What is a Fire Stick and how does it work? The expert guide to Amazon's smart TV service

From what is a Fire Stick to how Amazon's Fire TV works, find out how to access Alexa voice control, extra channels, apps and more

What is a fire stick Mayfair apartment living room with green armchair
(Image credit: Anna Stathaki)

What is a Fire Stick is a big question for anyone who wants to access the best TV content. As being clued up on the latest TV tech knowledge, means you can access the best shows and be well set for 8pm when you curl up on the sofa. And after a challenging day, nothing much else matters at that point, right? 

With so many streaming services out there, it's no longer just enough to own one of the best TV brands, and Amazon's Fire TV delivers thousands of extra apps, channels, and shows to your TV. Using one of the latest Amazon Fire TV streaming devices makes it easy to upgrade the content on your existing smart TV and use Alexa to control your TV using your voice. Here we run through the options and what to expect when adding Fire TV to your home setup.

Emily Peck

Emily has always crossed the divide between tech journalism and lifestyle journalism. She understands and is first to know about the latest innovations in TVs, and was able to use this insight to speak to the best experts and get to the bottom of what a Fire Stick is, and whether it's worth it for Livingetc readers to own one.

What is a Fire Stick and how does it work? 

You can buy TVs and soundbars with Fire TV built into the design such as Amazon's Fire TV 4-Series or the Nebula soundbar. A popular way to get Fire TV on your existing smart TV, however, is to use one of Amazon's family of Fire TV media streaming devices such as Fire TV Stick or Fire TV Cube.

As one of the smartest living room TV ideas, Fire TV lets you stream YouTube, watch live TV, and catch up on content from the likes of BBC iPlayer, IT Player, Netflix, Prime Video, and more, for example. You can use Fire TV to listen to music from services such as Amazon Music, and Spotify and access live radio and podcasts. It's an easy way to access fitness apps such as FiiT, Peloton, and Les Mills too, which makes home workouts easier than ever before - although will power is unfortunately not included in the subscription.

The kids will love Fire TV too as it gives access to the subscription-based service Amazon Kids+, which has all the latest shows including the incredibly popular Super Spy Ryan. But a small disclaimer is to say good luck when your child inevitably decides they're a mega fan of Ryan's World. We've been there, bought the plastic merchandise, screamed into a pillow, and feel your pain, but fear not as it's all fun of the fair. 

Amazon Fire TV Stick

(Image credit: Amazon Fire TV Stick)

5 ways to get Fire TV 

1. Fire TV stick 

The Fire TV Stick costs from $18.99 and comes with HDR and Dolby Atmos Support for great sound with compatible content and speakers. It has a 1.7 GHz quad-core processor for fast streaming - in 1080p at 60fps and HDR compatibility to be precise. It also comes with an Alexa Voice Remote so you can press a button on the remote and ask Alexa to show find, show and launch content.

2. Fire TV Stick Lite 

Priced at $33.98, the Fire TV Stick Lite is a less expensive option than the standard Fire TV Stick. Use it to stream in Full HD and with HDR support it has the ability to really boost picture quality. It also comes with an Alexa Voice Remote Lite so you can use your voice to find, launch and control the content you want to watch. 

3. Fire TV Stick 4K with Alexa Voice Remote

Supporting both 1080p Full HD and 4K Ultra HD, Fire TV Stick 4K with Alexa Voice Remote has Dolby Vision and provides cinematic 4K streaming. Priced at $54.99, it's in the middle-range price bracket of all Fire TV devices. It gives you the benefits of an Alexa Voice Remote with TV controls built in so you can navigate all your content from one device, easily making it one of the best Alexa compatible devices.

4. Fire TV Stick 4K Max

Fire TV Stick 4K Max costs $59.99 and is a 4K Ultra HD streaming media player which is 40% more powerful than the standard Fire TV Stick 4K. It comes with a quad-core 1.8GHz processor and 2GB of RAM, which means apps will start quickly and keeps the navigation smooth. It also supports 4K UHD, HDR and HDR10+ streaming, Dolby Vision, and Dolby Atmos for great picture quality and sound. It also gives you the ability to live view picture in a picture, which you can also do on the Fire TV Cube. 

With Alexa Home Theatre you can connect to compatible devices such as Echo Studio to create better sound in your living room and it has Alexa voice control so you can turn on shows just by asking Alexa what you want. 

The Fire TV Stick 4K Max is also Amazon's first media streaming player to offer Wi-Fi 6 support - the latest standard of Wi-Fi. 

5. Fire TV Cube 

At $139.99, the Fire TV Cube is the most premium device in the Fire TV range and sits neatly alongside your TV. It has tech such as Dolby Vision and 4K Ultra HD content (at up to 60fps) for great picture quality, along with the impressive audio clarity of Dolby Atmos. 

Fire TV Cube has voice control so you can access content just by asking Alexa, without the need for a remote. The Cube also has a built-in speaker so you can ask Alexa to give you updates such as news or weather updates even when the TV is off. 

Amazon Fire TV Cube

(Image credit: Amazon Fire TV Cube)

Top 5 ways to use Fire TV - by Emma Gilmartin, Head of Fire TV Europe


'There are a variety of fitness apps available on Fire TV, such as Les Mills, FiiT, and Peloton – so you can easily access workout content in one place.' says Emma. 


'Fire TV has Alexa, so you can ask for shows and movies from streaming services and they will show on screen. For example, you can say “Alexa, play Alex Rider” and it will play from the applicable streaming service,' says Emma. 


'Having your own profile is a simple way to see your favorite apps and shows on your personalized home screen. With child profiles you can also access Amazon Kids+ content, with a subscription,' says Emma. 


'You can connect your best Alexa-compatible devices to Fire TV. For example, you could connect a Ring doorbell and ask Alexa to show the live view of the front door. This pops up as a small window over the top of the content you’re watching,' says Emma.


'On Fire TV you can switch between live TV and streaming services – so you can easily watch the latest TV show from Netflix, but also watch live TV on ITV Hub and Sky News,' says Emma. 

Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max

(Image credit: Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max)

How do I get channels on Fire TV? 

Much like services such as Netflix or Sky, you should find the Fire TV interface on your television straightforward and intuitive to navigate and well-prepped with ideas on what to watch. The main menu at the center of your screen makes it easy to search for what you’re looking for. You can scroll over apps to jump direct to content and start playing instantly.

What voice commands can I give my Fire TV?

The best thing about using Fire TV is being able to use Alexa voice control, which is at the heart of the Fire TV experience. To get you started try saying ‘Alexa, go to library’ or ‘Alexa, open Prime Video’. You can also use Alexa to control the volume or jump straight to a particular show and start watching. 

One of the UK's most respected tech and smart homes writers, Emily Peck also covers everything from interiors style to decorating trends. She is a contributor to Wired UK, and has also had a column in House Beautiful. She has written for publications such as Grand Designs, Stylist, Shortlist, Woman&Home, BBC, Ideal Home and House & Garden. She was once the Features Editor of Ideal Home.