Amazon announced today that the Fire TV Stick - it's fastest selling device ever in the UK - has been given an overhaul and now finally includes Amazon's much-loved voice assistant, Alexa.
The new Fire TV Stick (they're sticking with that name, then) also includes improved performance, with a quad-core CPU that offers 30% faster performance than the previous version, support for HEVC, and faster WiFi. Amazon also says the upgraded 801.11ac MIMO WiFi is the fastest of any streaming stick, but then the Chromecast 4K has ethernet, which the Fire Stick doesn't. Their 4K Fire TV box does, though.
Amazon says the Fire TV Stick's had a "total makeover", but the stick itself still looks like your average branded USB stick from a conference and the remote is, realistically, quite similar to the old one. The interface has been given a new lick of paint, too, and now looks much more Netflix-like - as Amazon puts it:
Fire TV Stick offers a new cinematic experience, delivering video trailers and content screenshots to help customers access the content they want—without the need to open and close multiple apps.
No prizes for guessing what inspired that. However, Amazon's version will also give you a rundown of the options for consuming each piece of content - stream, rent or buy - which obviously Netflix doesn't need to.
The voice remote is another one of the Fire Stick's points of difference, allowing you to talk to your TV. A couple of years ago, people would have balked at that idea, but once you've got used to having an assistant like Alexa or Google Home about the place, it's actually quite annoying not to have it on the TV. This time around, the voice remote comes included in the £39.99 price.
You'll be able to use Alexa across the many apps available for the Fire TV Stick, saying "Alexa, open Netflix" or "Alexa, find musicals." But while the best feature is undoubtedly controlling playback by voice - "Alexa, go back 30 seconds," for instance - that only works on Amazon Video. You'll be able to issue all the usual Alexa commands to the Fire TV Stick as well, which is handy if you don't have an Echo.
Amazon Devices International Vice President Jorrit Van der Meulen sums up the new product thusly:
Fire TV Stick is our fastest-selling UK device ever, and has 37,000 5-star customer reviews—today we’re making it even better. The all-new Amazon Fire TV Stick has been completely redesigned with incredible performance, powerful voice search and the included Alexa-powered remote to deliver fast access to a vast selection of movies, TV shows, games and Alexa skills—all for just £39.99.
You can preorder the new Stick from today at Amazon, and it'll ship on the 6th of April. It'll also be on sale at retailers including Dixons Carphone, Argos, John Lewis, and Tesco.