Size: 3.4 x 1.1 x 0.5 inches (housing); 5.6 x 1.6 x 0.6 inches (remote)
Number of channels: 9,000+
Ports: HDMI, Micro-USB
Max video resolution: 1080p at 60 fps
Supported HDR formats: HDR10, HDR10+, HLG
Supported audio formats: Dolby Audio via pass-through HDMI
On the surface, the new Amazon Fire TV Stick Lite looks like the twin streaming sibling of the updated, 3rd-generation Fire TV Stick (2020). And it's not just on the surface, either — inside, the two devices are near clones. Both feature faster and more powerful processors than previous models and stream at 1080p full HD.
The biggest difference, and why the Fire TV Stick Lite costs $29.99 and the Fire TV Stick (2020) is $10 more, is in their remotes. The Fire TV Stick Lite comes with the new Alexa Voice Remote Lite, which has several fewer buttons than the regular remote.
So, why buy one over the other? I’ll get to that below, but in general, this Amazon Fire TV Stick Lite review shows a bargain for anyone looking for high-quality, speedy streaming on an older television set. And that’s especially true for anyone who uses the Amazon ecosystem to manage other parts of their home and digital life.
Amazon Fire TV Stick Lite review: Price and availability
The Fire TV Stick Lite came out on Sept. 30, 2020.
Amazon Fire TV Stick Lite review: Design and remote
The Fire TV Stick Lite looks exactly like the old and new Fire TV Stick models. It's a small, slim, black rectangle that resembles a long lighter. There’s an HDMI port on one end that plugs directly into your television, and Amazon includes an extender for those who need to adjust for a better fit.
A micro-USB port on the side connects to a power cable, but there are no other ports to connect an external device (like a hard drive), unlike the TiVo Stream 4K.
The new Alexa Voice Remote Lite is the same size as the regular Fire TV Stick remote, but doesn’t have the power, mute or volume buttons. Here’s what it boils down to: The Fire TV Stick Lite’s remote can’t control your TV. If you want to turn your set on or adjust the volume, you’ll have to use another remote.
For me, the fewer remotes, the better. But I also have a universal remote that can pair with multiple gadgets, so I don’t really need even the Alexa Voice Remote Lite unless I want to use the voice functionality. And if you do want to use Alexa to control the Fire TV Stick Lite without the remote, you can do so via other Amazon gadgets, like an Echo Dot.The Fire TV Stick Lite’s remote still has a directional pad and buttons for back, home, menu and playback.
The voice functionality puts the Fire TV Stick Lite’s remote over the one that comes with the similarly-priced Roku Express. The Express remote also doesn’t have TV controls, though it features handy shortcut buttons for Netflix, Disney Plus, Hulu and Sling.
The Fire Stick Lite has one button that the regular remote doesn’t: a guide button, with a television icon. This leads to a grid-like view, similar to what you get with a cable TV guide, that pulls in live TV channels from your apps (such as Sling and Pluto). It’s a nice one-stop shop to see what’s currently on those channels, but selecting any program requires several seconds for the app to open and then start playing. The guide isn’t particularly robust, either. I had to scroll all the way past Sling’s channels to get to Pluto’s, and there’s no way to designate favorite channels.
Amazon Fire TV Stick Lite review: Interface
Setting up the Fire TV Stick Lite was a breeze. In just a couple of minutes, I entered my Wi-Fi and Amazon logins, selected some of my favorite streaming services and was taken to the home screen. Amazon announced a redesign of its Fire TV platform, it wasn’t available on my Fire TV Stick Lite during testing. So, all of my comments on the interface are based on the older version, which is not as slick or beautiful as what you get on Apple TV (which is $120 more expensive).
At the top of the Fire TV Stick Lite’s home screen is a navigational menu with sections for Search, Home, Live, Your Videos, Free, Movies, TV Shows, Apps and Settings. The last is self-explanatory, while Apps takes you to a digital storefront where you can download almost any app you want (with two notable exceptions, which I’ll talk about later).
Underneath the menu is a carousel of featured content, most of which are either Amazon exclusives or titles you can rent or buy on Amazon. The focus on Amazon content continues through every aspect of the Fire TV Stick Lite’s interface.
Continuing down the Home screen, you’ll see two rows of apps, Recent and Your Apps & Channels. That allowed me to quickly open Netflix, Hulu and other favorites, though having two rows felt like overkill. Then came a sponsored ad (in this case, for a car) followed by rows upon rows highlighting Amazon content — so essentially more ads.
