Amazon Fire TV Stick & TV Stick Lite review: Plug and play

Amazon's budget-friendly streaming dongles are great for most.

Amazon Fire TV Stick (2020) interface
(Image: © Andrew Myrick / Android Central)

Android Central Verdict

Bottom line: Outside of lacking 4K, the Fire TV Stick (2020) handles all of the tasks you could want to throw at it. The remote can control your TV, along with getting help from Alexa, but this doesn't make too much sense when looking the whole lineup of Fire TV Sticks.

Pros

  • +

    Remote can control your TV

  • +

    Alexa-enabled remote

  • +

    Fast loading times

Cons

  • -

    No 4K playback

  • -

    Interface is a bit clunky

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While other companies held off on releasing new streaming devices, Amazon has continued to turn out great options on an annual basis. The Fire TV Stick 4K with Alexa Voice Remote from 2019 is one of the best streaming devices you can get, along with being the best Fire TV Stick out of the bunch. So when Amazon went ahead and dropped the new Fire TV Stick (2020) and TV Stick Lite, I was intrigued.

These aim to solve a couple of different problems for those looking at getting a new streaming device. There are some flaws, but not enough to mark either of these options as not good value. It's clear that Amazon is paying attention to the competition and what has been working.

Off the jump, it's important to note that from a design perspective, there really isn't much difference between the Fire TV Stick and the TV Stick Lite. In the box, you'll find the same HDMI stick, along with Amazon's remote, charging cable, HDMI extender, batteries, regulatory pamphlets, and the wall charger. This isn't all that surprising, as this is more of an iterative release, versus some ground-breaking new device aimed to take over your streaming needs.

What is different, though, is the reason each one of these sticks exists.

Amazon Fire TV Stick & TV Stick Lite: Price and availability

Amazon Fire TV Stick Lite sitting on table

(Image credit: Andrew Myrick / Android Central)

The Amazon Fire TV Stick and TV Stick Lite have both been available since September of 2020. Both are available from a wide variety of retailers, with a starting price of $29.99 for the TV Stick Lite and $39.99 for the Fire TV Stick. Amazon includes an Alexa Voice Remote with either of these streaming devices, but the Fire TV Stick Lite's remote does not include TV controls. 

Amazon Fire TV Stick & TV Stick Lite: What I like

Amazon Fire TV Stick what's in the box

(Image credit: Andrew Myrick / Android Central)

Ever since moving into my current apartment, I have been trying to find the perfect setup for my streaming needs. With Verizon FiOS in tow, I opted not to sign up for the company's television services, in large put due to the number of streaming services that I already subscribe to.

With a TV in three different rooms, and the capability to feature smart speakers in various rooms, I have already experimented with the likes of Apple TV 4K paired to a HomePod, and with Google's new Chromecast with Google TV. That's not to mention that the fantastic Hisense H65 TV in my living room is powered by Android TV.

Part of the reason why I continue to tinker and find the best solution is in large part due to my wife. See, she has grown accustomed to the Amazon way of life, as the Fire TV Stick has been her go-to option for a few years now.

Amazon Fire TV Stick and Fire TV Stick Lite remotes

(Image credit: Andrew Myrick / Android Central)

While going through the Fire TV Stick setup process, I found that I was able to control my TV with the included Alexa Voice Remote, which is a nice perk. I have enough remotes as it is, and they all end up in a drawer, so being able to use just one for everything is a huge help. The setup process was smooth, and I was signed into my Amazon account in no time.

Being able to control everything from a single remote is extremely satisfying.

Amazon even asked what applications I planned on using throughout the process, so that I wasn't left to search for them on my own. Being able to just select the app and sign in is something that was a bit more seamless than I was expecting, although there are some caveats here that we'll touch on in a bit.

Amazon Fire TV Stick next to Fire TV Stick Lite

(Image credit: Andrew Myrick / Android Central)

Firing up Alexa to ask her a quick question with the remote performs as you would expect. It's not like this is the first Fire TV remote to feature this ability, but the Fire TV Stick did feel like it responded a bit quicker compared to the Fire TV Stick 4K that's in another room.

Amazon's Fire TV interface hasn't changed much in a couple of years, but the Fire TV Stick Lite has a new "Guide" button built-in. This is different from what we've seen from other Fire TV remotes and gives you quick access to a guide so you can channel surf just like if you had a traditional cable box. This includes the likes of YouTube TV, Sling, Hulu, and others, making it easy for you to find something to sit back and relax with.

The built-in Guide button on the Fire TV Stick Lite's remote will harken you back to the old days of channel surfing.

