Editor’s Word, Dec. 2022: New releases within the $30 HD streaming category, such because the Chromecast with Google TV HD, have outpaced the Hearth TV Stick Lite when it comes to each features and value. We’ve got adjusted the score of this product from an eight.1 to a 6 as a way to mirror the changing panorama.
is the most important identify in streaming hardware, with a number of totally different streamers out there 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 company’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 $40 Hearth Stick however I might argue that the Hearth Stick TV Lite is the better deal. The primary difference is that the costlier Stick has a unique distant with energy, volume and mute buttons to regulate your TV. Should you’re only using this streamer on an affordable TV anyway, it is value saving the cash, until you actually need TV management.
So is the $30 Hearth TV Lite higher than the $30 Roku Categorical? They principally have the same choice of apps, now that Hearth TV has Peacock, so the essential differences are in the menu techniques and voice help. The Lite’s constructed-in access to Alexa is an enormous benefit when you like speaking as an alternative of typing once you search for exhibits and launch apps. In the long run, I appreciated the Hearth TV Lite a bit higher, though the Roku Categorical continues to be a superb selection too. If 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 cash.
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 presents a whole lot of options, together with that devoted voice distant that permits integration with the Alexa voice assistant. There’s additionally dozens of supported streaming providers
among its hundreds of obtainable apps.
The distant hasn’t physically modified much because the first Hearth TV and I did not like the feel as a lot because the Roku distant or the new Google TV remote. Amazon’s clicker also lacks the shortcuts to Netflix
or other typically-used providers, nevertheless it does embrace a brand new stay TV button.
Pressing that new backside button brings up a grid-type stay TV information populated by default with “channels” of free exhibits from Pluto TV and Starz. Unusually Amazon’s own IMDb TV is just not part of the stay TV grid, although it has its own program grid when you open the app. Should you happen to subscribe to YouTube TV, you will also see exhibits and channels from that service in the guide, although it didn’t work with Sling TV (subscribers should use the Sling app as normal).
The stick itself comes with a power adapter which Amazon strongly recommends you employ. When you might use the USB ports on your gadget to power it I discovered it might cause the unit might behave unusually. For instance, Dolby Atmos content material wouldn’t work at all when plugged into a TV USB port, regardless of the system declaring “Dolby Atmos” — the sound got here out as 5.1.
One function on the Lite’s function record appears slightly misplaced: HDR compatibility. That is the first gadget we’ve seen to supply HDR however not 4K resolution, and it raises the query of what kind of TV it is designed for. There are a whole lot of 4K HDR TVs out there however, based mostly on a search of the Greatest Purchase website, there are only four 1080p TVs that can do HDR. For most people with 4K HDR TVs, we might advocate getting a streamer that may 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 could entry virtually all the major streaming apps, including 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 mixture. Basically opening apps was speedy, and only navigating the house web page tiles might give a very 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 related than using the Echo as a go-between. Solely now and again did I wish for a mute button, and that was often in the course of the autoplay videos that accompany the tiles on the house web page.
I appreciated with the ability to use both the distant or an Alexa speaker for voice commands, however utilizing an Echo speaker didn’t work with every app I tried. Asking for “Umbrella Academy” on Netflix failed, for instance, and I simply obtained a “verify your expertise” message (there’s no official Netflix talent in the Alexa app).
Utilizing the remote as an alternative of a speaker was extra profitable, however even that wasn’t infallible. Provided that YouTube TV is now tightly built-in I hoped that voice search would work better than it does. As an example I requested for “Battle Bots on YouTube TV” and all I obtained have been YouTube and Amazon “purchase” hyperlinks. Amazon Prime video labored properly with Alexa voice, nevertheless.
In distinction, Roku might not have the identical strong voice capabilities, but textual content and voice searches by way of the Roku distant are usually more focused toward the free/included packages relatively than merely pointing to “buy now” links.
Picture and sound high quality have been additionally 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 utilizing the Lite only gave me stereo sound (although it must be capable of 5.1), whereas the new Hearth Stick did give me the anticipated 5.1. Other packages, including Jack Ryan on Amazon, have been performed in Atmos on the Lite so it wasn’t possible a hardware capability difficulty. Extra possible a Netflix one, and once I reached out to Amazon for clarification, a spokesperson confirmed the system supports each 5.1 and seven.1.
There are two totally different faculties of thought with regards to how streaming units arrange their content. App-centric menus like Roku and Apple TV just present 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 more content material-targeted strategy, surfacing numerous titles on the house web page itself.
When you wish to graze for content, the Hearth TV is perhaps more interesting, though the “stay tiles” autoplay video could be jarring. If you recognize what you want already, or no less than what app you need to watch, Roku might be a more sensible choice, partially because Amazon’s search results skew closely towards its personal content (typically at additional value).
Do you have to buy it?
If you’d like an ultracheap, capable streamer and are embedded with Alexa and the Amazon universe, this product makes loads of sense. Chances are you’ll or might not miss the TV control features however the Stay TV Guide button is a real bonus for twine-cutters particularly. At $30 it’s a worthy streamer and an awesome stocking filler.
If, however, you’ve gotten the 2019 Hearth Stick, there’s absolutely no purpose for you to buy both of the 2020 variations. Dolby Atmos and/or Dolby Imaginative and prescient are weird add-ons for 1080p units, and when you’ve got an honest 4K TV then it is best to get an actual 4K streamer — it’s simply another $20.
First revealed Oct. eight 2020, up to date June 2021 with addition of Peacock.