Amazon recently announced their Fire TV Stick ($39) and I ordered one immediately because I am passionate about new technologies and gadgets. I want to get them as soon as they are out. The device is clearly inspired by Google’s Chromecast ($32), which I also happen to own so a comparison was inevitable. I hope this helps you decide which device to choose.
Stick in the box
Amazon Fire TV Stick comes with a Chromecast-like HDMI dongle, an HDMI extension cable, USB cable, charger and a remote. Setting up the Fire TV Stick was fairly simple: Just plug it in and follow the onscreen instructions. I found it to be a bit faster than Chromecast’s settings using the app. This can be attributed to powerful hardware found in Fire TV Stick as compared to Chromecast, though the nextgen Chromecast is on the way.
Fire TV Stick is already registered to the Amazon account from which it was ordered, so you have immediate access to your Amazon Prime content. The stick is a tad longer than Chromecast so it could be tricky to connect it to the back of a TV, but in that case you can use the extension cable.
The big difference
Fire TV Stick is primarily aimed at delivering Amazon Prime content to your TV. You can also play third-party content from YouTube or Pandora. Where the gap between Chromecast and Fire TV Stick starts getting wider is in regard to openness and flexibility. Fire TV Stick works like a Kindle in that it’s locked to one account at a time.
With Chromecast, on the other hand, anyone with access to your local area network can play content. For example, if you host a holiday party, your friends could play music or movies from their phones and tablets, from their subscribed services to Chromecast. That’s not possible with Fire TV Stick; it’s locked to one account.
Does it play local content?
Fire TV Stick doesn’t come with support for DLNA or UPnP servers, so you can’t playback local content. You can install Plex Media Server on your local machine and play the content using the paid Plex app, which is available for the Amazon Fire TV platform.
Chromecast, on the contrary, is a bit more open and developers have written apps that allow playing of local content - through Plex and other apps. From that point of view Chromecast holds more potential than Fire TV Stick.
Chromecast in business
Amazon TV has one (and only one) mission - deliver Amazon content. Period. Chromecast has a wider scope, thanks to its openness. It can be used in enterprise, organizational or educational set-ups to give presentations or demos through TV screens or projectors.
Amazon’s Android app functions more or less like a remote with a keyboard. The experience of using the phone as a remote has been very bad so far. It’s extremely painful to search for content using the remote or the app.
Chromecast was a sort of TV revolution where a user could turn a dumb TV into a smart TV. It was a move in right direction of getting rid of ancient TV remotes. Fire TV Stick is a step backward.
Instead of introducing its own cheap stick, Amazon should have simply brought Prime to Chromecast, gaining direct access to millions and millions of TV sets connected via Chromecast.
Should you get Fire TV Stick?
Whether you should by Fire TV Stick or Chromecast depends heavily on what you want to watch on your TV. If you are a heavy Amazon Prime user and want to bring it to your TV, this stick is for you. If you are not locked into one ecosystem and would prefer to play content from different sources; if you want an open device that can play content from different accounts; if you want to use it not just in your home but for work as well, then Chromcast is for you.
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