Amazon Fire TV Stick (2017) review: The cheapest Amazon Prime streaming stick

The updated Fire TV Stick streamer may not be the flagship model any more, but it's still pretty good

Thomas McMullan Jade Vincent
17 Oct 2018

Deal alert: Get an Amazon Fire TV Stick for just £35

Amazon has cut prices on some of its best-selling devices as part of an autumn sale and you can currently pick up a Fire TV Stick  (1st gen) for just £34.99 instead of the regular price of £39.99 or nab a Fire TV Stick + Echo Dot (2nd gen) bundle deal for £69.98 instead of £89.98. As well as substantial savings on the older generation gear like the Echo Dot 2nd gen (was £49.99, now £34.99) and the Amazon Echo 2nd gen (was £89.99, now £69.99), you can also save big on new stuff including the all-new Fire HD 8 tablet.

See all Amazon device deals

This "new" Amazon Fire TV Stick is no longer the company's latest streamer. At an event in Seattle in September 2017, during which the new Amazon Echo range was unveiled, the retail giant took the covers off a Chromecast-style dongle designed to work alongside the main Amazon Fire TV Stick. This new streamer plugs straight into your TV via HDMI and can handle 4K at 60fps. 

The imaginatively-titled all-new Fire TV Stick follows the release of Apple TV 4K and was designed to work alongside the current Amazon Fire TV Stick, not replace it. The more advanced Fire TV plugs straight into a receiver via HDMI cable in a similar way to the Google Chromecast.

The all-new Amazon Fire TV supports 4K HDR video at up to 60fps, is powered by a 1.5GHz quad-core processor, and it supports Dolby Atmos surround sound and Alexa voice control through an Alexa Voice Remote, like the current Amazon Fire TV Stick. The all-new Amazon Fire TV will cost £69.99 in the UK/$70 in the US and preorders are open now. We had expected prices for the older model to drop, but seeing as it's still one of the best streamers in the market, the £39.99 price tag is pretty reasonable in comparison. 

1. Amazon’s Fire TV Stick (2017) now has a new quad-core processor

Compared to the models that came before, the Fire TV Stick (2017) comes with a faster processor, which made it faster and more responsive than the previous version. The new, more graphically intensive user interface offsets the performance gain somewhat, but it still feels responsive and zippy, and apps and games launch far quicker than before.

Perhaps more importantly, though, it's super quick to buffer up and to click into Full HD resolution. It's marginally quicker than the Chromecast in fact, so you'll be spending less time twiddling your thumbs waiting for your favourite TV show to start.

There was no change to the physical design of the stick or the way it’s powered – you still need to power it via a spare micro-USB port on your TV or a mains adapter, and it’s still a little too wide to squeeze into a crowded bank of HDMI inputs. The stick still comes with the same amount of RAM (1GB) and storage (8GB) as before.

2. Amazon’s Fire TV Stick (2017) now comes with 802.11ac Wi-Fi

The new Fire TV stick also has better Wi-Fi, with a 2x2 stream 802.11ac wireless adapter on board, an upgrade over the previous stick’s 802.11n wireless capability. Assuming your home network is 802.11ac compatible, this should mean a faster, more stable connection and less buffering while streaming.

The previous Stick was pretty good on this count, though, so it’s only likely to make a big difference and deliver a tangible benefit if your TV is in a Wi-Fi black spot and you’ve had connection and buffering problems before.

Fire TV Stick20152016/74K Fire TV Stick
PriceFrom £34.99£39.99£69.99
Remote with voice support£10 extraIncludedIncluded
Supported resolutionUp to 1080pUp to 1080p2160p, 1080p and 720p up to 60 fps
Wi-Fi connectivityDual-band, dual-antenna, 802.11n (MIMO)Dual-band, dual-antenna,802.11ac (MIMO)Dual-band, dual-antenna Wi-Fi (MIMO). Supports 802.11a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi networks.

3. The Fire TV Stick (2017) now comes with Alexa voice search built in

Yes, you read that correctly, Amazon has brought its voice assistant, Alexa, to Fire TV Stick and to enable that it also comes with a voice-enabled remote control in the box.

Not only will this allow you to search for movies, TV and music using your voice, you’ll also be able to use Alexa to order yourself a pizza, turn your Philips Hue lights on or off, and add things to your Amazon shopping list. Just hold down the microphone button, speak your keyword and Alexa responds in exactly the same way as it does on an Amazon Echo or Echo dot, except that, since there’s a screen involved here, you also get an info card to with the spoken response.

