Amazon has added another string to its connected TV line in the form of the new Fire TV Stick, just six months after launching its Fire TV set-top box (well, OK, a few weeks if you live in the UK).
The new dongle, which will go on sale in the US at $39.99 on 19th November, slips into your TV set’s HDMI port and delivers a raft of streaming entertainment content, from music to video-on-demand (Amazon Prime) to games.
It’s obviously competing directly with Google’s Chromecast: the press material for the launch even mentions the latter by name in the same breath as highlighting the fact that Amazon’s hardware has twice the memory of Google’s stick, plus a dual-core processor, dedicated hardware remote and enhanced connectivity courtesy of MIMO WiFi.
That’s an impressive list but there’s quite a big game of catch-up awaiting Amazon: Chromecast has already sold in the millions.
There’s a sizeable 1GB of RAM and 8GB of local storage on board and, if you find yourself clenching your teeth in irritation when that annoying buffering icon appears, you’ll be delighted with this little gizmo. It features Amazon’s ASAP streaming technology, which effectively dispenses with the buffering delay you have to put up with on other streaming services.
For those who enjoy video content, the Fire TV Stick will offer access to Watch ESPN, the games video-streaming service Twitch (which Amazon is buying for around $1 billion), Prime Instant Video and Netflix straight out of the box and there’s a physical remote and Fire TV Remote app if you own an Android or Fire Phone (one’s in the pipeline for iOS). It also supports voice search, but you’ll need to fork out an additional $29.99 for that.
The Fire TV Stick offers playback from all Android and iOS devices for apps including Spotify and YouTube. A UK launch date hasn’t yet been announced, but based on past patterns with hardware like Kindle Fire tablets, the Fire Phone and Fire TV, it’ll probably be one of the first countries outside the US to get the device.
This just might be the first serious challenge to the Chromecast. Time, and sales, will tell.