If it weren’t already clear enough that Amazon is trying its hardest to out-Google Google, the company just revealed today the Fire TV Stick, a media streaming HDMI dongle specifically made to beat the Chromecast at its own game, and available for pre-order right now with a November 19 ship date. Priced only $4 higher than Google’s device (and with a ridiculous discount to only $19 until Wednesday for Amazon Prime members), the Fire TV Stick boasts better internal specs, comes with a media remote, and, of course, access to Amazon Instant Video – which isn’t available on the Chromecast for obvious reasons.
The Fire TV Stick is packed with a dual-core processor, 1 GB of RAM, and 8 GB of internal storage, which Amazon gleefully compares to Chromecast’s single-core processor, 512 MB of RAM, and 2 GB of internal storage. Moreover, Amazon says the Fire TV Stick will provide better connectivity with its dual band Wi-Fi antenna, while the Chromecast has only a single band antenna. Like the Chromecast, the Fire TV Stick can also allow users to stream media from their Android or Fire OS devices.
The included media remote is another advantage Amazon touts over the remote-less Chromecast – and I have to say, even though a smartphone or tablet is perfectly suitable as a remote, I’m always hesitant to give my Nexus over to someone else in the room, even if they just need to pause the movie. Though, maybe that’s just a problem I need to work out on my own.
Altogether, the $39 Fire TV Stick has just about all the same features as the Fire TV set top box that was revealed earlier this year. The main differences are that the Fire TV can play “high performance” Android games (as opposed to the lo-fi, “casual” games that the Fire TV Stick can run), and can be synced with the gaming controller for those titles as well. The Fire TV has twice the RAM and a quad-core processor, along with an Ethernet port for those who want to stream media while hard-wired to the Internet. But just about the only meaningful difference between the two devices is that the Fire TV comes with a voice-search enabled remote out of the box, while buyers of the Fire TV Stick need to pay another $30 for a voice remote. Even then, the full $70 is a $30 savings off of the Fire TV’s $99 price.
In short, the Fire TV Stick is a shot across Google’s bow – an interesting development given last week’s revelations that the company’s first smartphone, the Fire Phone, was an unmitigated failure. Meanwhile, Google has its own version of the Fire TV coming in a few weeks in the form of the Nexus Player. And, of course, Amazon’s comparisons to the current Chromecast will be rendered moot as soon as Google unveils the second generation of Chromecast, which the company last week confirmed is in the works.
The Fire TV Stick is an interesting move on the part of Amazon, for sure. Personally speaking, while I can’t deny that I am a major sucker for buying things from Amazon’s stores, I truly hate the Fire OS and would go to great lengths to avoid using devices running the company’s version of Android. So for now, I’m sticking with Google – but who knows how long that will last?
What do you think? Is the Fire TV Stick the streaming device you’ve been waiting for?