When I first heard of the Amazon fire TV stick with the voice remote getting launched in India for Rs 3999/- I was a bit indifferent to the news. The advent of smart TVs has kind of made the streaming sticks a tad bit redundant and the Indian broadband speeds aren’t anything to write home about. Hence my indifference. But after spending a few days with the device, I must say that I have changed my opinion, count me impressed!
First up, the setup was just a breeze. It took me all of 5 minutes or so to get it up and running. It is as simple as plugging the stick into the HDMI port on your TV, connecting the USB power cable into a wall socket and then switching it on. You will then be guided through a simple interface to first set up your WiFi connection and to associate your Amazon account with this device. With that out of the way, you are all set to stream your heart out. My setup experience was smooth and free of any hassles whatsoever. So ticks all boxes there.
The device itself is pretty small and unimposing. Here are the key specifications of the stick
It is powered by a MediaTek Quad-Core ARM 1.3 GHz and the GPu is a Mali450 MP4 . It has 1 GB RAM and 8 GB internal storage. Your purchas includes Free cloud storage for all Amazon content. It has a Dual-band, dual-antenna Wi-Fi 2×2 MIMO 802.11a/b/g/n/ac and supports Bluetooth 4.1 . The dimensions of the stick are 85.9 mm x 30.0 mm x 12.6 mm and weight 32 grams and it comes with a Voice Remote out of the box.
While the configuration may not sound all that imposing, it serves very well when it comes to practical streaming of content. The combination of Amazon Prime Video and the Fire TV stick is actually very impressive. The stick has built-in mechanisms to stream uninterrupted even at low bandwidths that are prevalent now in India. I tried it on 4 Mbps, 8 Mbps and a 100 Mbps connection. As long as I was playing either Amazon Prime Video or Netflix content with it, I could not see any instance of video pausing for buffering with this stick. I cannot say the same for hotstar or Voot though. But given the fact that you can stream smoothly on even 4 Mbps, I would say that this device is excellent in Indian conditions.
Now coming to the app support that this device gives you, you can install apps on this one from the Amazon App store using the built-in UI. It comes with all streaming apps supported in India. Connecting to YouTube was a breeze. I use three apps to stream – Amazon Prime Video, Netflix and YouTube. All the three work like a charm. My only peeve was that there isn’t a standardized meta data norm that all these apps follow, what I mean is, whenever I pause a video on Amazon Prime there’s a ton of X-ray or Meta Data available to me, it would have been brilliant to have something similar across apps. But then this is more of a high level wish list item than a problem with the device.
The Voice remote that comes with the stick is not running Alexa in India, so you are very limited in what you can do with the voice feature. While you cannot dictate commands like “Open App” to the remote, you can easily use it to search content by actor, director, genre or by name. This works excellently on Amazon Prime Video content as they have an extensive metadata pool for the content they stream. When it comes to the other apps, it is just a dictionary search that runs on your voice. The remote has been trained to Indian voices and accents so it does pretty well there. It will be nice when the Alexa powered version hits India. But then again, I am not at all complaining.
A few things that you need to have to make the most of this stick are
- An Amazon Prime Account
- Decent Broadband Speed of a minimum of 4 Mbps
- Your Data FUP also needs to be generous, average data needed for a good HD movie to stream is around 3 GB to 5 GB
So what’s the verdict? Well, if you are like me and prefer streaming good quality video online, this device is a very good option. I have unplugged my Google Chromecast for the time being. Why did I do that? Well, the Fire TV Stick frees up my smartphone and the chromecast is completely dependent on my phone for streaming, dicey when I have multiple things to do with the phone sometimes. And the large screen experience with the vast metadata on Amazon Prime content makes for hours and hours of excellent and engaging viewing experiences. My whole weekend was managed very well with the Amazon fire TV stick. Given the price of INR 3999/- which is only a tad bit higher than the chromecast, count me impressed!