Amazon is set to release their new Fire TV Stick at the end of November. I’m totally non-tech, but here’s my best attempt at understanding how the Fire TV Stick:
What exactly is this thing? The Fire TV Stick connects to your TV’s HDMI port and allows you to stream almost anything, including Netflix, Amazon Instant Video (which is free if you have Amazon Prime), Hulu Plus, YouTube.com, Pandora, PBS Kids and more.
The Fire TV Stick works the same as other streaming devices, including Roku (the box or the stick), Chromecast, your streaming-capable Blu-ray player, your streaming-capable gaming device (like PS4 or the wii or XBOX but without the monthly fee) or your computer (you can hook your laptop or tablet up to some TVs and stream that way).
What else do you have to buy/subscribe to? There is no automatic service you have to subscribe to in order for the stick to work. If you have Amazon Prime, you have free access to Amazon Instant Video, so the stick will just easily allow you to stream it on your TV (you can get a FREE 30-day trial of Amazon Prime here). YouTube.com is free to stream as is PBS Kids (I think) and probably other channels (that are not that exciting). You can elect to pay for Netflix or HuluPlus (you would subscribe to these separately, not through Amazon — see below for free trial offers).
Most gaming devices that allow for streaming do charge a fee to use (monthly or yearly). The Fire TV Stick, Roku, Chromecast (Chromecast doesn’t have a remote), and Blu-ray players do not charge any fees to use it (again, you do have to pay for Netflix or Hulu Plus). The only reason I see to continue to use your gaming device for streaming is if you use the subscription (like XBOX Live) to game with other people on the web. If you’re only using XBOX Live for streaming, you’re getting screwed.
Can Fire TV Stick replace cable TV? Hmmm… That’s a hard one. I am a TV fan. People who say “Netflix replaced our cable and we haven’t looked back!” clearly didn’t watch much TV when they had cable.
Our family gave up cable almost two years ago and it hasn’t been terrible, but we definitely utilize more than just Netflix. This is our current screen-watching set-up:
1. Netflix Streaming ($8/month)– We use this mostly for kids shows (PBS, some TLC shows like Cupcake Wars and Next Great Baker and Cake Boss, some Disney movies like Tinkerbell, etc), some movies (but know the selection is less than stellar), and various documentaries like ESPN’s 30 for 30. My daughter also recently discovered back episodes of some HGTV and TLC shows on Netflix. My dad uses Netflix to watch old Vietnam and World War II movies every night. You can set up a kids Netflix account so the little ones don’t have to scan through the more adult options when they are searching for a particular show. Netflix offers a FREE one-month trial for new accounts.
2. Hulu Plus ($8/month) — I simply could not live with my HP. This is how we watch most current network TV shows. They currently have most FOX, ABC, NBC, Comedy Central and some CBS shows. The new episode comes out two days later and you can typically watch all the current season’s episodes and sometimes past seasons (you’ll most likely have to catch up on longer-running seasons on Netflix). This is how we watch Master Chef Junior, So You Think You Can Dance, The Voice, Black-ish (absolutely HILARIOUS), Brooklyn 99, The Goldbergs, and others.
If you enjoy your shows and don’t want to wait for the off-chance that Netflix will pick them up next decade, you need Hulu Plus. You can get a FREE two-week trial if you sign-up through this link (that’s my personal referral link). Feel free to ditch it if you don’t love it.
*Please note: There are some nasty, nasty shows available on both Netflix and Hulu Plus, so set up your queue so you only see the stuff you want and only allow your kids to search for shows when you’re in the room.
3. Amazon Instant Video ($99/year + get FREE two-day shipping on most items Amazon sells) — We have Amazon Prime but haven’t really jumped in with both feet when it comes to Amazon Instant Video. I know there are some rad movies and Amazon Prime-produced shows over there, but our viewing schedules are a bit full right now.
4. HDTV Indoor Antenna ($65-ish — one-time fee) — We have been using the FlatWave Amplified Razor Thin HDTV Indoor Antenna to get live network TV without cable for well over a year and are incredibly pleased. My husband installed it in the attic and wired it so both our TVs get FREE live HDTV. We get ABC, NBC, CBS, PBS, FOX, and various religious and re-run channels. We primarily use it for live sporting events, like watching the Blazers or the Seahawks or the Olympics. Obviously, we can only watch the Blazers when they are on KGW (bite me Comcast SportsNet) but we just can’t stomach paying over $100 a month to watch the Blazers (we get our internet through Frontier).
We will be purchasing Amazon’s Fire TV Stick even though we have the Roku streaming stick. I don’t exactly know why, but my husband is jacked about it (especially the price).
- Powerful performance—4x the storage and 2x the memory of Chromecast, plus a dual-core processor and 1 GB of memory.
- Massive selection—Over 200,000 TV episodes and movies, millions of songs, and hundreds of games.
- Free 30-day Prime trial—Unlimited access to thousands of popular movies and TV episodes including award-winning series from HBO and exclusive titles like Alpha House, plus new Prime Music.
- Instant streaming with ASAP—No more waiting for your movies and shows to buffer—ASAP learns what movies and shows you like so they start instantly
- Dedicated remote and app for easy use—With the Amazon Fire TV Remote that comes in the box or the free app on your Android device (iOS coming soon), you have all the controls you need to easily search, navigate, and play games
- Voice search that actually works—Simply say what you want to watch and start enjoying in seconds with the free app or Amazon Fire TV Voice Remote (sold separately)
- Connect your small screen to your big screen— Fire TV Stick lets you fling your favorite apps to your TV to free up your small screen for other uses. Or mirror your phone or tablet to your TV.
- Great for gaming, too—Play favorite titles like Flappy Birds Family, Toy Story: Smash It!, Monsters University, and more great games
Shipping is FREE. Prices are subject to change at any time and without notice.
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