Ask Alexa about the weather today, for instance, and you’ll also get a seven-day weather forecast displayed onscreen; if you want to know about a specific upcoming football fixture, the card shows the crest of the two teams involved, complete with the date, time and location of the match.

You can also control playback via the voice remote. If you’re interrupted during a critical part of your programme, it’s now possible to get the playback to skip you back a way simply by saying “rewind 30 seconds”. Likewise, if you need to resume half an hour into a movie, you can also say that, instead of having to faff around with buttons or waiting to laboriously forward wind to halfway through.

One important thing to note about the Fire TV Stick’s Alexa implementation, however, is that it’s not always listening like the firm’s Echo and Echo Dot speakers do, so you can’t activate it simply by saying the keyword “Alexa”. You have to press and hold the microphone button instead. Plus, since there’s the danger that Alexa will answer when all you wanted was search results, you can switch from the data card view by pressing the menu button on the remote control.

How to use Amazon's Alexa on the Fire TV stick 

Accessing Alexa's voice-activated features is easy. Just press and hold the Voice button on your Amazon Fire TV Voice Remote or the Fire TV Remote app and say what you want Alexa to do. Alexa then answers back directly through your Fire TV. Many features open in a separate display on your TV screen, so you can both see and hear Alexa in action.

READ NEXT: The best Alexa skills in the UK

When an Alexa display is open on your TV screen, press the Back or Home buttons on your Fire TV remote to return to the previous screen.

The language you can use to control her is also pretty flexible. She’ll respond to “fast-forward five minutes” in the same way she does “skip ahead five minutes”, which makes using it feel much more natural.

Amazon Fire TV Stick 2017 review: Apps and content

The one big thing that doesn't change much with the new Fire TV Stick is the content, so you probably already know the score. It's primarily been designed as a great way of watching Amazon Prime content, but there's also loads of third-party content you can access as well. BBC iPlayer is available, plus Netflix and a host of special interest channels as well.

If you want to stream across your local network, there's Plex, too, and a selection of apps that let you stream via DLNA and Apple AirPlay sources. You can game on the Fire TV Stick, too, and if you add the Fire TV game controller for £40 it delivers a seriously cheap games system. Bear in mind, though, that the available titles are little more than glorified smartphone games.

A larger part of its appeal, however, resides in its ability to support Kodi installations, and that's where the extra power of the new Fire TV Stick really comes to the fore, boosting speed and responsiveness hugely.

There are, however, some significant holes in the Fire TV Stick's capabilities that you need to be aware of before purchasing one Most notably it lacks support for Now TV, Google Play Movies and an official YouTube app, although there are third-party players available. That's disappointing, especially in light of Amazon's superlative cross-service keyword search capability.

Amazon Fire TV Stick 2017 review: New UI

Along with the new hardware and the introduction of Alexa, Amazon has taken the opportunity to give the Fire TV interface the overhaul it has so desperately needed for so long.

It’s not particularly innovative. In fact, the new front-end is reminiscent of the Netflix app interface with its large, “cinematic” image at the top and the removal of the category links from the left-hand side of the screen, but it’s a lot more attractive and should prove to be more intuitive to find your way around as well.

Below that big image (which kicks into a trailer if you leave it alone long enough), you get a list of “Recent” content in the first horizontally scrollable row, and then a customisable row of your favourite games and apps immediately beneath that. At the very top of the screen, above the big image, is a list of links to core category areas: search, Home, Your Videos, Movies, TV Shows, Apps and Settings.

It’s all much more involving and browsable than the previous UI, but probably the biggest new feature isn’t related to the way the UI looks. It’s the ability to search across third-party services with one keyword. Search for Breaking Bad on the new Amazon Fire TV Stick, for example, and not only will it find the show on Netflix, but also offer a list of “Other ways to watch” that show, across Amazon and beyond.

Amazon Fire TV Stick 2017 review: Verdict

Amazon has so far kept the price of its Fire TV Stick pegged at the same price it always been (£35), but this year, it’s more expensive. That’s a blow, but bearing in mind that you’re getting the voice remote included for that price, which is something that used to cost £10 extra, plus a faster, more responsive piece of hardware, it’s just as good value for money. This value is even more explicit when you compare it to the £69.99 price tag on the 4K Amazon Fire TV Stick? 

Is it a good upgrade for owners of the older model, though? I’d argue not, especially not considering that the old model has already been updated with both the new UI and Alexa, and to take full advantage you'd only need to purchase a voice remote for £20.

If, however, you own an older Full HD TV and you're an Amazon Prime customer the new Fire TV stick (2017) does make a lot of sense, and it will also give Alexa sceptics the chance to give Amazon's amazing voice-driven technology an trial run.

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