Amazon is adding the Fire TV Stick, priced at $39, as it takes on Google’s Chromecast, the best-known dongle streaming stick; Chromecast is priced $4 cheaper.
The Fire Stick is an alternative to Amazon’s established $99 Fire TV. That more expensive version comes with a small set-top box, although it appears that the stick offers the same sort of experience for less. The OTT market is heating up, especially as more TV set makers add better OTT capabilities -- and everybody in the world seems to be waiting for Apple to offer a full blown television set with some great OTT feature.
Like Chromecast and a dongle from Roku, the Fire TV Stick -- about the size of a Bic lighter -- attaches to an HDMI port on a TV set. Unlike those, the Fire TV Stick comes with a remote, so a user doesn't have to use a smartphone to control it.
From it, consumers can access content from several sources, including Netflix, Amazon’s Prime Instant Video, Hulu Plus, WatchESPN, NBA Game Time, Twitch, Showtime Anytime, Prime Music, Spotify, Pandora, Vevo, Plex, A&E, PBS, PBS Kids, Watch Disney Channel and YouTube.com. The existing Fire TV is a snap to use, from out of the box to operating in just a few minutes, even for tech idiots like me. If the stick version works the same way, it should do well.
Amazon claims the list of video services and games has tripled in seven months and that 200,000 TV and movie titles are available to rent or purchase. Unfortunately, I'd underline the "purchase" part. Amazon's rental list seems to be slim picking.
The stick will ship at the end of the week; new and existing Prime members who sign up in the next two days can get it for $19.
The Chromecast and Roku sticks would seem to work like the Fire TV Stick, though Amazon claims it has the most powerful model, with a dual-core processor, 1 GB RAM, and 8 GB storage for fast and fluid navigation and instant search results. Amazon claims its Fire TV Stick has 50% more processing power and 2 times the memory of Chromecast and 6 times the processing power, twice the memory and 32 times the storage of the Roku Streaming Stick.
Amazon’s stick also comes with a free mobile app also includes voice search. The supplied remote control doesn't have that voice function, but it can be added for $29.99. On the set-top version, that voice function wins raves because it actually works well. (When I've played with it, I've been able to trip it up on "Zelig" which it just can't understand. Everybody's a critic.)Gizmag.com did a side-by-side test of Chromecast and Roku sticksa few months ago that details features and limitations, and clearly Amazon must be ready for that test. Chromecast is the top selling gizmo on Amazon.com's electronics list, and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos would obviously like to change that. He a new product, and a holiday season, staring him in the face.