I set out to compare the Fire TV Stick with Chromecast and soon realized that was a mistake. Chromecast has only one function, play whatever video your phone/tablet/computer tells it to. Chromecast turns your television into a big-screen peripheral for your device. That works for a wide range of situations but sometimes you need additional functionality, especially when a phone/tablet/computer isnâ€™t available. This is where set-top boxes like Roku, AppleTV and the original Fire TV become useful. Fire TV Stick doesn’t compete with Chromecast, it competes with those set-top boxes; and that’s a good thing. There’s room for Fire TV Stick AND Chromecast behind your television. For the money you would spend on one of those expensive boxes, you can buy a Fire TV Stick and a Chromecast. Theyâ€™ll give you all of the functionality you care about and youâ€™ll still have enough money left over for a Chinese dinner with your movie.
Exactly what you need, no more, no less
Fire TV Stick has two main advantages over competing products: price and performance. When you compare it to set-top boxes you find that it provides most of the same features: It streams video from all the usual sources, it has an app ecosystem, it even plays games. It falls short only in very specific areas: It hesitates for a fraction of a second when making menu selections, it doesnâ€™t run video games that have whiz-bang 3D lighting and smoke effects, it doesnâ€™t take up space around your television. In most cases, those limitations wonâ€™t apply to you. When you factor price into that consideration, Fire TV Stick is a product that canâ€™t be beat!
Itâ€™s time to move past the four-way directional
The one negative aspect of Fire TV Stick is its remote control. I think the Chromecast team are the only product designers on the planet who understand that everyone who streams video has a smartphone in their pocket. Chromecast taught me how unnecessarily complicated remote controls make television and the best interface is no interface at all. Fire TV Stick has a very straightforward interface, but it still has an interface. You HAVE to use the four-direction remote control to navigate a huge hierarchy of menus. Amazon provides a free companion app to use your phone as a remote control. It will give you some extended functionality, like voice search and a keyboard, but itâ€™s still just a remote control. Thereâ€™s no way to simply push content from your phone or tablet to the screen as you would with Chromecast.
A better video game console than you deserve for $40
I was very pleasantly surprised with the library of video games available to Fire TV Stick. You wonâ€™t be playing the latest First Person Shooter with its realistic reflections and ray-traced atmospheric lighting. But you can play Sonic the Hedgehog with no noticeable lag. I bought the double dragon trilogy just for the hell of it and remembered how bad I am at those games. But what really surprised me was that my all-time favorite game, Carmageddon, was available. Even though the game is around 20 years old, it’s 3D and itâ€™s fast-paced. Though I had trouble with the controls, I was able to play enough of it to see that performance was flawless. One side note about the controls, I didnâ€™t purchase the official Amazon Game Controller. I already own a Nyko Playpad Pro and found it almost fully compatible with the Fire TV Stick. So far every game has worked perfectly, except the steering in Carmageddon. Even without steering, I was able to get halfway through the first track and waste two opponents. Yeah, Iâ€™m that good at Carmageddon. I assume steering would work with the official controller, and I love the game enough to seriously consider that purchase.
Unless you have a very specific need that only one of the more expensive boxes can provide, Fire TV Stick is the answer for you. At $40 itâ€™s almost an impulse buy and you get a lot for your money. Even if you own a Chromecast, Fire TV Stick is still worth consideration. I own three Chromecasts and I still see a place for the Fire TV Stick behind my television.