Amazon “helpfully” sorted the collections into themes and genres, like Prime Amazon originals IMDb TV free movies and TV (IMDb TV is owned by Amazon). Even the titles in a collection like Black Voices prompted you to rent or buy a title via Amazon. This is not an interface that aggregates content from all your favorite apps. If that’s what you’re looking for, you should check out Apple TV or Chromecast. Even Roku lets you pick favorite shows and add them to a list.
The other screens are similar. The Live tab features live TV apps like Sling, Philo and YouTube TV. Your Videos bubbles up your Prime Video watch list and recommendations (all Amazon content). The Free area is similar to Live, listing free live TV apps like Pluto and Crackle, as well as free movie and TV titles you can watch on IMDb TV. The Movies and TV Shows sections are essentially longer versions of the Prime Video rows on the Home screen.
Like I said, every aspect of the interface screams Amazon. It was a bit much for me, but it may work for you if you’re living that Amazon life.
Compare that to the Roku interface, which is just as simple but more agnostic and customizable. You can switch wallpapers and rearrange apps to your liking, unlike the Fire TV OS.
Amazon Fire TV Stick Lite review: Streaming services
The Fire TV Stick Lite is compatible with almost every streaming service out there. You can download the apps of Netflix, Disney Plus, Hulu, Sling, Pluto, ESPN, Spotify, CBS All Access, Fubo, Philo, Starz, Peloton, Tubi, PBS, and more. The App store also helpfully sorts them in themed bundles, for music or kids or football.
Peacock is the most notable exception, now that Fire TV supports HBO Max (as of Nov. 17, 2020). Amazon is still hammering out deals with WarnerMedia and Comcast, respectively. So, if you want your Parks and Recreation fix on Peacock, you won’t get it on the Fire TV Stick Lite.
Amazon Fire TV Stick Lite review: Performance
The Fire TV Stick Lite worked quickly and smoothly, with few hiccups. I plugged it into a TCL Smart HDTV, running on a medium-fast home Wi-Fi network. After the initial set-up, downloading apps and playback felt a little slow, but things picked up after a couple hours.
The Fire TV Stick Lite is powered by a 1.7 GHz quad-core processor, the same as the Fire TV Stick (2020). That makes both 50% more powerful than the 2nd gen Fire TV Stick, while using 50% less power. Another major upgrade for both new devices is that the dual-band, dual-antenna WiFi supports 5 GHz networks.
Navigation through the menus was speedy and most apps opened in a few seconds. The Fire TV Stick Lite streams up to 1080p (at 60 fps) and HDR formats. There was some upscaling on my 4K TCL set but it wasn’t noticeable.
Most movies and shows almost instantly achieved full HD, with a few exceptions here and there on Netflix and Hulu.
Amazon Fire TV Stick Lite review: Search
Using Alexa to search was easy and brought me accurate and speedy results. When I said “Robert Pattinson,” Alexa delivered movies featuring the actor, including two titles from Netflix (The Devil All the Time and The King). Of course, the results also featured Prime Video exclusives like The Lighthouse and High Life.
Alexa can also open an app (i.e. Peloton) or play a specific title (i.e. Ted Lasso), plus answer general questions. I asked it to find bakeries near me and it brought back local listings, which included addresses, hours and Yelp ratings.
Amazon Fire TV Stick Lite review: Features
The Fire TV Stick Lite plays well with other devices in Amazon’s ecosystem and it’s simple to sync up the streaming player with other Alexa-enabled devices like an Echo Dot or Ring doorbell.
But if you want screen mirroring, the Fire TV Stick Lite doesn’t support it. You’ll need Apple TV or Chromecast.
Amazon Fire TV Stick Lite review: Verdict
At $29.99, the Fire TV Stick Lite is the cheapest HD streaming device on the market, at the same price as the Roku Express. It maxes out at 1080p and doesn’t support Dolby Atmos, which is OK if you have an older set-up. The Fire TV Stick Lite is a great budget streamer for kids, a guest bedroom or any other secondary space with a screen.
The Alexa Voice Remote Lite isn’t as fully featured as the regular remote, since it can’t control a TV, but that wasn’t an issue for me nor may it be a problem for you.
This Amazon Fire TV Stick Lite review has explained why it's an excellent bargain if you want a powerful, fast, inexpensive streaming device; if you have other Alexa-enabled gadgets; and if you don’t mind the constant bombardment of Amazon content.