Hearth TV Stick assessment: a extra reasonably priced streamer from Amazon

Fire TV Stick review: a more affordable streamer from Amazon

Earlier this yr, Amazon entered the crowded area of streaming set-prime bins. However whereas the Hearth TV appeared like an actual winner on paper, in apply it was extra of a combined bag. For spherical two, the web retail big scaled again its ambitions and the worth. The Hearth TV Stick is a streaming dongle just like the Chromecast or Roku Streaming Stick that is targeted primarily on serving up video and fewer on gaming. Plus, the $39 price ticket dramatically lowers the bar for entry. However, even at lower than half the worth, the Hearth TV Stick can be a tough capsule to swallow if Amazon did not iron out a few of the kinks from its first-era system. So has a number of extra months of polish addressed our considerations about Hearth OS on the large display? With out giving an excessive amount of away, the reply is usually sure.

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Amazon Hearth TV Stick evaluation

eighty three
Amazon

Hearth TV Stick

Execs

  • Unobtrusive design
  • Vastly improved onscreen keyboard
  • Devoted Prime Video part
  • Record of apps retains getting longer

Cons

  • Nonetheless no HBO Go
  • Included distant lacks voice search button
  • Nonetheless some tough edges and inconsistencies in Hearth OS

Abstract

The Hearth TV Stick addresses a lot of points we had with the Hearth TV and comes with a a lot smaller price ticket. It isn’t dramatically higher than its rivals, however it’s definitely not any worse. For $39, it is a completely viable streaming-media choice, and one of the best one should you’ve already purchased into Amazon’s ecosystem.

Hardware

Fire TV Stick review: a more affordable streamer from Amazon

What’s there to say concerning the hardware on the Hearth TV Stick? It is a tiny, matte black gadget, barely bigger than a thumb drive. It is unassuming to an excessive. It lacks the distinctive bulb form of the Chromecast or the garish purple paint job of the Roku Streaming Stick. Actually, it is what’s underneath the hood that issues. Amazon managed to cram a twin-core CPU and VideoCore4 GPU inside this little dongle, to not point out 8GB of storage and a number of wi-fi radios. This is not the identical beastly hardware discovered inside the complete-sized Hearth TV, nevertheless it’s undoubtedly a step up from units just like the Roku Streaming Stick or the Chromecast. It is able to not simply pumping out HD video, but in addition powering some primary video games… with an emphasis on “primary.” Meaning marathon periods of Sev Zero at 60 frames per second are a no-go, however Badlands should not be a problem.

The Hearth TV Stick is unassuming to an excessive.

The Hearth TV Stick additionally borrows the slightly minimal distant design from its huge brother. It additionally is usually matte black, with a directional ring, three “Android” buttons and three keys for media management. Although it skews towards the smaller aspect, and loses some good options within the course of. The one simply forgivable, although unlucky, commerce-off is the lack of the groove on the underside. On the complete-measurement Hearth TV distant, there is a melancholy the place you finger naturally rests, which makes for some pretty ergonomics. The model included right here has a uniform, trapezoidal silhouette with rounded edges that also feels good within the hand; simply not fairly as good as its huge brother.

Fire TV Stick review: a more affordable streamer from Amazon

Extra importantly, although, the Hearth TV Stick’s distant lacks the constructed-in microphone for voice search. Meaning if you wish to benefit from the fruits of Amazon’s highly effective search device, you will have to put in the Hearth TV Distant app, which is at present obtainable on Android solely. (On the brilliant aspect, it ought to be coming quickly to iOS.) Your different choice is to purchase the separate Voice Distant for a further $30. Nonetheless, at that time you may as nicely simply purchase the unique Hearth TV, which comes packaged with it.

My one grievance is the location of the micro-USB energy port. Somewhat than being on the top, like it’s on the Hearth TV Stick’s rivals, it is on the aspect. This implies you may need to rearrange the HDMI cables in your TV when you’ve obtained a couple of issues plugged in. Hardly a dealbreaker, nevertheless it did imply retraining myself to keep in mind that my Xbox is now HDMI four as an alternative of 1.

Software program

Fire TV Stick review: a more affordable streamer from Amazon

Finally, the undoing of the Hearth TV was its quite unpolished software program expertise. The carousel UI that labored so properly on tablets did not translate so properly to the tv. Plus, there have been some really questionable design selections, just like the A-Z, carousel-fashion onscreen keyboard. Issues have gotten a bit higher since April. There are nonetheless some kinks to be labored out, for positive, however what barely felt beta-high quality just some months in the past now looks like a fairly polished platform.

You may assume that a new onscreen keyboard can be a minor tweak, however right here it is an enormous deal

For one, the carousel keyboard has been banished. You may assume that a new onscreen keyboard can be a minor tweak, however right here it is a big deal, particularly since Amazon has shifted away considerably from voice search. The earlier onscreen keyboard made non-voice searches so painful that we merely could not advocate it to anybody with a speech obstacle or heavy accent. It is nonetheless not good — in some areas the keyboard has a QWERTY format; in some locations it is ABC — however it’s undoubtedly mild-years higher than what shipped with the Hearth TV.

Gallery | 21 Pictures
Amazon Hearth TV Stick UI

There’s additionally lastly a piece that allows you to browse solely the movies obtainable without spending a dime via Amazon Prime. Beforehand, films and TV exhibits that required you to pay for them have been combined in with those out there as a part of your Prime subscription and there was no option to shortly determine which was which, with out clicking via to the media’s fundamental web page. Fortunately, this obvious oversight has been fastened and the Prime Video part provides you fast entry to all of the media that your Prime subscription pays for — in case you have a Prime subscription, that’s. (And truthfully, for those who do not, why do you even need a Hearth TV Stick?)

