Beginner’s Guide to the Amazon Fire Stick
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Firesticks are without doubt easy to use. What’s more, they are affordable too. Find out where to start with a Beginner’s Guide to the Amazon Fire Stick.
Table of Contents
What is a Firestick?
The Amazon Fire TV Stick is a small streaming device manufactured by Amazon. It pugs into a HDMI port on the back of your TV. This allows you to connect to your internet and stream videos on demand on your TV.
The Firestick works like your smartphone, installing and using apps. With this in mind, it essentially turns your TV into a Smart TV. However that doesn’t necessarily mean that even if you already have a smart TV, you do not need a Firestick.
For instance, most Smart TVs are limited by what apps you can install. It’s often difficult or impossible to sideload other apps hence you’re stuck with apps from your Smart TVs app store. On the contrary, that is not the case with the Firestick. Overall it’s much more flexible on account of what you can do with it and install on it.
Continue reading my Beginner’s Guide to the Amazon Fire Stick to find out more.
Which model should I choose?
Presently there are 4 models of Firestick to choose from. The main differences generally being processing power, RAM, resolution output and remote control.
(2021) Fire TV Stick 4K Max
Firstly, the newest and most expensive is the Fire TV Stick 4K Max at 54.99. This Firestick boasts Wi-Fi 6 connectivity, 4K streaming, a fast and powerful processor, 2gigs of RAM and a remote control that also controls your TV power and volume.
(2018) Fire TV Stick 4K
Secondly, if you’re not concerned about Wi-Fi 6 but you still want to stream in 4K, the Fire TV Stick 4K with a slightly older processor and 1.5gigs of RAM is 49.99.
A point often overlooked is that you do not need a 4K TV or a 4K streaming service to use these Firesticks. Because they come with a better processor and more RAM, they run faster and give you a smoother user experience compared to the HD Firesticks.
(2020) Fire TV Stick (HD 3rd gen)
Thirdly, if 4K viewing is not high on your priority list but being able to control your TV with the same remote is, then the Fire TV Stick is 39.99 and gives a maximum resolution output of full HD in 1080p.
(2020) Fire TV Stick Lite
And finally the cheapest Firestick is the Fire TV Stick Lite at 29.99 and also streams in full HD. The difference is that the remote doesn’t have the functions to power or change the volume of your TV.
From time to time throughout the year Firesticks go on sale. For example, usually for occasions like Mother’s Day, Easter, prime day or Black Friday. At these times you can save up to 70% off the regular retail price.
Are there any extra costs?
Once you’ve purchased your chosen model of Firestick, all you need is a TV with a HDMI port, Wi-Fi and an Amazon account.
There are no hidden extra monthly costs or subscriptions. You can start streaming from free services straightaway. That is unless you want to subscribe to services such as Netflix, prime video or Hulu.
Specifically, if you’re buying a Firestick because you’re looking to cut the cord, there are loads of really great apps that will give you live TV, TV shows, box sets and movies completely for free.
Check out my Firestick Streaming Guide for everything you need from free live TV, movies, sports, PPV events, Kodi information and reviews on paid IPTV services.
What’s inside the box?
All Firestick models come in a similarly designed box with the same accessories. Inside you will find the remote control, Fire TV Stick, power cable, documentation, 2 AA batteries for the remote control, wall plug and HDMI extender.
If you’d like to watch an unboxing, jump to 5:27 in my Beginner’s Guide to the Amazon Fire Stick video.
How to connect a Firestick
The Firestick plugs directly into a HDMI port on the back of your TV. Or you can use the HDMI extender in order to help get a better Wi-Fi signal and reduce overheating.
All Firesticks require power and it’s recommended to use the official power cable and wall plug that comes in the box. Plug the micro-USB end into the Firestick and the USB end of the cable into the USB wall plug.
If you’d like to watch this in action, jump to 5:55 in my Beginner’s Guide to the Amazon Fire Stick video.
But, if it’s difficult to get power to your Firestick using the wall plug, if your TV has a USB port, so long as it is 5V, you can power it from there.
How to set up a Firestick
Once the Firestick is plugged into the TV and a power supply, turn the TV on. You’ll then see the Fire TV logo on screen and you’ll be guided through set up step-by-step. Following the set-up guide will include connecting your Firestick to your Wi-Fi. You will need an Amazon account to be able to use the Firestick and you’ll also need to sign in with your username and password. Furthermore, if you purchased the Firestick directly from Amazon, the Firestick will be registered to your Amazon account so you won’t get this screen at set-up asking you to sign in.
