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Amazon Fire TV stick 4K review: When Alexa makes life easier

When the Amazon Fire TV stick was launched last year it was a very popular device for its sheer versatility. This year, Amazon has updated it to make this 4K compatible and give it more intelligence by incorporating Alexa smart assistant.

The Amazon Fire TV stick 2018 looks exactly like the earlier version. However, the remote is different. It now comes with a power button and there are volume controls too, including a separate mute button at the bottom.

In fact, while setting up the Fire TV, the on-boarding includes a test to check if the remote can control the television. This is a great feature and you can basically forget the TV remote once you start using the Fire TV as the power button switches off the television too.

I could not test the 4K abilities of stick as I don’t have a UHD television at home. But during the demo I have seen that the video quality is pretty stunning. Maybe, because it needs more power for 4K, the set up told me that the USB power from the TV was not enough.

However, I stuck to it and did not go for the power adapter as finding another slot on the power strip is impossible in my home. Even on my Full HD television, the picture quality was pretty good.

The other new feature is Alexa on the Fire TV. Now, you click the search button and ask Alexa whatever you want. For me, with my son sitting idle at home for holidays, the first query was “Alexa, play Harry Potter”. And it worked as I would have expected on my Echo.

However, there is no wake word here and you have to press the Mic button on the remote to make Alexa hear your command. But Alexa knows the context about the content and asking it to play opens up video by default and not songs like on the Echo.

The other interesting feature is how the Fire TV can be paired with an Echo device and you can ask Alexa directly to play on the television. However, since I connected the Fire TV to my LG smart TV it seemed the latter too started appearing in the network as a Fire TV. I ended up linking the Echo with this first and that did not lead anywhere. Then when I unlinked and found the actual Fire TV network, voice commands started working fine.

However, this linking makes sense only if the Echo and TV are in the same room. Also, I could not get to stream audio from the TV via the Echo too. That would have been a good function to have.

Overall, the Fire TV has made enough improvements to make it ready for 2019. It’s not very different from the earlier version, but it gives you access to 4K content via streaming apps like Netflix and Amazon Prime, while adding the convenience of Alexa.

But buy this only if you have a 4K television at home, otherwise settle for the earlier version which also happens to be much cheaper.