Editor’s Notice, Dec. 2022: New releases in the $30 HD streaming class, such because the Chromecast with Google TV HD, have outpaced the Hearth TV Stick Lite when it comes to both features and worth. We’ve adjusted the score of this product from an eight.1 to a 6 to be able to mirror the changing landscape.
is the most important identify in streaming hardware, with multiple totally different streamers obtainable proper now, and even more TVs and soundbars. Amazon has been gunning for Roku’s slice of the pie ever because the first Hearth TV
appeared. The $30 Amazon Hearth TV Lite is the corporate’s least expensive streamer, an answer to the $30 Roku Categorical and as you’d anticipate its largest benefit over Roku is the Alexa voice assistant.
Amazon additionally has a $forty Hearth Stick however I might argue that the Hearth Stick TV Lite is the better deal. The primary distinction is that the costlier Stick has a special distant with power, quantity and mute buttons to regulate your TV. Should you’re solely using this streamer on an affordable TV anyway, it is value saving the money, until you actually need TV management.
So is the $30 Hearth TV Lite better than the $30 Roku Categorical? They principally have the same choice of apps, now that Hearth TV has Peacock, so the essential variations are within the menu techniques and voice help. The Lite’s built-in entry to Alexa is an enormous benefit when you like speaking as an alternative of typing once you seek for exhibits and launch apps. In the long run, I appreciated the Hearth TV Lite a bit higher, although the Roku Categorical continues to be a superb selection too. In case your TV has an HDMI
port, the Hearth TV Stick Lite is a good way to equip it with a wealth of streaming for not a lot money.
The Hearth TV Lite is a USB stick-sized system which plugs right into a spare HDMI port in your TV. For 30 bucks it gives a number of features, including that dedicated voice distant that permits integration with the Alexa voice assistant. There’s additionally dozens of supported streaming providers
amongst its hundreds of obtainable apps.
The remote hasn’t bodily changed a lot because the first Hearth TV and I did not like the feel as much as the Roku remote or the new Google TV distant. Amazon’s clicker additionally lacks the shortcuts to Netflix
or other typically-used providers, nevertheless it does embrace a new reside TV button.
Pressing that new bottom button brings up a grid-fashion stay TV guide populated by default with “channels” of free exhibits from Pluto TV and Starz. Unusually Amazon’s own IMDb TV shouldn’t be a part of the stay TV grid, regardless that it has its personal program grid when you open the app. For those who happen to subscribe to YouTube TV, you will also see exhibits and channels from that service within the information, although it didn’t work with Sling TV (subscribers should use the Sling app as traditional).
The stick itself comes with an influence adapter which Amazon strongly recommends you employ. When you might use the USB ports in your gadget to energy it I discovered it might cause the unit might behave unusually. For example, Dolby Atmos content material wouldn’t work at all when plugged right into a TV USB port, despite the system declaring “Dolby Atmos” — the sound came out as 5.1.
One function on the Lite’s function listing appears a bit of out of place: HDR compatibility. This is the primary gadget we’ve seen to supply HDR but not 4K resolution, and it raises the query of what kind of TV it’s designed for. There are tons of of 4K HDR TVs on the market but, based mostly on a search of the Greatest Purchase website, there are solely 4 1080p TVs that may do HDR. For most people with 4K HDR TVs, we might advocate getting a streamer that can truly do 4K as an alternative of a 1080p streamer like the Lite.
Numerous streaming apps
Like other streaming units the number of providers that Amazon Hearth TV supports is enhancing all the time. It may access virtually all the major streaming apps, together with Amazon Prime Video
, Peacock, HBO Max, Netflix, Hulu, Sling TV, Crackle, Pluto TV, Tubi TV, Amazon Music, Pandora, Spotify and lots of, many extra.
What it is like to make use of
The wholesome complement of options, tightly integrated voice instructions and its relative velocity makes for a profitable combination. Normally opening apps was speedy, and solely navigating the home web page tiles might give a really occasional sluggish-down, but nothing that spoiled the expertise.
Utilizing the Hearth TV Stick Lite remote is straightforward, and Alexa searches with the microphone button have been extra responsive and relevant than utilizing the Echo as a go-between. Only now and again did I want for a mute button, and that was often through the autoplay videos that accompany the tiles on the home page.
I appreciated with the ability to use both the remote or an Alexa speaker for voice instructions, however using an Echo speaker did not work with each app I tried. Asking for “Umbrella Academy” on Netflix failed, for example, and I simply acquired a “verify your expertise” message (there’s no official Netflix talent within the Alexa app).
Using the remote as an alternative of a speaker was more successful, however even that wasn’t infallible. Provided that YouTube TV is now tightly integrated I hoped that voice search would work higher than it does. For example I requested for “Battle Bots on YouTube TV” and all I received have been YouTube and Amazon “buy” hyperlinks. Amazon Prime video worked properly with Alexa voice, nevertheless.
In contrast, Roku might not have the same strong voice capabilities, however text and voice searches by way of the Roku distant are usually more targeted toward the free/included packages relatively than simply pointing to “purchase now” links.
Picture and sound quality have been also excellent, however the lack of an audio format control past “Greatest Out there” might result in some odd problems. For example, The Legend of Korra on Netflix using the Lite only gave me stereo sound (although it must be able to 5.1), whereas the new Hearth Stick did give me the anticipated 5.1. Different packages, including Jack Ryan on Amazon, have been performed in Atmos on the Lite so it wasn’t doubtless a hardware functionality challenge. Extra doubtless a Netflix one, and once I reached out to Amazon for clarification, a spokesperson confirmed the system helps both 5.1 and 7.1.
There are two totally different faculties of thought in terms of how streaming units manage their content. App-centric menus like Roku and Apple TV simply show you a grid of apps, so you’ll be able to’t truly browse for one thing to observe without clicking by way of to each app. Amazon Hearth TV and Google TV take a extra content-targeted strategy, surfacing numerous titles on the home page itself.
When you wish to graze for content material, the Hearth TV is perhaps more interesting, though the “reside tiles” autoplay video could be jarring. If you realize what you need already, or no less than what app you need to watch, Roku might be a more sensible choice, partially as a result of Amazon’s search results skew closely toward its personal content (typically at additional value).
Do you have to buy it?
If you would like an ultracheap, succesful streamer and are embedded with Alexa and the Amazon universe, this product makes a number of sense. You could or might not miss the TV management features however the Reside TV Guide button is a real bonus for twine-cutters particularly. At $30 it’s a worthy streamer and an ideal stocking filler.
If, then again, you’ve got the 2019 Hearth Stick, there’s completely no purpose so that you can purchase either of the 2020 versions. Dolby Atmos and/or Dolby Imaginative and prescient are weird add-ons for 1080p units, and when you have an honest 4K TV then you must get a real 4K streamer — it is simply one other $20.
First revealed Oct. 8 2020, updated June 2021 with addition of Peacock.