Amazon has their own streaming device, the Fire TV Stick. 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 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.
NOTE: You do have to have internet in order for any of this to work.
Can Fire TV Stick replace cable or satellite 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 over four 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 (starts at $8/month) — We use this mostly for kids shows, Netflix original programming, some movies, and various documentaries. 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 (starts $8/month with commercials and $12/month without) — I simply could not live with my Hulu Plus. This is how we watch most current network TV shows. They have most FOX, ABC, NBC, Comedy Central and some CBS shows in addition to their original programming. The new episode shows up on Hulu Plus the next day 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).
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.
Hulu now also offers Hulu with Live TV, a live TV streaming service (starts at $39.99/month). This is the solution to the “how can we watch sports live without cable or satellite?” dilemma. It also allows you to watch cable news plus it has a DVR upgrade option where you can record live TV and watch later and fast forward the commercials.
Our family has upgraded our Hulu Plus account to include Live TV so we can watch Portland Trailblazer games that are not broadcast through our HDTV indoor antenna (see below).
*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) — You can also stream movies, TV series, and Amazon exclusive programming with your Amazon Prime membership. Amazon Instant Video (part of your Amazon Prime membership benefits) is also the primary way we rent movies we can’t get with Netflix or Hulu Plus or from RedBox.
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 four years and are incredibly pleased.
My husband installed it in the attic and wired it so both our TVs get FREE live HDTV. We get our local ABC, NBC, CBS, PBS, FOX, and various religious and re-run stations. We primarily use it for live sporting events, like watching local NBA and NFL games and the Olympics.
Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote connects to your TV’s HDMI port. It’s an easy way to enjoy Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, Hulu Plus, YouTube.com, music, and much more:
- The next generation of our bestselling Fire TV Stick–now with the Alexa Voice Remote.
- Enjoy tens of thousands of channels, apps, and Alexa skills with access to over 500,000 movies and TV episodes from Netflix, Prime Video, Hulu, HBO, SHOWTIME, STARZ, and more. Plus, access millions of websites such as YouTube, Facebook, and Reddit with browsers like Silk and Firefox.
- Launch and control content with the included Alexa Voice Remote. Simply say, “Play Game of Thrones” or “Launch Netflix” and Alexa will respond instantly. Plus, play music, find movie show times, order a pizza, and more—just ask.
- No cable or satellite? No problem. Watch the best of live TV and sports from AMC, HGTV, ESPN, FOX, and others with a subscription to DIRECTV NOW, Sling TV, or top-rated primetime shows with CBS All Access.
- Find the best way to watch with universal search results from over 190 channels and apps including Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Video.
- Prime membership unlocks thousands of movies and TV episodes, including Thursday Night Football, Amazon Original Series, Amazon Channels, and ad-free listening to millions of songs with Prime Music.
- Pick up where you left off. Bring hit shows and movies with you when you travel. Plug Fire TV Stick into any TV’s HDMI port, connect to Wi-Fi, and continue watching.
- Play current favorites or quickly discover what to watch next directly from the Home screen.
For more information, including how to watch live sports without cable or satellite, check out our post How to Ditch Cable.
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