Amazon released its media streaming dongle, the Fire TV Stick, in the US at the tail end of last year, expanding its connected television line-up and offering a more discreet alternative to its Fire TV set-top-box. Now it is ready to bring the device to the UK and like it did with the Fire TV when it launched over here, it is offering it at a hugely discounted price for the first couple of days.
The Amazon Fire TV Stick is available to pre-order on Amazon.co.uk now and while it will normally be available for £35, it will cost you just £19 for the next 48 hours. What's more, if you sign up for a new Prime membership in that time - which is not needed as such but adds much more purpose to the device - you will get the streaming stick for just £7.
That's a pretty compelling offer in comparison to Google's Chromecast and the Roku Streaming Stick, at £30 and £50 respectively. Plus it has a better specifications list than each and offers almost exactly the same experience as its older, bigger sibling.
We will be reviewing the UK edition of the Fire TV Stick in the next couple of weeks, ahead of its official on-sale date, but we have had a play with the British version briefly prior to that.
The stick itself is identical to the US version although you'll get a UK power adapter which connects to the stick with an included USB cable. That will need to go into a wall socket as a TV's USB port won't emit enough power, so the device isn't completely discreet, but it's much better than having to hide a HDMI cable too.
The dongle then plugs straight into a HDMI port on your TV and is simple to set-up. It has dual-band Wi-Fi - something it has over the Chromecast - and runs on a dual-core processor with 1GB of RAM. You also get an included remote control, although it's not quite the same as the one that comes with the Fire TV STB as that has the microphone for voice search.
It does work with the better specified remote too, so you can add one for an additional £25. Alternatively, you can still use the voice search on the Fire TV Stick through the dedicated smartphone app for iPhone, Android and Fire Phone.
The user experience and main menu screen is identical to the existing Fire TV. There are a few minor differences, such as some of the more graphically intensive games available on the larger box requiring a quad-core processor so aren't available on the stick, but nigh-on everything else runs. And as smoothly it seems.
The Fire TV operating system is heavily centred on Amazon Instant Video and Prime members will get the most from it as they get a whole segment in the scroll bar for instant streaming of content that comes as part of their subscriptions.
When we say instant, we mean instant too. Even with the downgraded processor, TV shows and films start immediately thanks to Amazon's ASAP technology. There is no buffering process to be found. And the quality is maintained. That's really impressive for such a small, portable device.
Its portability is also at the heart of a feature designed almost exclusively for the stick. You will be able to use it on your travels, even in hotel rooms.
Amazon has solved one of the problems that usually prevents you from taking a streaming device away with you by presenting a rudimentary browser that pops up when the device encounters a "captive portal" at the Wi-Fi connection phase.
Most hotels require guests to sign in with either their name or room number and possibly even a passcode when logging onto the internet. Streaming devices don't usually have the ability to enter those details, therefore not allowing you to connect and stream, even if you've paid for in-room wireless internet access.
The mini-browser that pops up when encountering the barrier means you can sign in as you would on a PC and tablet and then use the stick to your heart's desire. Amazon will also be bringing the feature to the Fire TV box soon, but considering how small and portable the stick is, it seems better suited to the dongle.
The Fire TV Stick comes with 8GB of storage space built-in, enough for games and applications, and from launch it will have access to the extensive library of services now available on the platform, including Amazon Prime Instant Video rival Netflix. The company has also recently opened its SDK to HTML5 developers, increasing the amount of apps that can be built specifically for it. Not all of them will be based on Android going forward and web app developers can get in on the action.
As we said, we'll be reviewing the device fully in the coming weeks and exploring some of the other features in depth, but so far it looks to be a no-brainer for Prime members new and old. Especially at £19.