There’s lastly a piece that allows you to browse solely the movies out there at no cost via Prime.

A lot of the different software program tweaks are underneath the hood. ASAP, the identify of Amazon’s clever pre-caching tech, continues to be hit or miss. Sometimes films and TV exhibits begin instantly, with out even a touch of a loading display. However most of the time, you will nonetheless be greeted with a quick buffering web page. Nonetheless, the UI appears smoother than it was a couple of months in the past and apps crash a lot much less typically. Even so, it is nonetheless not fairly as responsive because the Roku Streaming Stick (which is not any velocity demon to be clear). I largely chalk that as much as the extra complicated software program operating on it. Amazon’s forked model of Android is probably going extra useful resource-intensive than the stripped-down, Linux-based mostly software program operating on the Roku.

Fire TV Stick review: a more affordable streamer from Amazon

Visually, Hearth OS on the TV nonetheless seems like Hearth OS on the TV. There are rows of rectangular icons on the proper and classes stacked vertically on the left. It is clear, if not all the time environment friendly, and most of the time, intuitive sufficient for even your nice-grandmother to navigate (we all know you bought grandma on the Roku bandwagon years in the past). It nonetheless provides precedence to content material hosted on Amazon, which is to be anticipated. Looking for content material pulls it up first from Amazon’s repository, even when you must pay for it. Whereas choose further choices, akin to Hulu Plus, are buried within the “Extra Methods to Watch” menu.

Most significantly for the platform, although, is that Amazon’s put a critical dent in its app and content material hole. Loads of video games have been added to its lineup and new streaming music and video providers are becoming a member of the Hearth TV social gathering on a regular basis, like PBS. The one obvious omission stays HBO Go, which is supposedly coming subsequent yr, although no particular time-frame has been given.

The competitors

Fire TV Stick review: a more affordable streamer from Amazon

One of many many issues that the Hearth TV Stick does not lack is rivals. The 2 most blatant are the Roku Streaming Stick and the Chromecast. In case your main concern is having probably the most sources of content material at your disposal, then Roku is the clear winner. It is the one one of many three with entry to each Google Play’s library of video and Amazon’s. And that is along with different main gamers, like Hulu, Netflix, Watch ESPN, HBO Go and Spotify, plus the numerous unbiased area of interest channels like horror movie-particular Screambox or the aptly named Kung-Fu Theater. The one critical mark towards it’s worth, which, at $50, is notably costlier than both the Chromecast or Hearth TV Stick.

Google’s providing is definitely the only of the three. And, whether or not that is a profit or a hindrance is determined by your perspective. There isn’t any distant and no menu to navigate. As an alternative, you must ship content material immediately out of your telephone to your TV. The opposite units help this to various levels, nevertheless it’s the guts and soul of the Chromecast. This function is not restricted to your Netflix or Hulu app, nevertheless. It additionally helps easy video games, even multiplayer ones, like Wheel of Fortune and Huge Net Quiz. Additionally, you possibly can mirror the display in your Android telephone or pill, or perhaps a tab from the Chrome browser. Plus, at $35, it is the most cost effective of the bunch.

Wrap-up

Fire TV Stick review: a more affordable streamer from Amazon

With the Hearth TV Stick, Amazon appears to have a winner on its arms. It does every thing you anticipate a media streamer to do with little fuss and an inexpensive price ticket. Whereas the Hearth TV toyed slightly an excessive amount of with the thought of being a recreation console and demanded prime greenback, its little sibling focuses solely on delivering content material. For those who’re already invested within the Amazon ecosystem, there isn’t any purpose to not give the Hearth TV Stick critical consideration when purchasing for a media streamer. It is acquired you coated on the subject of most of your main video providers and it is nonetheless able to some informal gaming. You’ll be able to even join a Bluetooth gamepad if you wish to get a bit extra critical.

With the Hearth TV Stick, Amazon appears to have a winner on its palms.

That being stated, it isn’t the clear king of the hill. For $10 extra, you will get the Roku with its seemingly bottomless pit of content material, or it can save you $5 and get the Chromecast, which may flip your TV into an enormous exterior monitor in your telephone. The worth distinction amongst these rivals, nevertheless, isn’t actually sufficient to sway me by some means. It is principally about whether or not you’ve got purchased into an ecosystem already. For those who’re married to iTunes, then clearly the Apple TV is for you. Should you’ve constructed up a library on Google Play, then decide the Chromecast. For those who’ve already obtained a house full of Hearth tablets, then clearly the Hearth TV Stick is the path to go. And when you favor to stay as agnostic as potential, then purchase a Roku.

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<a href=”http://www.engadget.com/merchandise/amazon/hearth/television/”> Amazon Hearth TV </a>

  • Key specs
  • <a href=”http://www.engadget.com/merchandise/amazon/hearth/television/” title=”Amazon Hearth TV evaluations” goal=”_blank”> Evaluations four </a>
  • Costs
  • Discussions
  • Sort Audio / video participant
  • Video providers Netflix, Amazon, YouTube, Different
  • Audio providers Pandora, Different
  • Video codec help h.264 / AVC, MPEG-four, VC-1
  • Audio codec help AAC, MP3
  • Video outputs HDMI (1&#one hundred sixty;outputs, v1.four)
  • Audio outputs TOSLINK (optical)
  • Launched 2014-04-02

see all specs →

eight.5common consumer score
  • Media help 7.5
  • Video high quality 9.5
  • Audio high quality 9
  • Ease of use eight.5
  • Design and type issue eight

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