Top positive review
Great value overall if you're a Prime Member, but some "Free for Prime Members" listings aren't actually free.
Reviewed in the United States on July 22, 2016
I didn't attach photos to this review because everyone knows what a Fire Stick and remote look like by now and frankly....the Set-Up and use is super-simple. Lots of people here have covered the "tech specs" in detail, so I'll only overview that and focus on my actual experience.
The stick is very easy to use...plug it into your television's HDMI port, flip your actual TV to "HDMI 2" (or whatever mode you use for other devices) and then put batteries in the remote, click a few buttons...and the menu and stick load up. The first thing you want to do is browse the apps and download the ones you'll primarily be using to view shows. Definitely start out with Hulu, Netflix, and HBO Now. If you have satellite radio stations you love on your phone/devices....probably download Pandora or other 3rd party radio app for when you don't feel like browsing Amazon's Music Library and just want it to auto-play.
Please note, that I'm a Prime member, so my review IS based on having a lot more built in features than if I wasn't a Prime member (more show/movie options available in my membership). I do have regular Cable and pay over $200 per month, but I purchased the Fire Stick on Prime Day for $24.99 because I figured just having access to Amazon's own shows and music library more than made up for the cost of the stick (and it does if you include nothing else).
For Prime members, there are quite a few HBO shows on the regular "For Prime" menu available. A majority of them are free to Prime members with the exception of 2 or 3 shows like "Justified". And NO ...."Game of Thrones" is not a regular Amazon Prime option if you were holding out hope. However, I bookmarked probably 25 free HBO shows and Amazon Shows right away and was impressed the many options available to Prime members in the shows. The movie library is pretty large, but is a lot like Netflix and features mostly really old classics like "Top Gun" and "Platoon" and "Hunt for Red October". There's a few newer movies here and there, but don't expect to get any new releases whether you're a Prime member or not. I'm happy with the options available, though.
The sound and video quality is excellent and there are no problems with freezing or lagging that I've noted. The remote and menu are easy to navigate and fairly easy to bookmark once you get the hang of the layout. I have no gripes with the number of shows Amazon offers to Prime members for the $24.99 I paid for the stick. I figure that price plus the yearly fee of $99 for the Prime Membership make each thing (the cost of membership as well as the cost of stick) more worthwhile when in conjunction even if I never use either again after the year is up.
Most of the Premium apps are the same price as you would pay through your Cable Provider and offer no more than a 7-Day Trial. So if there's something you want to see on Showtime, Starz, etc....do it fast and in 7 days otherwise, you'll be stuck with a subscription added onto your Cable Bill. I don't *think* you can use them unless you're willing to provide your Cable Provider info...so I recommend not bothering to download those.
However, DEFINITELY think about using the HBO NOW application because you do NOT need to have regular Cable, you don't have to provide your Cable Provider info, and if you choose to subscribe, you can cancel at anytime and the subscription is attached to your Prime Account Payment info rather than attached to your Cable Bill. It's a 30 Day free trial and means you can binge watch all of the shows that you'd have to pay for on the "Prime Members" menu on Amazon for free....or you can pay $14.99 per month with no contract if you plan to watch a lot of the HBO shows that Amazon offers....but charges $24.99 PER SEASON for. That's why I wrote a whole section about the HBO NOW app. You can watch HBO's FULL lineup as much as you want for $14.99 per month....so DON'T fall for paying $24.99 per season of individual and limited HBO shows on the regular Amazon menu.
My biggest gripe is that Amazon doesn't tell you this (and I understand that they're trying to make money), but it annoys me that when you come across an HBO shows that isn't included in your Prime Membership and you select the "more ways to watch" button, it doesn't tell you that you can view anything you want on HBO NOW for $14.99 (nor the free 30 day trial), it just tells you that you can rent/buy each season from Amazon for the much higher price. And as a Prime Member that already pays $100 per year, I think it's a bit sleazy.
What royally pissed me off was that nearly all of the HBO shows that are NOT free to Prime Members are clearly marked as you're scrolling through them. They are mostly either totally free to Prime members....or totally NOT free and clearly marked. But Amazon ADVERTISES the popular HBO show, "VEEP" as free to watch for Prime members....and then it wasn't. I wouldn't have minded if it was clearly marked a "paid" show....but what is actually "free to Prime members" is ONLY the first 3 Seasons. Season 4 and 5 suddenly ask you for $24.99 to keep watching! I was really unhappy about that because it's reasonable to expect people to read to see whether or not the titles are "free for Prime members", but to except people to scroll through 30 episodes and 3 Seasons just to "make sure" it's still free is ridiculous and clearly a sleazy ploy that sucks people into watching the first 3 Seasons of Veep (so you're already into it) and then WHAM! you can't watch anymore unless you want to pay the insane $24.99 two times for the other 2 Seasons. So that is when I went ahead and downloaded HBO NOW for the free month so that I could watch the rest of VEEP at no charge and whatever other shows I can't get on Amazon.
Since that happened, now I have to go through every season, every episode, one-by-one before I get into a series because I don't want a nasty surprise like that again and I'd rather not watch or get into those shows to begin with. And it annoys me that I have to do that on shows that are listed as "free for Prime" for the first few Seasons. Maybe VEEP is the only show they did that with, but I haven't had a chance to get through checking each episode of every show to find out yet. But beware because that's a show they use as an advertisement to Prime Members that you can watch "free"....but not really.
So I recommend getting the 30 days free HBO and watching whatever shows are listed as "paid" on Amazon's menu first during that 30 day free trial....and saving the truly free HBO shows on Amazon's menu for after you decide to cancel the HBO membership (or decide to keep it since $14.99 isn't bad for the network most shows air on that you'd want to see, but don't get on Amazon's menu).
I wanted to highlight that because I saw other reviews with some confusion regarding the free/paid shows. I didn't come across any that said "free" but then took you to a paid screen/advertisement....but I definitely experienced watching 3 full Seasons of VEEP and then getting a surprise at Season 4 when it told me to pay $24.99 for it. So there is definitely still some shady stuff that you need to watch for and try to utilize so that it works best for you and hopefully this helps people avoid the VEEP-trap.
I don't know how many other shows have this trap, but I'll update this to list them once I can get through the tedious and totally unnecessary task of going through every episode of every show to find out how "free" they really are. Shame on Amazon for this. It's really a crappy way to treat members already paying $100 per year.
That being said, I still give this 4 stars because there IS a large selection of shows and music for Prime Members without considering the HBO shows. However, if you aren't a Prime Member....I can't imagine what you'd have left to watch. I also have a Netflix subscription prior to this along with the Prime Membership and *for now* the HBO NOW Trial....but honestly, if you don't have Prime there would be pretty much nothing to watch unless you managed to find a few freebies on 3rd Party apps. Maybe I just don't know about them, but I didn't see anything listed as "free to everyone" without having previous memberships or Prime. Maybe Hulu still has some free shows??
Anyway, overall this is still a good deal for Prime Members and a good way to make the most out of your membership cost if you're like me and don't have any interest in watching shows/movies on your tablet and mostly ignore that feature if you can't play it on your TV. I don't even own a Kindle....I have a Samsung S2 Tablet and got the Prime membership largely for the 2 day Prime Shipping and mostly nothing else. I'm glad that buying the stick made my membership more worthwhile to me.
I'll update this if I find more shady, hidden fees and/or added features that I didn't know about as I use the stick more and plod through the lists of shows you can actually watch.