Amazon Fire TV: What You Need to Know

Use Amazon’s Fire TV to stream media to your HDTV

Amazon Fire TV, remote control and USB drive
Amazon

Fire TV is a series of devices from Amazon that physically connect to your television and uses your home network to stream digital audio and video from media providers, such as HBO and Netflix, directly to you.

Setting Up and Using Fire TV Devices

Amazon sells two different devices under the Fire name: Fire Stick and Fire TV. The Fire Stick is a small device that plugs into your TV and sticks out of your TV's HDMI port. The Fire TV is a small box that plugs into an HDMI port on your TV; it also tends to hang off the back of your TV.

Once the devices are attached to your TV, you navigate to the show or movie content you’d like to view using the Amazon Fire user interface. Once selected, the device accesses your chosen content over the internet and plays it on your TV.

Some Amazon Fire content is available at no cost, and apps are available that allow you to access premium content on YouTube Red; subscription cable channels like Showtime, Starz, and HBO; and cable alternatives such as Hulu, Sling TV, Netflix, and Vudu on Amazon Fire TV, among others.

Note: Most premium content channels like HBO, Showtime, and Netflix require you to have a subscription to that service; however, in many cases, these subscriptions can be set up on the spot through the Amazon device. Your subscription fee for each is billed through your Amazon account.

Fire devices can also be used to play games, view your personal photos, and access other media saved on your local network devices. You can even browse Facebook. Amazon Prime content that is available to subscribers is also accessible through Amazon Fire TV, if you are a subscriber to Amazon Prime, that is. In some models, you can use the Fire TV remote to locate content using voice commands with Alexa or an Echo device.

Note: Amazon’s Fire TV devices and Amazon Fire Sticks are often called, generically, firesticks. You may also see them referred to as, among other terms, the Amazon Prime stick, Amazon TV box, and the streaming media stick.

Amazon Fire TV With 4K Ultra HD

The Fire TV model released in October 2017 includes the following major changes and improvements over previous versions:

  • Enhanced 4K Ultra High Definition (UHD) support
  • HDR (high dynamic range) image support (for clearer pictures)
  • Additional TV channels and apps
  • More movies, games, and other content
  • Smaller form factor
  • Improved Bluetooth functionality and Wi-Fi support
  • Improved support for Alexa and Echo devices to find, launch, and control content with your voice

The newest Fire TV also offers the same features from past generations of devices, including screen mirroring and content sharing, as well as support for physical HD antennas, among others that long-time users already know.

Fire TV Stick

The Fire TV Stick comes in two versions. The first was offered in 2014, and the second in 2016. Both look like a USB stick or flash drive and connect to your TV’s HDMI port. The Fire TV Stick offers these features, which have been improved in newer generations:

  • Up to 1080p HD resolution at 60 fps
  • Voice-controlled remote, and Alexa and Echo device support
  • Screen mirroring
  • Content sharing
  • Access to thousands of apps, media providers, games, etc.

Previous Versions of Fire TV

The older generation of Fire TV is physically larger than newer models. It is now officially called Fire TV (Previous Version) but is also referred to as the Fire TV Box or Fire TV Player, because the device looks more like a cable box than it does a USB stick. Fire TV (Previous Version) isn’t available from Amazon anymore, but you might have one at home or be able to find one from a third-party seller.

Note: There was a Fire TV device prior to Fire TV (Previous Version) that was also a box-type device. It offered features similar to those listed here.