Regardless of the interface, or the app availability, the Fire TV Stick (2020) and Fire TV Stick Lite really shine for a specific subset of folks: you don't care about 4K video playback, but want to make your "dumb" TV, smart. Including Alexa on both, especially on the Fire TV Stick Lite, is absolutely fantastic and shows that Amazon is trying even harder to get Alexa into the hands of more and more users.

Amazon Fire TV Stick & TV Stick Lite: What I don't like

Amazon Fire TV Stick sponsored content channels

(Image credit: Andrew Myrick / Android Central)

In a market filled with nimble competitors always improving their software experience, Amazon's Fire TV UI feels clunky and disorganized. When these products were announced, Amazon confirmed that a new and streamlined interface was on the way, but it has yet to arrive.

This has filled me with frustration as the Amazon ads take over every piece of open-screen real estate. Sure, I can set some favorite applications, or just use the Alexa Remote to open some apps, but even then, I have to go back to the Home Screen and see those ads again. And as for the Alexa Remote, there are some limitations as to what you can ask her to show on the big screen. For example, while Alexa can open the YouTube TV app, it cannot take you directly to a specific channel. And trying to open the Apple TV+ app is a no-go entirely; Alexa just takes you to the App Store or tells you that there's no app that can be found.

Apple TV+ on Amazon Fire TV

(Image credit: Andrew Myrick / Android Central)

On one hand, the standard Fire TV Stick provides the ability to control your TV, but misses out on the useful and dedicated "guide" button. The Fire TV Stick Lite includes that guide button, but you can't control your TV. 

Put simply, the Fire TV Stick is in an awkward position and doesn't offer as much value as the Fire TV Stick Lite.

It would be really wonderful if Amazon would release a remote, even if you had to purchase one after the fact, that includes all of the features. But I would guess that Amazon had to "cut corners" somewhere, or provide some additional functionality for the TV Stick Lite to make it enticing outside of the price.

Amazon Fire TV Stick & TV Stick Lite: Competition

Chromecast With Google Tv Aukey Usb C Hub

Source: Joe Maring / Android Central (Image credit: Android Central)

If you're trying to determine what way you should go in the realm of a smart home streaming device, then there's really only one device that can be compared to the Fire TV Stick and TV Stick Lite. Roku's $30 Express HD is one of the few non-4K streaming devices on the market and is clearly the device that Amazon is attempting to cannibalize.

The Express HD gets an upper hand with the help of the remote thanks to the four shortcut buttons, along with the sometimes-useful "Instant Replay" button. Of course, you'll miss out on any of the Alexa smarts or smart home compatibility in general, but this is Roku's entry-level streaming device, meaning that you'll win some and lose some.

While the other options may not be able to compete in price, they practically blow the Fire TV Stick and TV Stick Lite out of the water. Google's new Chromecast with Google TV is an almost-perfect streaming device and costs only $50, with a sleek interface and the first Chromecast that comes with a remote. Of course, there's 4K on board, along with Google Assistant and a few different and fun color options.

The final "big" competition for either of these new Fire TV Sticks is the Fire TV Stick 4K. For just $10 more than the Fire TV Stick (2020), the 4K model features the same remote, along with 4K video playback, access to all of Amazon's services, and will also be getting the new interface whenever Amazon pushes it to all devices. It's really a toss-up, kind of leaving the Fire TV Stick (2020) in an awkward position.

Amazon Fire TV Stick & TV Stick Lite: Should you buy them?

Amazon Fire TV Stick with remote next to Fire TV Stick Lite with remote

(Image credit: Andrew Myrick / Android Central)

You should buy these if ...

  • You want a Fire TV stick on the cheap
  • You want an all-in-one remote
  • You stream Live TV

You should not buy these if ...

  • You want 4K video playback
  • You don't want to deal with ads

Amazon is trying to pull a Samsung and provide a product at every price point for those looking for streaming devices. The Fire TV Stick (2020) is in an awkward position due to how close in pricing it is to the superior Fire TV Stick 4K, although it does provide the ability to control your television along with the Fire TV Stick.

On the other hand, the Fire TV Stick Lite is the better value proposition, coming in much cheaper than almost anything else on the market. But even while maintaining such a low price, Amazon still includes Alexa voice integration which is absolutely fantastic so you won't have to break the bank.

If we were to make comparisons, the Fire TV Stick Lite would be equivalent to the Amazon Echo Dot, while the Fire TV Stick 4K would be the Amazon Echo. That leaves the new Fire TV Stick (2020) kind of in no man's land, unless you want a Fire TV Stick and want to spend the $40.

Review Changelog

This review was originally published in November 2020. It was updated June 2022 with the following changes:

  • Updated information regarding Peacock and HBO Max availability.
  • Added price and availability section.
  • Added a changelog.