ICT

Amazon Fire TV Stick gets Alexa TV control remote, still costs $40 – CNET

fire-tv-stick-with-all-new-alexa-voice-remoteAmazon

Amazon is aiming to unseat Roku as the most popular streamer, and by one count at least it has already succeeded. And now its cheapest, most popular Fire TV device is getting a major feature bump for 2019.

The updated version of the $40 (£40) Amazon Fire TV Stick goes on sale today, and the main difference between it and the previous version is the addition of volume, mute and power buttons on the remote control — the Sticks themselves are exactly the same. 

And if that TV-control remote seems familiar, that’s because it debuted with the $50 (£50) Fire TV Stick 4K and was later added to the $120 Fire TV Cube

For the uninitiated, the Fire TV Stick is a little USB-size stick with an HDMI port that plugs into your TV and streams movies, TV shows and music from Amazon Prime, Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, Amazon Prime, Spotify and many, many other sources. Its chief competition is Roku. I generally prefer Roku’s streamers to Fire TV because of Roku’s superior interface, but the aggressive prices and superior features of the new Fire TV Stick and Fire TV Stick 4K make them more appealing than ever.

See the Fire TV Stick with TV-control remote at Amazon

Roku also sells streamers with TV control remotes, but its cheapest so-equipped model is the $50 Streaming Stick. It’s also worth noting that Roku’s TV control remote can’t command sound bars or receivers, while the Fire TV remote can. Roku’s remote is also missing a mute button.

Starting today Amazon is also selling the TV-control remote by itself, sans stick, for half price: $15 (£15). It’s compatible with most recent Fire TV devices, but not with Amazon Fire TV (first- and second-gen), Fire TV Stick (first-gen), or Amazon Fire TV Edition smart TVs.

See the TV-control remote for Fire TV at Amazon

Same easy remote, decent free shows and movies

In my review of the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K I lauded its long list of features — including excellent Alexa voice integration — but lamented its menus and user interface. It’s arguably prettier than Roku’s interface but feels more cluttered, doesn’t allow customization, and has too many ads and promos for Amazon’s own shows and content.

19-amazon-fire-tv-with-tv-control-alexa-voice-remote

19-amazon-fire-tv-with-tv-control-alexa-voice-remote

Amazon’s setup automatically detects your TV brand and sets up the power, volume and mute buttons to control that TV.

Sarah Tew/CNET

My quick spin of the new Stick revealed the same interface and the same solid performance from the TV control remote. The idea is that, because the Fire TV’s own remote can turn your TV on and off, as well as mute and adjust its volume, you can ditch your TV’s clicker. It worked well with all of the TVs I tested, including Samsung, Vizio and LG models, and setup was a breeze. 

It also allows TV volume and power control via voice from the remote itself (although using buttons is generally easier) or hands-free if you pair it with an Alexa speaker like an Echo Dot (“Alexa, turn on the TV”). Check out my Fire TV 4K review for details.

Amazon also highlighted the new IMDb Freedive service, available on all Fire TV devices. It’s an app that offers up “thousands of” TV shows and movies from IMDb Freedive, Sony Crackle, TubiTV, Pluto TV, and other services — for free, with ads. IMDb is a wholly owned subsidiary of Amazon, and its Freedive service is also available on computer.

10-amazon-fire-tv-with-tv-control-alexa-voice-remote

10-amazon-fire-tv-with-tv-control-alexa-voice-remote

Sarah Tew/CNET

IMDb Freedive looks like a viable alternative to Roku’s own free-with-ads app, The Roku Channel. While Freedive lacks The Roku Channel’s live news feeds, both have similar TV shows and movies. Here’s my quick survey of the first few that appear on each service. 

A sample of Roku Channel vs. IMDb Freedive

Roku Channel Movies Freedive Movies Roku Channel TV Shows Freedive TV Shows
True Lies Awakenings Paternity Court Fringe
This is Spinal Tap Foxcatcher Unsolved Mysteries Heroes
Lawless Memento Raising Expectations The Bachelor
The Green Hornet Monster Gidget Without a Trace
Marie Antoinette Run Lola Run Batman Kitchen Nightmares
Blast from the Past The Illusionist Kitchen Nightmares Arranged
Bridges of Madison County The Last Samurai Hell’s Kitchen Caprica
Made of Honor True Romance Dawson’s Creek Playing House
Contact Resident Evil: Apocalypse Midsomer Murders Warehouse 13
Rambo III Last Action Hero Forensic Files Gilligan’s Island
Terminator 3 Adaptation 3rd Rock from the Sun Tiny House Nation
Crocodile Dundee Seven Years in Tibet Vexed Born this Way
Crocodile Dundee II Roxanne Lost in Space Dallas
Stuart Little II Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein I Dream of Jeannie The Rifleman
The Right Stuff Lords of Dogtown Good Times Rush
Interview with the Vampire Junebug Bewitched Neighbours

The survey was taken on the afternoon of Monday, January 14 around 3 p.m. ET. Roku Channel Movies came from Roku Channel’s top “Featured” line; Freedive’s Movies from the Fire TV app’s top “Popular Movies” line; Roku Channel’s TV Shows from the “TV” line; and Freedive’s TV Shows from the Fire TV app’s “Popular TV” line. Each service has many more free TV shows and movies.

Look for a full review of the 2019 Amazon Fire TV Stick soon.

Amazon Fire TV Stick