Amazon is finally taking on the Chromecast. This morning it's introducing the Fire TV Stick, a streaming device that exists entirely in a small dongle that plugs into a TV's HDMI port. Amazon says that the Fire TV Stick offers the "same experience" as the full Fire TV, which was introduced back in April. It can play games and is able to stream from the major services that you'd expect: Watch ESPN, YouTube, Hulu Plus, Pandora, and, of course, Prime Instant Video. The Stick goes on sale for $39 beginning November 19th and is currently available for preorder. Prime subscribers can get it for $19 for the next two days.
It comes with a remote, but it can't do voice searches
The Fire TV Stick is being advertised directly against the Chromecast, which should be no surprise: the Chromecast is Amazon's best-selling electronic device right now — and Amazon would be happy to see that replaced with something of its own. "Fire TV Stick is the most powerful streaming media stick available," Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos says in a statement. With 8GB of internal storage and 1GB of RAM, the Stick has four times the internal storage and twice the memory of the Chromecast. It also has a dual-core processor and dual-band Wi-Fi, neither of which the Chromecast can claim either. Amazon also says that the Fire TV Stick is significantly more powerful than the Roku Streaming Stick, claiming six times as much processing power.
The other big benefit to the Fire TV Stick is that it includes a remote (and an interface), whereas you're stuck controlling the Chromecast entirely through your phone. Amazon is cutting costs here, however: this isn't the same remote that ships with the Fire TV Stick, which has a microphone on it and lets you perform a voice search. If you want that remote, you'll have to buy it separately for 29.99. If you don't want to spend nearly as much money on a remote as a streaming box, then you can just download Amazon's Fire TV remote app, which also lets you perform a voice search. It's available for Android right now, but an iOS app is in the works.
It's easy to imagine that Amazon will find a lot of success with the Fire TV Stick, given the popularity of low-cost streaming devices. The Fire TV Stick is a bit more expensive than the Chromecast, but it may also be a lot more user friendly given that it presents an obvious interface for how to start streaming. And if Amazon can continue to sell these things for $19 to Prime subscribers, there won't even be a competition for many. The Fire TV is already one of the better streaming boxes out there, so if Amazon really has brought that full experience down to a $39 stick, this should be a very popular option.