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Amazon Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote (2020) review: Is being the best HD streamer enough?

Our Rating :
Price when reviewed : £40

The new HD Fire TV Stick finally catches up with its 4K brethren, making it the top option for HD TVs


  • Improved performance
  • Fully-featured Alexa remote
  • Support for Dolby Atmos and HDR


  • Needs external power on some TVs
  • No Google Play Movies & TV

Update: When we initially reviewed the Amazon Fire TV Stick, it was lacking in support for Now TV. However, Sky and Amazon have since announced a new partnership that will bring Now TV to Fire devices (as well as introducing Prime Video on Sky and Now TV devices). If you’re a Now TV customer, you’ll be able to download an app to access Now TV and Sky content from your Fire TV device. The roll-out will begin from 14 December on the Fire TV Stick as well as the Lite and 4K models.

Our original review has been updated to reflect this change.

For a while now, the HD versions of Amazon’s Fire TV devices have felt a bit like ‘lite’ versions of the premium 4K models. Opting for the HD Fire TV Stick didn’t just mean losing support for 4K resolutions, but living with a lower level of performance and missing out on features like HDR and Dolby Atmos support.

It wasn’t a big deal for many of us, though; if you have a 4K TV with HDR and a Dolby Atmos audio system, why even bother with an HD streamer? However, there are some new 32-40in 1080p TVs with HDR support out there – albeit perfunctory support – and plenty of people who still want a streaming stick for an existing 1080p set.

This year, Amazon is giving you more choice. Want a streamlined Fire TV stick with just the basics and Alexa voice controls? The new Fire TV Stick Lite for £30 will do you nicely. Want the full set of features, bar 4K? Say hello to the third-gen Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote for £10 more. And that’s the model that we’re going to look at here.

Amazon Fire TV Stick (2020) review: What you need to know

The third-generation Fire TV Stick is a step up from the previous generation model, bringing it more in line with the more expensive Fire TV Stick 4K. It has an upgraded 1.7GHz quad-core Mediatek CPU, which Amazon claims makes it 50% more powerful, and it’s more power efficient too. It also adds in support for the HDR10, HDR10+ and HLG standards, Bluetooth 5.0 and HDCP 2.2, along with support for Dolby Atmos audio. In terms of appearance, though, it’s much the same, even coming with the same remote

Beyond this, it’s business as usual for an Amazon streaming stick, with Amazon Prime Video content front and centre, plus apps for Netflix, Disney Plus, Apple TV, BBC iPlayer, All4, BritBox and ITV Hub either pre-loaded or easily installed. It’s also a great way to access other Amazon services, including Amazon Music, Twitch, Audible and Amazon Photos, or the likes of Spotify, YouTube, Vimeo and TuneIn Radio. And you still get Alexa voice commands and search built-in.

Amazon Fire TV Stick (2020) review: Price and competition

At £40, the Fire TV Stick now sits in the middle of Amazon’s Fire TV line-up, with the new Fire TV Stick Lite £10 cheaper and the Fire TV Stick 4K £10 more expensive. Meanwhile, the high-end Fire TV Cube will cost you nearly three times as much as the Fire TV Stick.

The Fire TV Stick Lite is a bargain at £30 and still comes with an Alexa voice remote. You lose out on HDR and Dolby Atmos support, not to mention the TV power, mute and volume controls on the Fire TV Stick’s remote, but otherwise the specs appear identical.

There’s also stiff competition from American streaming titan Roku. Its Roku Express HD player sells against the TV Stick Lite at £30, while the 4K HDR Roku Premiere is a direct competitor, also coming in at £40. Roku OS has the most complete lineup of apps out of any streaming platform, so you’ll never have to make do without services like Google Play Movies & TV that are absent from the Fire TV Stick.

Amazon Fire TV Stick (2020) review: Design and setup

If you’ve ever used a Fire TV Stick before, then nothing about setting this one up is going to surprise you. The stick plugs into an available HDMI socket on your TV, either directly or through a bundled HDMI extender which you can use if the stick obscures other HDMI ports or won’t fit into the back of your TV.

Officially, it’s designed to draw power from a supplied USB power adapter, similar to those bundled with Amazon’s Fire HD tablets, though in practice you might get away with powering it from a USB port on the TV. Don’t rely on this if you’re low on power sockets; it worked without trouble on my 2016 Samsung telly, but not all sets will consistently deliver enough power.

Once everything’s plugged in, the Fire TV Stick will run you through a simple setup process, connecting to your Wi-Fi network, setting up the TV controls and deciding which apps to install before first use. This won’t cover all the apps you’re likely to want but you can install the rest pretty quickly once the stick is up and running.

If you have any Amazon Echo smart speakers at home you can use these with the Fire TV Stick, and it even works with the Echo Studio for Dolby Atmos audio – not a bad option for simulated surround sound in a small lounge or bedroom. The Fire TV Stick can also hook up to a pair of Bluetooth headphones – an underappreciated feature if your TV doesn’t have Bluetooth.

Amazon Fire TV Stick (2020) review: Apps and performance

It’s hard to quantify performance on a streaming stick, but the new Fire TV Stick feels extremely nippy. It shifts through Amazon’s UI smoothly and flawlessly, and compared to other lower-end devices there’s barely any wait while thumbnails and previews load. I don’t have an older-generation Fire TV Stick to hand for direct comparisons, but the whole experience feels noticeably slicker and faster than on the Roku Express or the smart TV apps built into my Samsung TV, particularly when switching between apps.

