What is a Fire TV Stick? How Amazon’s portable but powerful streaming device works

fire tv stick
  • The Amazon Fire Stick is a portable streaming device that plugs right into your TV’s HDMI port.
  • Like other streaming devices, the Amazon Fire Stick lets you watch Netflix, Hulu, and other streaming apps.
  • To set up a Fire Stick, just plug it into your TV and a power source, then connect it to the internet.
  • Visit Insider’s Tech Reference library for more stories.

The Amazon Fire Stick — better known by some as just the Fire Stick — is a streaming device sold by Amazon. Similar in many ways to the Roku, the Fire Stick is shaped like a USB flash drive, and plugs directly into your TV’s HDMI port. Despite its small size, it’s a full-featured streaming player, able to turn nearly any television into a ‘smart’ TV.

With a Fire Stick, you can watch movies and TV shows from popular streaming apps like Netflix, Hulu, and YouTube. And if you have other Amazon smart devices, like an Amazon Echo, you can connect them together to unlock new features.

Here’s everything to know about the Amazon Fire Stick, including how to set one up.

What you can do with an Amazon Fire Stick

Amazon Fire TV Stick,
The Amazon Fire TV Stick is about the size of your thumb. 

Amazon claims that the Fire Stick adds “tens of thousands” of channels to your TV. This includes all the streaming services you’re familiar with, including Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, Netflix, and HBO Now, along with network TV apps, sports, and thousands of niche channels you may not be familiar with.

Just remember that downloading an app onto your Fire Stick isn’t the same as signing up for an account. If you want to watch a paid service like Netflix, you need to sign up for a subscription separately.

The Stick comes with a remote control which has a built-in microphone. Because this is an Amazon product, you might expect that it has Alexa support, and you would be right — you can give commands to the Fire TV Stick using Alexa, and control all your Alexa-connected products (like the Ring doorbell, Philips Hue lights, and ecobee thermostat, among others) just as if you were talking to an Amazon Echo.

What’s the difference between a Fire Stick and a Fire TV?

The full name of the Fire Stick is the Amazon Fire TV Stick. “Fire TV” is Amazon’s name for all their streaming devices, most of which are streaming sticks.

There are four different versions of the Fire Stick, and each of them has slightly different features.

  • The Fire TV Stick is the base model, and lets you stream all your favorite apps in HD.
  • The Fire TV Stick Lite also streams in HD, but the remote that comes with it doesn’t let you change the volume or turn your TV on and off.
  • The Fire TV Stick 4K lets you stream in 4K resolution, which is better than HD and the best widely available resolution that TVs are sold with today. Just note that you’ll need a 4K television for this.
  • The Fire TV Stick 4K Max also streams in 4K, but supports Wi-Fi 6, the fastest wireless internet connection available.

Amazon also sells the Fire Cube, a 4K streaming device that can natively connect to the internet with an ethernet cable, making it faster than the streaming sticks.

The Fire Stick family ranges in price from $20 to $45, but they’re almost always on sale. Look at the right time, and you can score one for less than $20. The Cube retails for about $120.

Fire TV STICK, along with their prices.
fire tv stick

How to set up an Amazon Fire TV Stick

Setting up an Amazon Fire Stick should only take a few minutes.

Fire TV Stick

Plug the Fire TV stick into its supplied power adapter, and then plug the stick into your TV’s HDMI video input. Then turn on your TV and make sure it’s set to the correct HDMI input.

Finally, using the remote control, move through the welcome and setup instructions on the TV screen.  You’ll need to enter your Wi-Fi password and log into your Amazon account. You don’t need a VPN or anything of the sort.

After that, setup is largely complete; you’ll just need to add and log into any streaming channels you use (like Netflix, Hulu, and so on).

If you need more details, check out our full guide on how to set up a Fire Stick for the first time.

Which Amazon Fire product should I buy? 

fire tv stick
Fire TV Stick

Insider tests and reviews Fire Sticks. Read more about the Fire TV Stick 4K Max or the original Fire TV Stick 4K.

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