Amazon Fire TV Stick (2021) 3rd-gen full review
The 3rd-gen Amazon Fire TV Stick was originally launched in 2020, but then got re-released in 2021 with an updated remote control.
This has useful TV controls that you don’t get with the Fire TV Stick Lite - now including dedicated buttons for Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+ and Amazon Music. Amazon has also changed the microphone button so it's blue and has an Alexa logo on it.
The Stick itself hasn't changed for 2021: it's the same third-generation model with a processor that's 50% more powerful than the 2019 2nd-gen model.
Features & Design
Like all Fire TV Sticks, this is one is designed to hide behind your TV and plug straight into an HDMI port. If that’s impossible, there’s a short extension cable in the box.
You’ll need to use the included mains power plug unless your TV has a spare USB port that delivers enough power, and there are no other ports: if you can’t connect the Stick to Wi-Fi you’ll need to buy the optional Ethernet adapter from Amazon.
For those unfamiliar with the Fire TV range, they are streaming devices that allow you to access Amazon’s Prime Video service (an adverts on the main screen constantly remind you of this fact), as well as Netflix, YouTube, Disney+, local services including catch-up TV and – in the US at least – live TV.
The Appstore offers a very good range of apps and games and it’s hard to think of much that isn’t there that you’d want. This is why buying a Fire TV Stick is an inexpensive way to make any TV smart.
In the UK you’ll find iPlayer, ITV Hub, All 4, My5, BritBox, Disney+, Netflix, YouTube and more. US users get Netflix, Disney+, HBO Max, Sling, Spotify, Hulu, ESPN, CBS All Access, Fubo, Philo, Starz, Peloton, Tubi, PBS and more.
Alexa isn't exactly a central part of the Fire TV Stick, but she's there - with a new blue button on the remote - so you can press it on the remote control and ask her to play specific shows, find stuff that you might want to watch, play music, give you a weather forecast, turn on the lights (if you have smart bulbs) and everything else that she can do.
In fact, if you make the effort to use voice commands instead of pressing buttons to navigate the interface, you can start watching your show a lot faster.
The remote itself uses infrared to control power and volume on your TV, and it's a simple setup process to get it working. It also works with soundbars if you're using one instead of your TV speakers.
The 2021 Fire TV Stick has 8GB of storage for apps and games and it supports HDR, HDR10+ and HLG. So if your TV supports HDR and the show you’re watching was recorded in HDR, the Fire TV Stick will let you see it.
Chances are, though, that if your TV isn’t 4K it won’t support HDR. Plus, you’re more likely to opt for the Fire TV Stick 4K if you do have a UHD TV.
Amazon recently redesigned the main menu and put it in the middle of the screen rather than at the top. It’s simpler, too, with options for Home, Find and Library.
To the right are your six most-used apps, and a settings shortcut to the right of those. Using the remote to highlight any of those apps will cause the thumbnails below to show content from that video service without having to launch the app, which is a fast way to find things to watch.
If you move down to select any of the thumbnails, the whole menu moves to the top to make more room for content from that provider.
If you’re really stuck, you can use the Find menu option which brings up a screen full of tiles.
These include Films, TV shows, Kids & Family along with recommended categories such as Comedy, Drama, Thrillers and Documentaries. Select one of those and you’ll be shown matching content from a variety of services, though you will of course need to be subscribed and / or signed in to those services to watch most of them.
The big Search tile seems redundant given the microphone button on the remote, which is far quicker than using the on-screen keyboard to find something specific.
The extra processing power makes the interface nice and responsive, and videos begin streaming very quickly.
If there's a negative, it's the same problem that has always existed on the Fire TV (and Fire tablets for that matter). There's still too much promotion of Amazon's own content on Prime video. It's obvious why it's there, but it's annoying if you're not a Prime member and don't want to watch any of it.
Although profiles have existed on the Fire TV for a while now, they’re more prominent in the updated interface, sitting to the far left of the main menu. You can click on this to change to another profile, and it’s possible to have up to six profiles which should be enough for most households.
Profiles are very useful, just as they are in Netflix, as they mean you see more relevant recommendations than if everyone in the family uses the same account. That doesn’t help in certain apps such as YouTube where your kids might not have YouTube accounts.
So the feature isn’t as useful as it could be yet. Here’s hoping Amazon addresses this quickly.
Another change is that Alexa won’t take over the whole screen with certain responses, meaning you can continue to watch a video or browse the interface even if you’ve asked her for some information, such as sports scores or a weather forecast.
The responses are shown in the bottom half of the screen, leaving the rest free.
Price & Availability
At £39.99 / US$39.99, the Fire TV Stick costs the same as ever, being £10/$10 less than the 4K version and £10/$10 more than the Lite edition.
Amazon often discounts its hardware, so if you happen to find this 3rd-gen Firestick on sale, it's likely to be a much better bargain than the 4K model - unless that's discounted as well.
For alternatives to the Fire TV Stick range, read our roundup of the best streaming sticks (and boxes) including Chromecast, Roku and Apple TV.
The 3rd-gen Fire TV Stick is a great choice if you’re looking to upgrade your TV’s streaming capabilities and also adds Alexa into the mix.
If you have a 4K TV, buy the Fire TV Stick 4K, but if yours is just 1080p, or you don't care about 4K, then there are several good reasons to spend the extra over the Fire TV Stick Lite, one of which is the updated remote control with those extra shortcuts to Netflix and Prime Video.
Amazon Fire TV Stick (2021) 3rd-gen: Specs
- Media streamer
- 1.7GHz quad-core processor
- 1GB RAM
- 8GB storage
- 802.11ac Wi-Fi with MIMO
- Voice Remote included
- HDMI extender included
- Support for Dolby Atmos, Dolby Digital+
- Output: 720p or 1080p up to 60fps
- 86 x 30 x 13 mm
- One-year warranty
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