Amazon Fire TV: What You Need To Know

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

Amazon Fire TV

Fire TV is a series of devices from Amazon that physically connects to your television and uses your home network to stream digital audio and video from media providers (like HBO and Netflix) directly to you.

How Does Fire TV Work?

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 sorta hangs off the back of your TV).

Once the devices are attached to your TV, you navigate to the content you’d like to view using the Amazon Fire TV or Fire Stick interface, and the device accesses that content on the internet. After that, it displays content (shows and movies) on your TV. There is some content is available at no cost, and there are apps that allow you to access premium content on YouTube Red, cable channels like Showtime, Starz, and HBO, and cable alternatives such as Hulu, Sling TV, Netflix, and Vudu on Amazon Fire TV, among others. Most premium content requires you to have a subscription to the service, but it’s available nonetheless.

Fire devices can also be used to play games, view personal photos and access other media saved on local network devices, and browse Facebook too. You can access Amazon’s Prime content too, if you are Amazon Prime subscriber. With the newest 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 the Amazon prime stick, Amazon TV box, streaming media stick, and others.

Amazon Fire TV with 4K Ultra HD

The latest version (or generation) of Fire TV, released in October 2017, includes the following major changes and improvements over previous versions:

  • Additional TV channels and apps
  • More movies, games, and other content
  • Smaller form factor
  • Enhanced 4K High definition support 
  • HDR support (for clearer pictures)
  • Improved Bluetooth functionality and Wi-Fi support
  • Improved support for Alexa, to find, launch, and control content with your voice
  • Hand-free voice control with any Echo device

The newest Fire TV also offers what previous generations did, including but not limited to screen mirroring and content sharing, as well as support for physical HD antennas, among other things.

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 thumb drive and connect to your TV’s HDMI port. Like other generations of the Fire TV line, the Fire TV Stick offers these features (which have been improved on in the newest generations of devices):

  • Up to 1080p HD at 60 fps
  • Alexa voice remote
  • Hands free control with any Echo device
  • Various technical improvements over the first generation Fire Stick device
  • Screen mirroring
  • Content sharing
  • Access to thousands of apps, media providers, games, etc.

Previous Versions of Fire TV

The previous version of Fire TV is physically larger than its successor. This generation of the Fire line is now officially called Fire TV (Previous Version), but is also referred to as the Fire TV Box or Fire TV Player. This is 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, although you might have one at home or be able to get one from a third party.

Note: There was a Fire TV device prior to this one, which was also a box-type device, that offered features similar to what’s listed here. The first Fire TV device debuted in 2014.