What’s more, TV episodes and movies load faster and hit their optimum bitrate a second or two earlier. In fact, it makes the Samsung TV’s built-in Netflix and Amazon Prime apps feel almost painfully slow. Needless to say, your mileage will vary with the age of the set concerned, but if your old smart TV’s performance feels creaky, this will be a huge improvement.

Quality, meanwhile, is about as good as you’re going to get from a 1080p device, both on a 32-inch 1080p screen and the 43-inch Samsung 4K set. Colours are bright, there’s plenty of HD detail and no obvious compression artefacts or judder. HDR content shows up with brighter whites and richer colours on the 4K screen, and while there’s no mistaking the HD image for 4K, it’s still more than good enough for casual viewing. Given that this device is more likely to end up on a smaller, secondary TV than a swanky new 60in 4K model, the resolution shouldn’t hold you back.

I’ve few complaints in terms of app support. The initial absence of Now TV was disappointing, but that has now been remedied thanks to Sky and Amazon’s new partnership. And while there’s no Google Play Movies & TV app, you can simply stream your purchased content through the YouTube app instead.

Amazon Fire TV Stick review (2020): Alexa and voice controls

Amazon has recently released what it calls the New Fire TV Experience, bringing some genuinely useful enhancements to what was already a great smart TV platform. One of the few complaints we used to have about the UI was that Amazon’s dynamic approach to featured content could actually make it harder to find what you were looking for, and specifically your favourite streaming apps. Amazon has now fixed this with a persistent shortcut bar featuring your most-used apps, plus shortcuts to your Library (any purchased content) and a new Find screen. This goes beyond global search to focus in on specific categories of content, including films, TV programmes and material suitable for kids. 

Within each of these you’ll find new carousels of featured films and programmes, spanning not just Amazon’s services but any others you use and subscribe to, including Netflix, Disney Plus and iPlayer. You can filter down by genre, and there’s a ‘Free to Me’ filter to screen out anything you’d have to pay for. It’s simple, but a great way to discover new stuff. After all, while Amazon’s Alexa voice search works brilliantly, you still have to have some idea of what you’re looking for.

The other key thing is Profiles. Amazon added them into Prime Video a while ago, but now they stretch across the whole Fire TV experience. Each profile gets its own personalised recommendations and maintains its own watchlists and viewing history. As a result, everyone in your home gets their own Home screen that reflects their own preferences, rather than what other members of the household are watching.

This is a massive improvement, but I’m not sure it goes quite far enough. While the personalisation might improve over time, watchlists and viewing history still only cover Prime Video, so there’s no tracking of what you’re watching or where you are in a season on, say, Netflix or Disney Plus. There’s also no integration with your profiles on these other services, so you still have the old problem that if you’re signed into another Netflix profile, then the Fire TV will ignore any progress you’ve made in a movie or a series and just start you off at the beginning or season one, episode one. There’s also currently no support for Kids profiles in the UK, though this has been rolled out in the US.

As for Alexa,  integration is as impressive with the new experience as it was with the old one, making it easy to find the movies and shows you’re looking for with a single ‘Find’ command. You can use either the voice remote or an Echo device in the same room. If you don’t link the two during the initial setup, Alexa will even sort it out for you when you first issue a TV-related request.

You can search for films or programmes, either by titles, stars, subjects or directors, and Alexa does a fantastic job of finding what you’re looking for across most of your installed apps, including BBC iPlayer, where support used to be embarrassingly weak. You can even voice search for YouTube videos.

And while Amazon will still – predictably – push you towards buying content from Amazon, it’s pretty good at spotting where something’s available for free on Netflix, Disney Plus or iPlayer and making that your first port of call. There are still some niggles – Alexa struggles with Netflix accounts with multiple profiles, and will only track your progress through a series on the last profile that you were logged in on – but hardly anything where you can lay the blame at Amazon’s door.

In the last few months I’ve still encountered some odd issues where the TV Stick insisted on playing the first episode of the first season of a series on Amazon Prime Video when we’d reached a later season on another device, but I’ll cut the Fire TV some slack. For my money, it delivers the best overall experience of any streaming device, either through the remote control or voice – and that’s coming from someone who previously preferred Roku for its broader, less-biased app support.

Amazon Fire TV Stick review (2020): Verdict

This all sounds great, but there’s one wider question: is this really the right Fire TV Stick for you? Save a tenner and go for the Fire TV Stick Lite and you won’t notice much of a difference on a standard, non-HDR 1080p TV. The only killer feature you’d be missing out on would be the extra TV controls on the remote. Similarly, there’s an argument that if you’re fussed about HDR and Dolby Atmos, then you should spend the extra £10 on the Fire TV Stick 4K, if only for future-proofing’s sake.

That’s hard to counter, yet I can’t help liking the new Fire TV Stick. It provides a great HD smart TV experience and it’s really handy to control almost everything with just the one remote. If you’ve got a 1080p TV with HDR or merely want the best all-round HD streaming stick, the new Fire TV Stick is the one to buy.

Fire TV Stick with Alexa RemoteSecond-genThird-gen
ProcessorQuad-core, 1.3GHzQuad-core, 1.7GHz
Supported resolutionUp to 1080pUp to 1080p
HDR formatsNoneHDR10, HDR10+, HLG
Wi-Fi connectivityDual-band, dual-antenna 802.11ac (MIMO)Dual-band, dual-antenna 802.11ac (MIMO)

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