What is Amazon Fire TV? A guide to the streaming device and how it differs from its competitors

An Amazon Fire TV Stick remote.
Amazon Fire TV devices plug into your TV and use the internet to stream entertainment content. 
  • a video streaming device first released by Amazon in 2014 that now has five different models.
  • Fire TV has a remote control with Alexa-powered voice recognition. 
  • In addition to Amazon Prime Video as access to thousands of streaming channels, streaming music like Spotify, and even games. 
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Amazon Fire TV is a video streaming device created by Amazon — it connects to a television or monitor and lets you watch TV shows and movies streamed over apps like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, and thousands of others. 

Amazon released its first version of the Fire TV in 2014, and has since developed several different models.

What is Fire TV?

Fire TV works like other media players (such as Roku, Google Chromecast, and the Apple TV). It’s a device that connects to a TV or monitor via an HDMI port and behaves sort of like the TV’s operating system. 

It has its own home page and library of free and subscription-based streaming apps that you can use to watch videos and listen to music. In that way, Fire TV turns any ordinary TV into a “smart” TV — or can be used as a replacement for the OS built into a smart TV.

image of amazon fire home on TV screen
The family of media players streams video from the internet to your TV. 

Currently, Amazon offers five versions the value-priced Fire TV Stick Lite to the premium Fire TV Cube. In between those two, Amazon offers three other models: the , Stick 4K, and the Stick 4K Max. In general, all five devices work essentially the same and offer the same array of streaming apps, streaming music, and games. 

image of amazon fire stick device and remote
looks like a USB flash drive but connects your TV to a vast library of video content online. 

The difference between models is mainly a matter of image quality, sound quality, and connectivity. The Stick Lite and Stick only display HD, for example, while the other models offer 4K video. Likewise, all but the Lite output sound in Dolby Atmos, and you need at least the Stick 4K Max to connect to the new WiFi 6 wireless standard.

What can you do with a Fire TV?

Like any streaming media player, Fire TV is an entertainment device that gives you access to a vast array of content — free and subscription movies and TV shows, as well as music and games — via an internet connection. 

The primary focus and no doubt the main reason most people purchase one, is for streaming TV shows and movies. That means you can connect to countless streaming apps such as Netflix, YouTube, Hulu, HBO Max, Disney+, and many others including, of course, Amazon’s own Prime Video. 

Image of streaming app options on Fire TV
lets you watch content from nearly every streaming service, including free options like PlutoTV and Tubi. 

Fire TV does a lot more than just streaming TV and movies, though. It can also stream audio. Using apps like Spotify, Pandora, iHeartRadio, and Sirius XM, you can listen to music on demand as well as radio stations and podcasts. 

It is also a gaming system, after a fashion. You can use to play a large assortment of games. Titles range from mobile classics like Candy Crush to a modern version of Pac-Man and GTA Street Fighter. Some games can be played with the remote, though for a more satisfying gaming experience you will need to add an optional game controller. 

How Fire TV differs from its competitors

The streaming media player field is fairly crowded; you can choose among Roku, Chromecast, and Apple TV, and that doesn’t include several less popular models. Most of these devices have a lot of baseline features and capabilities in common, such as access to a vast library of streaming content and a range of products across all price points. Although, Apple TV is an outlier, with no low-end product to compete with the inexpensive

Fire TV distinguishes itself from competing products in a few important ways:

  • Fire TV is built on the Android OS, but Amazon has modified the software substantially, so it cannot run Android apps. That’s in contrast to Chromecast with Google TV, which has access to the entire library of Android apps, including Android’s mobile games. 
  • Because Fire TV is an Amazon product, it emphasizes Amazon services. You certainly have full access to other channels and apps, but Amazon emphasizes its own services, like Prime Video and Prime Music, by default when you look for content.
  • While other streaming players may or may not include voice control, Fire TV has voice control built into every Fire TV model using Alexa, the same personal assistant found in Echo smart speakers.
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