One minute review
The Amazon Fire TV Stick Lite is a new entry into Amazon's Fire TV range of streamers, and it's the cheapest model that Amazon has put out yet; for that alone, this is a budget streaming stick that should be on your radar.
Retailing for just $29.99 / £29.99 / AU$59.99, it's a good amount cheaper than the new Fire TV Stick (2020) or its premium Fire TV Stick 4K cousin. While you won't be getting all the bells and whistles of more expensive models, you're still getting the same Fire TV interface and Alexa voice assistant, as well as full HD streaming and even HDR support.
Amazon has historically often been undercut on streaming sticks, with the likes of the Roku Express proving a cheaper, lower-spec alternative to the Fire TV range – but this latest model is sure to make the budget streamer space even more competitive.
There are changes to the Fire TV UI coming later in 2020, but our time with the Fire TV Stick Lite so far reassures us that this a smart choice for a budget HD streamer.
That's not to say there aren't issues, and the lack of volume controls is something of an irritation, but corners had to be cut somewhere. Less forgivable is the at-times domineering presence of Amazon-owned or Amazon-affiliated content, including ads for Audible subscriptions on every menu pane – but if you're a Prime subscriber this should suit you just fine.
Cut to the chase
- What is it? An affordable HD streaming stick in the Amazon Fire TV range
- When can I get it? It's out now
- How much does it cost? $29.99 / £29.99 / AU$59.99
Amazon Fire TV Stick Lite pricing
The Amazon Fire TV Stick Lite launched on September 30. You can buy it for $29.99 or £29.99 in the US and UK respectively, or for AU$59.99 in Australia (marking the first time a Fire TV model has landed in the territory).
That price point puts it well below the $39.99 / £39.99 Fire TV Stick (2020) and $49.99 / £49.99 Fire TV Stick 4K. It matches up with the $29.99 Roku Express, making it pretty clear that Amazon is looking to stop Roku from beating it on price.
What about Black Friday 2020?
Black Friday deals are set to pop up throughout November, ending with the Black Friday weekend (November 27-29) and Cyber Monday (November 30). Amazon is always doing what it can to push its own devices, so keep an eye out for deals – though the Lite is cheap enough that we don't expect much if any discounts.
Fire TV Stick Lite design
When you open the box, you'll find a neatly packaged assortment of accessories. There's the Fire TV Stick Lite streamer itself, as well as a short (but pliable) extension cable, which is useful for helping the stick fit in narrow spaces behind a television.
You'll also get two Amazon Basics AAA batteries for the Alexa voice remote, and a charger to plug the streamer into (via micro USB).
The streaming stick itself is pretty nondescript: a short black slab, the size of a small candy bar, which plugs into a TV via HDMI 2.0, and measures 86 x 30 x 13mm.
It's essentially the same design as the Fire TV Stick 2020 or Fire TV Stick 4K, so if you're juggling a couple – as we were during our review – it may be hard to tell the difference. There is a subtle Amazon logo, but it's not obtrusive, and the sleek black design and curved remote give it all a premium feel, despite the low price.
The main difference here is not in the streamer, though, so much as the remote.
Every Fire TV device ships with some version of the Alexa voice remote, and the Fire TV Stick Lite carries a simplified version without TV or volume controls. That means if you want to make the TV louder or quieter, or turn any connected AV equipment on and off, you won't be able to do it with this remote.
If you're used to a fully-supported voice remote, it's a bit inconvenient to have to handle a secondary TV remote for adjusting volume – though if may be worth it for you to save those extra pennies.
Fire TV Stick Lite UI
Setup is relatively painless, though we found the Lite restarted a couple of times. You will have to sign in with an Amazon account, or create one, before being prompted to pick apps for the home screen.
Netflix is on your home screen automatically, which is a good gesture as Amazon Prime Video's biggest rival streaming service. However, much of the Fire TV interface is clogged up with Amazon Prime Video content that can get a bit distracting if you're not a Prime member.
There are various content rows to navigate horizontally, such as your Recent apps, Your Apps & Channels, and Prime Originals & Exclusives.