Once you’ve completed the rest of the set-up you’ll be at the Home screen. If you’d like to see this in action, jump to 6:50 in my Beginner’s Guide to the Amazon Fire Stick video.
Firestick Home Screen
The Fire TV home screen is very simple to use indeed which is markedly one of the reasons why Firesticks are so popular. You have advertisements at the top of the screen for movies, shows and Fire TV tips.
Under that is the Home row where you can switch profiles, find new content, go right to live TV and a row of your most frequently used apps. To view all of your apps, select the button with 3 squares in it and finally, at the end of the Home row you have a cog icon which will take you to the Firestick settings.
Underneath the Home row you’ll find your recently watched list, sponsored content, recently used apps as well as suggestions of what to watch and which apps to install. The content will vary depending on both if you are subscribed to any streaming services and if you’ve installed the app and signed in.
Navigating the Firestick and Remote Buttons
All of the Firesticks are now sold with the 3rd Generation Alexa voice remote, apart from the Fire TV Stick Lite which is sold with the 2nd Generation Alexa Voice Remote Lite that does not have the volume and power controls for your TV.
The Home button takes you to your Firestick Home screen. Or if you press and hold the Home button for a few seconds, you can pull up a shortcut menu. Here you can do things like switch profiles, go to all of your apps, put the Firestick to sleep, start screen mirroring or access settings.
Above the Home button is a circular button for navigation. Move around your screen by pushing it left, right, up and down.
The button in the middle of the navigation circle is the Select button, also referred to as the centre button. This button is used to select and confirm any actions, like opening an app.
The back button will take you back to the previous screen or menu.
The button with 3 horizontal lines on it is the Menu button. Some people also call it the options button or hamburger button.
Then you have play/pause, rewind and fast forward. If you have the 3rd Gen Alexa voice remote, you also have the power, mute and volume buttons for your TV.
The button that looks like a TV with an aerial on top is for live TV and takes you right into to the live section. For more details on how to use this feature, check out my guide to Use the Live TV Tab.
There are 4 quick launch buttons for popular apps which are different depending on where you live. In the UK, we have buttons for prime video, Netflix, Disney+ and amazon music. If you are in the US, you’ll have slightly different ones.
And finally, there’s the Alexa button. Push and hold and say things like “show me new TV shows.” Alexa will find and show you TV shows from prime video or other supported installed apps.
All Firesticks come with preinstalled apps such as prime video, Freevee, YouTube and Netflix. Some apps you can use for free such as Freevee and YouTube. Other apps will require a separate subscription such as Netflix and prime video.
To download a new app, you can use your Alexa voice remote. Press and hold the Alexa button and a blue line will pop up at the bottom of the screen. Say the name of the app you want to install and Alexa will search the Appstore for you.
You can also manually search the app store. From the Home screen, tap over to Find, then tap down and select Search. Use the remote with the keyboard on screen and you’ll see predictive search results listed below. Tap down and select a search term from the list. Then select the app and click the Download button to install it.
The app store that the Firestick uses is the Amazon app store. here are thousands of apps that are compatible with your Fire TV. You won’t have access to the Google Play store or any other app store. You may find that some apps you’re searching for can’t be found. However, there are ways around this.
You can install an app called Downloader that will allow you to download apps from other places.
You can get Downloader from the Amazon app store. Ask Alexa or manually search for Downloader. After you’ve installed the Downloader app, open it and click Allow to access to your media.
You’ll also need to make an adjustment within your Firestick settings to allow the Downloader app to install apps from other places.
From your Home screen, tap over the Cog icon to go into the settings. Tap down and select My Fire TV / Developer Options / Install Unknown Apps / Find Downloader and select it to turn this option on.
Open the Downloader app and enter 28907 to access an alternative app store. Here you’ll find apps for free movies, live channels and TV shows. If you’d like more information on how to use this alternative app store, take a look at my guide to Jailbreak the Amazon Firestick.
Overall the Firestick is really flexible and there are loads of things you can do with it. From connecting Bluetooth headphones to increasing the storage to screen mirroring your Android or iOS phone, tablet or PC to it. I hope that this guide has helped you to become more confident with using the Firestick. Check out my other guides for more advanced tips.