for apps, control connected Alexa-powered smart home devices and ask basic queries.

Which Fire TV Stick should you buy?

For most users, the Fire TV Stick (2020) is an easy recommendation, not for the HDR support but the Alexa voice remote that comes with power and volume controls. However, if your budget is constrained, the Fire TV Stick Lite offers the same experience, minus those TV controls and HDR playback. If you own a 4K TV with HDR and Dolby Vision though, the Fire TV Stick 4K makes the most sense.

Bottomline

The Fire TV Stick (2020)’s asking price of Rs 3,999 is a bit on the high side compared to the Mi TV Stick, which is available for just Rs 2,299 currently. However, for that price you get HDR support, a remote with TV controls and a content-rich interface. As it stands, if you’re looking for media streamer with access to most (if not all) OTT apps and a smooth, user-friendly interface, the new Fire TV Stick is a great investment that won’t require an upgrade for a few years.

Pricebaba’s rating: 9 / 10

What works:

  • HDR support
  • Smooth, content-rich UI
  • Support for most OTT apps
  • Alexa remote with TV controls

What doesn’t:

  • No 4K support
  • Interface skewed towards Prime Video
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Ketaki Bhojnagarwala

Ketaki has over 10 years experience writing on tech, having worked at the Hindu Business Line and 91mobiles earlier. When she's not editing copies or reviewing the latest gadgets, she spends her time binge-watching Netflix and reading fantasy fiction.