All New Amazon Fire TV Stick (2017) UK Review: Why this is the Best and How to use it

All New Amazon Fire TV Stick (2017) UK Review: Why this is the Best and How to use it

Let’s address the elephant in the room straightaway. Yes, you can still install Kodi on the new Amazon Fire TV Stick (2017).

More good news: Amazon’s updated TV stick now comes with an Alexa voice-control remote, plus a quad-core processor as standard, so it’s a lot, lot faster than its predecessor.

The price increase, meanwhile, is very modest. Amazon is charging £39.99 for the updated Fire TV Stick, so you’re only paying an extra £5 for a much better device.

Nothing’s changed in terms of apps. This is purely a hardware update, so you’ll still be able to stream Netflix, Amazon Prime and scores of catch-up TV apps from this device. In short, there are only three differences you need to know about: 1. The Fire TV Stick is now really fast; 2. You can now use voice control to open apps and check Alexa-related information; and 3. The UI is a little different. We’ll come to that in a moment.

Amazon Fire TV Stick Review: Tl:dr

  • Alexa voice-controlled remote
  • Quad-core chipset (upgraded from dual-core)
  • (Only) £5 more expensive than previous model

The new Amazon Fire TV Stick (2016/17) review: Specs

Fire TV Stick

Old

New

Price

From £34.99

£39.99

Processor

Dual-core

Quad-core

Memory

1GB

1GB

Storage

8GB

8GB

Voice remote with Alexa support

£10 extra

Included

Supported resolution

Up to 1080p

Up to 1080p

Wi-Fi connectivity

Dual-band, dual-antenna

802.11n (MIMO)

Dual-band, dual-antenna

802.11ac (MIMO)

As mentioned above, the new Fire TV Stick comes with an updated UI. It’s not a million miles away from its previous layout, but it’s definitely cleaner now. The biggest change you’ll notice here is that the top half of the screen is now a cinematic slider that suggests programmes to watch. After a few idle seconds, this transforms into a silent trailer. It’s all very slick.

New Amazon Fire TV Stick 2017 review - remote

New Amazon Fire TV Stick (2017): Design and remote

As you can see from the pictures, not a lot’s changed physically. Both the dongle and remote have increased in size, a bit, but that’s really not an issue. However, some R&D has evidently gone into updating the remote: its curved back now nestles nicely into your palm, with its minimalistic buttons sensibly spread out.

New Amazon Fire TV Stick (2017): Alexa integration 

Alexa integration adds massive potential to the Fire TV Stick. It means you can now use the voice remote to control smart devices in your house, check your diary, discover local restaurants, follow your sports team… the list goes on.

But, if like me, you’re not already 100% invested in Alexa, the learning curve can be a bit frustrating. Ask it “what’s the weather like today?” and you’ll get a quick response with a lovely graphic that displays the forecast. Ask “how long will it take me to get to work?” and you’ll get nothing. It’s a bit of a guessing game as to what questions it can answer. Still, since you now get the voice-controlled remote as standard, you’re future-proofed to a certain degree, even if your house isn’t.

How to use Alexa on the Amazon 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.

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.

New Amazon Fire TV Stick (2017): Apps

Amazon’s Appstore lets you add extra media services to the Fire TV Stick's home screen. A lot of big-name apps are available, including Spotify Connect, YouTube, Sky News and BBC Sport. There’s even a Netflix app, so if you’re a subscriber to Amazon’s rival streaming service, the Fire TV Stick can be your single point of access to both massive media libraries.

Alternatively, you can play your own content, using apps such as Plex; it’s good to see that the Plex for Fire TV app includes access to Plex Cloud Sync servers, which isn’t available on all platforms. DLNA and AirPlay streaming are supported too, using third-party apps such as AirPlay/DLNA Receiver; in practice, though, we hit problems trying to stream Full HD content from an iPhone over a wireless network, resulting in broken and distorted video.

New Amazon Fire TV Stick 2017 review - group shot

You can also download games from the Appstore and play them using your remote, or invest in the optional Fire TV Game controller (Check out the Fire TV Game Controller on Amazon). The Fire TV Stick isn't as powerful as the Fire TV set-top box, but you can enjoy the sort of basic games you'd usually find on your smartphone.

And, of course, since file explorer apps are readily available, you can install your own third-party apps. Hence the popularity of Kodi on the Fire TV Stick, which opens up a huge new catalogue of content (not all of it strictly legal).

New Amazon Fire TV Stick (2017): Verdict

The first-generation Fire TV Stick was great, but lacking oomph. This new stick is more versatile, and thanks to its quad-core processor it’s super quick. Alexa is a great addition too, though not quite on the same level of intelligence as the Apple TV’s voice-control remote. The killer feature? At £39.99 it represents incredible value. Buy this device now.

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