Amazon on Wednesday announced a refresh of its popular Fire TV Stick media streamer.
The new Stick looks virtually identical to the old one, but packs a quad-core processor and support for 802.11ac WiFi. Amazon claims those upgrades make the device “up to 30 per cent” faster than the original miniature media streamer, which had a dual-core chip and last-gen 802.11n WiFi when it launched in late 2014.
The new device also supports the company’s Alexa digital assistant, which is accessible through an included voice-enabled remote. Tap the microphone button on its front, and you can ask the AI to launch certain apps, find specific genres of shows, check the weather, churn out random facts, and do most of the other tasks it’d do on an Amazon Echo. (Minus things like smart home control.)
Amazon previously sold a version of the 2014 Fire TV Stick that came with an Alexa-powered remote — which worked fairly smoothly for me in past experiences — but priced it at $50. The new Fire TV Stick, meanwhile, makes that remote standard, and costs $40.
One thing that hasn’t changed is the Fire TV’s interface. It’s still not bad, and Amazon has done well to incorporate more channels into its search function, but it generally plays nicer if you’re an Amazon Prime member. That said, Amazon says it will update the UI on all Fire TV devices later this year, adding, among other things, a Roku-like ability to customise the order of apps on the home screen.
You also won’t find 4K or high dynamic range (HDR) support. That’s not surprising at this price point, but it’s worth noting that the dongle maxes out at a 1080p resolution.
The streamer is available for pre-order on Wednesday, and will start shipping on October 20. Amazon hopes to sweeten the deal by giving a month of Dish’s Sling TV service, two months of ad-supported Hulu, and $10 in Amazon Video credit to anyone who buys the device by October 31.
The quiet announcement comes just two days after rival Roku unveiled its latest crop of streaming boxes, including a new $30 option called the Roku Express (which is limited to 802.11n WiFi). Its excellent Roku Streaming Stick still goes for $50, too. Google, meanwhile, still has its $35 Chromecast (which has no Wi-Fi limitations), and is expected to announce a 4K-capable version of that device at an October 4 event.
All told, the new Fire TV Stick doesn’t seem to be anything more than your standard issue hardware refresh, but it should further Amazon’s ongoing effort to put Alexa anywhere and everywhere. The original Stick proved to be a hit, but was starting to show its age, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see this budget-level upgrade drive plenty of sales for the ecommerce giant over the holidays.
Disclosure: Jeff Bezos is an investor in Business Insider through hispersonal investment company Bezos Expeditions.