Top positive review
New Lite version offers basic remote, but full range of features
Reviewed in the United States 🇺🇸 on November 10, 2020
I have several Fire Sticks, Roku TVs, and a Roku Express. I don't have a need for 4K so that feature, found on the more expensive models, is not important to me. Price and basic performance are what counts. The new FireTV Stick Lite delivers--especially at the current promotional price.
All three of my basic Fire Sticks are standard models and identical in appearance with slightly different remote controls. The oldest standard stick has the most basic features and no volume or power button. The newer standard model has the same controls but with the addition of a power button, mute button and volume controls. The newest Lite model removes the power and sound buttons, but adds a guide button, not on the other two.
They removed the power and sound buttons on the Lite model. With these buttons, I pretty much don't have to use the TV remote control at all. For a few dollars more, you may want to consider the basic FireTV stick, just to get the power and sound buttons. Just make sure that you are getting a newer model with these features, and not the original stick without these buttons.
UPDATE 12/13/2020: I discovered that you CAN control the TV Power ON/OFF with the Fire Stick Lite if your TV is CEC capable (most are.) Pressing the HOME button on the Fire remote should turn the TV on and switch to the Fire input. If the TV is already on, pressing the HOME button will switch to the correct input. To turn the TV off, press the MIC button and say "TV POWER OFF" and it should turn the TV off. Make sure that your TV HDMI settings have CEC control turned on for this hidden feature to work. So far, I haven't been able to control the volume this way.
All of the remote controls use RF (radio frequencies) to control the stick, rather than the usual infra-red (IR) controls found on TV remotes. That means that they don't have to be pointed at the TV to work. In fact, they wouldn't work with the Fire Sticks if they were IR remotes since the Stick sits behind the TV. The downside to the RF remote is that they are specific to the individual stick. The menu allows you to pair a new remote to the Fire Stick if you replace one. You can also access the Fire Stick with your cell phone with the FireTV app. This has come in handy when I've misplaced the remote control, or worn down the battery and not had a replacement. By comparison, the Roku Express (and my Roku TVs) use IR remotes that you have to point. They are interchangeable, and the batteries seem to last longer than the RF remotes used with the Sticks.
Performance, picture quality and speed are good on all three Fire Stick models. The Lite model is the newest of the basic models and should have the fastest speed, but I haven't detected any difference. To save on network bandwidth, I force all of my devices to operate at 720P. The picture quality is quite good on my TVs (up to 50") and pushing higher resolutions just wastes bandwidth, in my opinion. However, picture quality is heavily dependent on the particular app and type of content being watched, so I can't really make any predictions how it will work for you.
The FireTV Sticks plug directly into the HDMI connector on your TV. A short extension cable is provided if there is not enough space for the Stick to be plugged directly in. The unit is provided with a 5V 1.0 amp AC adapter and a short USB cable. Amazon recommends plugging the stick in to a separate outlet, rather than using the USB jack on many TVs. In fact, if the unit detects that the TV USB connector doesn't have enough amperage, you'll get a message telling you not to use it. It's more convenient to use the TV to power the Stick but there are drawbacks aside from the lack of power. The TV often turns off the USB connector when powered down, meaning that when you turn on the TV, the Fire Stick will have to reboot and reconnect to your network, slowing down your start-up. It would also be possible, in rare instances, to accidentally power down your stick with the TV when an upgrade is being performed, which could cause problems. All that said, I still use the Fire Stick with a smaller 24" Vizio that I carry out to the patio, and power it with the TV's USB connector.
All of the FireTV Sticks have the ability to talk to Alexa by pressing the microphone button. Because they are directly linked to the FireTV stick, you can also tell it to search for and pull up apps. Before using the FireTV products, I was accustomed to selecting a search box and keying in what I was looking for. With the FireTV Sticks, I can press the mic button and say what app I'm looking for and install it. Or, I can tell it what program I am looking for and it may search and find it on YouTube, then start playing it. Neat feature and habit forming. The voice remote has many other features, like being able to answer my Ring doorbells, view my CloudCams, and other Alexa related skills. However, for most Alexa related activities, I usually have an Echo in the same room and use that, rather than the Fire Stick.
How does the FireTV Stick Lite compare with the Roku Express? Because they are similarly priced, you'd expect them to be very similar, but they are actually quite different. I've always liked Roku's and the Express is a very fast and capable unit. It doesn't hang from the HDMI connector, but instead connects with a short cable and sits under or on top of the TV, positioned so the remote's IR beam can control it. The Roku Express seems to respond faster, and with some apps, performs much faster. Again, that could be and app thing, and not the performance of the unit. With CEC compatible TVs, the Express is able to turn the TV power on and off with the basic remote. One BIG difference (and one that's hard to find in the literature) is that the FireTV Stick works on Wi-Fi at 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz. The Roku Express only works at 2.4GHz. If your network is heavily dependent on 5GHz, the Roku Express won't be a good choice. Fortunately, in my situation I am able to use both.
Finally, with any smart TV adapter, make sure that you get one that will run the program apps that you want. They are mostly the same on the Roku and Fire devices but there are differences. For example, on the FireTV Stick, I can view my Amazon Photo library, including videos that I've shot with my cel phone. I can't do that (at present) with the Roku. You may find that the Roku has apps that are not available on the FireTV products. Ultimately, it's the apps that make these things work.