Fire TV Stick

This article is based on an article from the Japanese edition of Engadget and was created using the translation tool Deepl.

If you're looking to watch video streaming on your TV, Amazon's Fire TV Stick is a great way to do it. Just plug it into your TV and connect it to Wi-Fi, and you can watch not only Amazon Prime Video, but also Netflix, Hulu, Disney+ with DAZN, Apple TV, and any other video streaming service on your TV.

A new version of the useful Fire TV Stick has recently been introduced. The third-generation Fire TV Stick, which goes on sale September 30, has 50% more processing power than its predecessor and now supports HDR 10+. However, it will only support Full HD resolution (no 4K) and will not support Dolby Vision, which is supported by the higher-end models.

However, the price is noteworthy. At 4,980 yen (including tax), it is one of the most affordable models in the Fire TV series. If you buy it during Amazon's occasional sales, you could get it for even less.

Fire TV Stick
The compact third-generation Fire TV Stick package.
Fire TV Stick
It comes with a stick-shaped unit that can be plugged directly into the HDMI port, a remote control with voice control, a micro-USB cable and AC charger for power, and an adapter to use when there's not enough space around the HDMI port.

Related article (Japanese) : New Fire TV Stick announced. 50% more powerful than previous model, HDR support

Not many people would choose this model because it's HDR 10+ compatible. This is because most of the current models of TVs that support the HDR 10 standard also support 4K resolution. Even if you have an HDR-capable Full HD TV from a few years ago, if you're going to use it on your main TV, it seems wise to choose the higher-end Fire TV Stick 4K model in anticipation of replacing your TV (the price difference is 2,000 yen).

If you dare to choose a Fire TV Stick, you'll want to find ways to use it for its low price. I happened to have an extra PC monitor, so I tried to repurpose it with the Fire TV Stick.

Bedroom Sub TV Plan with Fire TV Stick

This time, I repurposed a used monitor and set a goal to make a sub TV for the bedroom without spending a lot of money. The TV does not receive terrestrial waves. To be more precise, it's a viewing environment for enjoying streaming TV.

The monitor to be used this time is the Acer KA240HQ. Since it is a cheap model for PC, it is not suitable for video viewing with no audio and non-glare, but it is equipped with an HDMI terminal for the time being.

The Fire TV Stick can be set up by plugging directly into the HDMI port. Follow the initial setup screen to connect to Wi-Fi and set up your Amazon account. By the way, if you select an Amazon account at the time of purchase, it will be shipped in a set state, so you can set up more easily. So far, it's no different than using it on a standard TV set.

Bluetooth speakers can be connected, but there are pitfalls

One of the challenges of using the monitor is dealing with audio, as the Fire TV Stick doesn't have an audio output jack. It would be nice if the monitor had an audio output jack, but inexpensive PC monitors, no audio capability is common.

I came up with the idea of using Bluetooth audio, and the Fire TV Stick has Bluetooth capability for connecting a mouse and keyboard, and you can actually use a Bluetooth speaker.

Open the Bluetooth item on the unit's settings screen and select "Other Bluetooth Devices". Connect the Bluetooth speaker with new settings. Then I was able to output audio without difficulty.

However, depending on the Bluetooth speaker, it may be inconvenient to use. This is because you can't control the volume of the audio output with Bluetooth audio, so it has to be controlled by the speaker. Therefore, if the speaker is not equipped with a volume control function, the volume of the default setting on the content side will be played.

First of all, I connected the VECLOS SSA-40 Bluetooth speaker made by Thermos, which I had obtained inexpensively before, to it. When I played a movie as a test, although it is a compact speaker, it is reproduced with a powerful sound. It is loud enough to watch, but it is a little embarrassing to sound at night.

The SSA-40 is a Thermos Bluetooth speaker with thermos technology, and we recommend it as a PC speaker, with its minimalist body and delicate treble expression.
Fire TV Stick
It's a compact and desirable system, but there's no way to control the volume on the Fire TV Stick or the Bluetooth speaker.

That's when I happened to see the Echo Show (first generation) that I was using beside it. It's a powerful sounding smart speaker with a display, but I hadn't been able to make much use of it because of the limited video streaming services available. There's no reason not to use these.

The Amazon Echo series has the capability of a Bluetooth speaker, which allows you to talk to it and say "Alexa, pair Bluetooth," and pair your phone and other devices with it. I was able to connect it in the same steps as a typical Bluetooth speaker.

The bedroom TV is frankly the best way to enjoy Fire TV with the sound of the Echo Show with its large-diameter speaker system. You can watch Prime Video and Netflix, as well as commercial video services like TVer and AbmaTV, so you won't feel like you're missing out on a ton of content.

Fire TV Stick
A comfortable bedroom theater was created using the oddity of connecting the Echo Show as a Bluetooth speaker. However, you can't control the volume with the Fire TV Stick's remote control.
Fire TV Stick
The Echo Show can watch videos on its own, but there are limited services available.

The startup is fast and the Bluetooth remote control makes for quick screen control. At least it's noticeably more comfortable than the smart TVs of a few years ago. Even the pending volume control can be controlled via the main body panel on the Echo Show side or by talking to it and saying, "Alexa, turn the volume to 5 (50%).

The image quality of the monitor is lacking, but since the concept is to make the best use of surplus items to begin with, that's acceptable.

With two Echo Dots, you can have surround sound playback

Since there was no audio output on the monitor side, I used Bluetooth audio in this case, but depending on the Echo series models, you can also utilize an even higher quality connection method.

The Echo speakers actually have an audio integration feature with Fire TV called the Home Theater feature. This feature was previously not available on the less expensive Fire TV Stick, but now it's supported by the third generation.

Related article (Japanese) : Amazon lets you build a home theater with Fire TV and Echo

This feature allows you to connect your Fire TV and Echo over Wi-Fi to transfer audio. If you have the latest Echo, Echo Dot, or Echo Plus, you can take advantage of this feature.

According to Amazon's support page, the speaker's requirements for support are also surprisingly strict. The first Echo Show I owned was not eligible. Conveniently, I had an extra third-generation Echo Dot (as usual), so I set it up to try it out. It sounds good despite its compact chassis.

Fire TV Stick
Fire TV Stick
If you pair it with the latest Echo series, you'll get a home theater feature that connects over Wi-Fi. You can even control the volume with remote control.

However, if you can't output audio from the Fire TV Stick itself, you'll need at least two compatible Echo devices for surround sound output. I reverted to the Echo Show's Bluetooth connection for now.

Amazon devices are often on sale and discounted, so the Echo speakers will eventually become cheaper. You can buy more at that point.

This article is based on an article from the Japanese edition of Engadget and was created using the translation tool Deepl. The Japanese edition of Engadget does not guarantee the accuracy or reliability of this article.