Last week, I received my [easyazon_link identifier=”B00GDQ0RMG” locale=”US” tag=”pgandersoncom-20″]Fire TV Stick[/easyazon_link] that I bought from Amazon the day it came out. I already use a Chromecast, XBox 360, and PlayStation 3 for streaming to my various TVs. I ordered the Fire TV Stick because it was only $20 and I wanted a way to watch Amazon Prime Videos on my bedroom TV.
In the Box
Fire TV Stick
As you would expect for a small device, the packaging is small for the Fire TV Stick. Inside, there is the Stick, a 3 inch HDMI cable, a power supply and a USB cable (for power), a simple remote, and two batteries for the remote. There is also a small pamphlet, but it is pretty simple.
In the [easyazon_link identifier=”B00DR0PDNE” locale=”US” tag=”pgandersoncom-20″]Chromecast[/easyazon_link] box, you will just find the Chromecast, a short HDMI extension cable, a USB power cable and a power supply. There is also a little brochure with setup instructions. If you have trouble setting it up, or are missing a component, you can redirect yourself to this website, which has all the components you’d need.
Fire TV Stick
The device is really easy to setup. Plug the Stick directly into your TV’s HDMI input. If necessary, you can use the HDMI cable to give you better clearance. Then you connect the power and you are ready to go.
When you power on your TV and Stick, it starts to search immediately for a wifi connection. You use the arrow keys on the remote to select your wifi access point and then enter the wifi passkey. I hate on screen keyboards and having to enter data like that, but I hoped that would be the only time.
After connecting, the Stick immediately looks for updates. The first time, it failed and I had to reenter my wifi password and have it try again. If found an update and started to download and install it. I was surprised that it took a few minutes for this process to complete and it made me a bit impatient.
After the software update, I was ready to start exploring, but I had to wait for a setup video to play. The video itself was cute and explanatory — they used an animated character to explain the features of the Stick. However, I knew that stuff and was just annoyed that I couldn’t skip the video.
Physically setting up the Chromecast was simple as well. You just plug the Chromecast into the HDMI port and hook up the power cable.
To do the software setup of the Chromecast, you had to download an app to your phone (Android or iPhone) or use a computer with Chrome. I used the Android app to complete my setup. The app will search for your Chromecast and ask you to verify it is the right one by matching the code on your TV screen to the one on your phone. Then you select your wifi network and enter your password. That’s it… then you are ready to cast from any device.
Fire TV Stick
With the Fire TV, you can use the included remote to navigate and watch videos from Amazon Prime. You can also add apps for Netflix, Plex, Hulu, etc. to watch videos from those services. If you want to search for content, you can use the remote to navigate an on screen keyboard or you can switch to the app on your phone. This also gives you the ability to use a neat voice search function. The onscreen menu and apps are pretty nice and comparable to interfaces you see on other streaming boxes.
With Chromecast, you must use your phone and the respective service’s app to find media to stream to the device. This includes HBO GO, Netflix, and Hulu. The navigation and search is left up to the service provider in how you search and find videos.
These two devices are pretty similar. You can stream pretty much the same content on each device – except you can’t stream Amazon Prime videos on Chromecast and you can’t stream HBO GO stuff on Fire TV Stick. They are cheap enough that you could buy both. If you have to make a choice, it could come down to whether you want Amazon Prime content or HBO GO content.
However, there is also a philosophical difference in how these platforms function. The Fire TV Stick does a hybrid system of navigation using the remote and your phone. In my opinion, it doesn’t do either that well. It sucks to have to do text input using the remote and I hate having another remote to keep track of.
For my personal needs, I prefer the Chromecast. I always have my phone with me, so I don’t mind using my phone as the remote device. Plus, I am used to using the Netflix, Youtube, Hulu, etc. apps, so it is nice that I also use them to send video to my Chromecast. In addition, I like that Google makes the Chromecast platform more open and there are already dozens of apps in the Play Store that now include Chromecast support.
My advice, try both and see which one you like. Then, keep both, or give one away as a gift!
I found a problem with the Fire TV Stick, that is a big deal for me. I have a Plex Media Server and the Fire TV Stick stutters and pauses when I play videos in Plex. I researched, and many Fire TV Stick users are complaining about the same thing. I am assuming that 1) it is a problem with the Plex app on Fire TV and 2) it will be fixed with a software update. However, it is still a big pain for me right now.