Prime content doesn't always have 'prime' placement as such, and you can order apps as you wish – unlike the Netflix app on Hisense's Vidaa U TVs, which is stuck in first place. However, the majority of the content is Prime or Prime-adjacent, and we often found we'd select a content title that turned out to require a subscription to an Amazon TV channel.
Amazon is big on 'dark patterns' such as this, which try to get you interested in a title before telling you how to pay for it, and no on-screen prompt to 'cancel' once you've selected a movie or show; we found we had to use the back button on the voice remote, which took some guesswork and isn't very user-friendly.
You also can't sign in to the Prime Video app unless the Amazon account registered to the device has access. This problem should get fixed when Amazon launches user profiles later in 2020, but for now it's an annoying pain point – especially if (like me) you and your cohabitants share various streaming subscriptions.
Most content panes have a Sponsored section for Audible, the audiobook subscription service owned by Amazon. As ever, paying for hardware that then shows you advertisements is a bit of a slap in the face – though the Tizen OS on new Samsung TVs does it too, if less visibly.
There are changes afoot, as with the recent overhaul of Alexa integration, aping the UI of the Echo Show smart display range when accessing information through Amazon's voice assistant. You're soon getting a picture-in-picture mode, too, meaning you can load up more than one app at one time on your Fire TV interface, say to bring up a smart security camera feed on the side of the screen.
It's not an unpleasant interface at all, even if Amazon-affiliated content is a bit domineering, and the Home / Your Videos tabs are essentially identical.
Features and performance
There are streaming sticks with native 4K support – like the Fire TV Stick 4K – which should make for a better picture on a 4K TV, though. It's worth noting that the Fire TV Stick 2020 also supports Dolby Atmos passthrough, whereas the Lite makes do with regular Dolby Digital audio, so there are a couple of key features that the Lite misses out on.
The Fire TV Stick Lite also adds in HDR (high dynamic range) support, increasing color and contrast with a larger range of possible tones to utilize. Most 4K video these days is filmed in HDR10 – the basic HDR format – making it a smart choice to upgrade to the Lite if you're currently making do with an SDR streamer.
You'll also get the dynamic HDR10+ format favored by Amazon Prime Video, which uses metadata to calibrate your picture settings on a shot-by-shot basis – and the HLG (hybrid log gamma) broadcast format, so most of your HDR bases are covered.
HDR is a surprise addition at this price point, especially since 4K isn't supported – but it does make the Fire TV Stick Lite a meaningful upgrade over the Fire TV Stick (2019).
60fps playback is welcome, while the Quad-core 1.7 GHz processor is a step up from the 1.3 GHz processor used in the 2nd-generation Fire TV Stick.
The actual picture performance, of course, will depend largely on your display. You can have all the HDR capability in the world and it won't do much if your TV has a shoddy processor or edge-lighting that can't make HDR object shine. To amend this, check out our guide to the best 4K TVs available today.
Should I buy the Amazon Fire TV Stick Lite?
Buy it if...
You want the cheapest Fire TV streamer out there
At just $29.99 / £29.99 / AU$59.99, it's a decent deal, even if the Roku Express undercuts it in some territories.
You want hands-free voice commands
Using Alexa is pretty nifty, even if the voice assistant can't handle everything you throw at it. For simple commands, though, it's a neat way to jump around the OS.
You're an Amazon Prime subscriber
Amazon is pretty intent on showcasing Amazon Prime movies and the like on its Fire TV platform – as well as associated Prime channels – and so you'll see more content relevant to you if you've bought into the Amazon ecosystem already.
Don't buy it if...
You want volume controls
The main issue with the Fire TV Stick Lite is its lack of TV or volume controls. For the sake of convenience, it might be easier to get the Fire TV Stick 2020 or Fire TV Stick 4K.
You want 4K HDR playback
You are having to sacrifice 4K resolution at this price point, so a 4K streamer may be better for viewing high-quality sources.
You're not an Amazon Prime subscriber
Amazon quite overtly tries to sell its own content to you where it can, and if you're not in the ecosystem it can get a bit annoying.