Amazon Fire TV Stick Challenges Chromecast

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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The e-commerce giant’s latest product is a TV dongle that streams Netflix, Spotify and more

Amazon is to challenge Google’s Chromecast and Roku’s Streaming Stick with its own Fire TV Stick, a $39 (£24) device introduced on Monday and set to go on sale in the US next month.

The device is a follow-up to Amazon’s Fire TV set-top box, which went on sale in the US in April, and in the UK earlier this month.

amazon logo phone ©Alexander Supertramp / Shutterstock.com

Video on demand

Like Chromecast and Streaming Stick, the Fire TV Stick will plug directly into a television’s HDMI port, using Wi-Fi as its data connection and with power provided over a USB cable that can also be plugged into the TV, or into the mains with the appropriate adapter.

It will access Amazon’s own video-on-demand and music services, as well as Netflix, Hulu Plus and Crackle video services and Spotify and Pandora for music, the company said.

At launch several games will be available, including Flappy Birds Family, Tetris and Disney games. Amazon said Twitch, a service that allows users to watch live gameplay, and which Amazon is buying for nearly $1bn, will also be supported

Amazon said it will provide a physical remote with the device, which can also be controlled via apps for Android and iOS. Voice search, also available on the $99 Fire TV, will be supported on the mobile apps, but not on the physical remote; a compatible voice remote would cost about $30.

Users can project the screen of a Fire tablet, Fire phone or Miracast-enabled tablet onto the television with Fire TV Stick, and can access photos and videos stored on Amazon Cloud Drive, with 5GB provided free to all users. Other features include predictive streaming, which guesses what a user will want to watch next and queues it up so that it streams more quickly.

Price competition

The device’s copetitors include Chromecast, which sells for $35 in the US (£30 in the UK) but doesn’t include a remote, and Streaming Stick, which is slightly more expensive at $50 (£50 in the UK). Amazon said Fire TV Stick offers 50 percent more processing power, as well as four times the storage and two times the memory of Chromecast, and six times the processing power, twice the memory, and 32 times the storage of Roku Streaming Stick.

Some users had complained that Streaming Stick was underpowered, resulting in a user interface that was difficult to use. Roku said it has addressed the issue in a firmware update.

Fire TV Stick became available for pre-order in the US on Monday, and is to go on sale there on 19 November. A UK release date hasn’t yet been announced.

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