I had never tried a streaming stick before installing this Amazon FireTVstick. You plug the stick into the back of your TV through an HDMI port, plug the dongle into that, plug the power cable into that, then plug the power cable into an outlet. Once you update the software using your wi-fi network, the rest is handled through on-screen instructions which are pretty easy to follow.
You have to click through a few menus to get to the apps you like, as there are no shortcut buttons on the remote. There is no volume control either, so keep your TV remote handy.
Set up takes only a little while, but you'll need all your usernames and passwords to log into your favorite apps. That does take a while using those hunt and peck letter/number menus. But you only do that once. Downloads are about as fast as most android apps and function pretty much the same once installed.
From there you can log in to your favorite apps (Netflix, Amazon Video, YouTube, TED, Fandango Now, Movies Anywhere, etc.) and easily download any others you want. There's also access to music apps (Pandora, iHeart Radio, Amazon Music). Many require you to log into the app online using your computer, tablet, or android phone for confirmation codes, so keep those handy, too.
Downloads were fairly quick and everything can be installed over your wi-fi router. Clicking through the menu was quick and responsive with large icons which can be customized for position. The remote is quick and responsive too, however the interface was a bit convoluted. You have to start at the Main Page and be exposed to a suggested movie to get to the category you want, then the app you want, then the video you want. It's not point-and-click.
The apps work fine, but don't be fooled by the large number of video icons packed onto the stick from major broadcasters. These apps do not include free TV broadcasts by themselves. In many cases you can open the app, and maybe even watch a couple sample shows, but if you try to watch anything like a network show (ABC, CBS, NBC, CW, TCM, SYFY, etc.), most of them will require you to sign in with your (paid) TV service provider to actually watch anything. Sure, you can watch some old shows on apps like Pluto, Popcorn and TubiTV, but you'll need a paid TV app like Playstation Vue, YouTube TV, Sling, Hulu, Dish Network or Direct TV Now to watch live TV. Many of these are offered in the form of free 7-day trials, so they do make it easy.
The stick also comes with Amazon Prime Photos that downloads all the photos saved to Google so you can access them on your TV. It also has an All Screen Receiver so you can cast straight from your cell to your TV screen. Some say the FireTVstick favors Amazon apps, but only the prominent image on the main page. Everywhere else, the Amazon apps are there, but no more prominent than all the others.
I liked the minimalist look of the remote. Even with a couple of AA batteries it's rather small and light compared to most TV remotes but it fits the hand nicely and clicking it felt solid, perhaps a bit too firm but it seems like will last a long time. The ring style clicker is easy to use, but it’s also easy to drift your thumb off the four point directional position, clicking up when you meant left, which can be annoying at times.
Picture quality is another matter. It seemed like most every app looked a bit grainy, like the pixels weren't registering quite right. Starting each app requires several seconds to load, and although there's no real video lag or stutter, videos buffer for several seconds before they rise to full clarity. Yet even then, 1080p images just didn't look as crisp as broadcast TV. Even using Direct TV Now, TV shows took 10-20 seconds to load each channel.
So I began to wonder whether some other streaming stick might be a better alternative, A week after buying the FireTVstick, I got a Roku Streaming Stick free for signing up with Direct TV Now, with a 2-month commitment.
With the Roku, you do get a rather ordinary-looking remote, but you get access to the same apps. They load faster, menu navigation is simpler and smoother and video quality was beautiful, as clear as broadcast TV, even comparable to blu-ray at times. The dedicated buttons on the Roku also let you click directly to Netflix, Direct TV Now, Fandango Now or Pandora without having to cascade through the Home page. And with a volume control on the side, there's no need to keep your TV remote handy.
I liked the Amazon FireTVstick overall, but if you can afford the Roku - nearly twice the price of the Amazon stick, it’s well worth the price jump to get the better picture quality and convenience of operation.