11 May 2017 15:39 IST

One stick to rule them all

With this little gadget, Amazon lets you stream movies on your TV

The Amazon Fire TV Stick is essentially a media player that looks for all the world like a pen drive. Hence the ‘stick’. But unlike a USB drive, it has a HDMI connector instead of a USB connector. When you plug it in, it converts your television into a smart TV with lots of options for streaming content.

If you’re a real movie addict and are looking for one way to watch Netflix, Amazon Prime, YouTube and a host of other services, the Fire Stick is certainly for you. I currently have both — a Google Chromecast and an Apple TV (third gen), but neither of them natively play Amazon Prime and nor do they support an app ecosystem in India.

I needed to get the Fire Stick and wasted no time doing so. The other choice would have been a fourth gen Apple TV but that would have been more than three times the price of the Stick.

Easy to connect

Setting it up was a total breeze. Since I bought mine from Amazon, it came pre-configured for my account. All I needed to do was connect it to my TV in the HDMI slot, and provide my Wi-Fi network and password and literally 30 seconds later, it was ready to use. I was able to watch content from Amazon Prime, add my Netflix account, and on top of that, I added my YouTube account, which also started working immediately. If the slots on the TV are typically at the back and are difficult to reach, an extender cable will make it more accessible.

Out of the box, the Fire Stick comes with a power supply for the device, a HDMI extender and of course, the Stick itself. And that is pretty much all you need. Of course, a TV with a HDMI port would be helpful too! All HD TVs come with them.

Variety of options

Amazon has, of course, meant the Stick to allow you to watch content available on Amazon Prime. You need an Amazon Prime account to be able to watch the movies and TV shows available (and there are a lot of Indian films on offer) but if you want to skip it, you technically can and instead watch Netflix. The real value of the Fire TV Stick, however, is when you can dip into all these sources.

Whether you have an Amazon Prime account or not, you definitely do need a basic Amazon account, which is what you log into the interface with by using your password. I do believe that Amazon has recently launched some TVs in the US market, which have the Fire stick built-in and they apparently don’t need an Amazon account.

Using the Fire Stick is very easy and intuitive. The onscreen display gives you all the options and the accompanying remote lets you manage the rest. The interesting thing is that even the TV remote works with the Fire Stick and if you add a Bluetooth keyboard, then it is completely sorted.

The remote control has a microphone built in and with it, you can voice-input to interact with the interface. It’s powered by Amazon’s famous assistant Alexa, and can search for stuff on Amazon and YouTube. More apps are being added to extend this capability.

Better than Chromecast

Apple TV is a different ballgame all-together, however, a fair comparison can be made between the Fire stick and Chromecast. Fire Stick is the clear winner. It has local storage, a remote, can be used independently of any device and does everything that the Chromecast does and much more. Unless Google comes up with an update, I’d say it is the end of the line for Chromecast.

Since the Fire Stick is essentially an Android device, it allows one to install apps very easily, extending the capabilities and services endlessly. The best part is that one can even install an app like Kodi without jail-breaking the device and add your private media collection to what can be viewed on the Fire Stick.

Priority for Indians

In India, we are usually very miffed when big companies in the US put our country on low priority. A case in point is the recent fiasco with Snapchat in which the company CEO received a big backlash for comments he may or may not have made about India not being worth his company’s while. But Amazon gives India its full attention and this is only the fifth country to have had the Fire Stick introduced. Not only that, Amazon has tried hard to sweeten the deal by adding Airtel Movies, Sony TV, Hotstar, Gaana (six months, ad-free) and the list goes on and on. Thus making this an extremely compelling purchase.

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