Like most tech purchases in my life, I didn't decide I needed a Fire TV Stick until catastrophe forced my hand. When a Netflix-and-chill sesh was ruined by a faulty Apple TV that refused to load an episode of High Maintenance without sending me back to screensaver purgatory every two minutes, I knew my trusty 7 year-old streaming device's time had come. With the cheapest 4th generation model priced at $149.99 via Best Buy, it seemed prudent to scan the web for a more economical option, and preferably one I didn't have to drive out to Cascade Station to acquire.
As expected, Amazon's Fire TV Stick is competitively priced at $39.99, a scant $10 more than the cheap-o Roku Express. I already subscribe to Prime, so the purchase seemed like a no-brainer. Being the frugal midwesterner I am, I browsed the search results for "Fire TV Stick" anyways, just to make sure I wasn't missing any hot deals.
Boy am I glad I did.
As I write this, Prime subscribers are privy to a deal that bundles the Fire TV Stick with the Echo Dot—the hockey puck-sized baby brother of the Echo—for $69.98, a price that's likely to plunge when Amazon's Black Friday window opens this Friday at midnight. You probably don't think you need to throw down an extra $19.99 to add a device originally advertised as a Siri surrogate with a speaker that enabled lazy people to buy stuff from Amazon without even opening their smartphone.
Yet, a mere hour spent with the device offered a glimpse into the voice-controlled life I never knew I had the time or money to make possible. If there was ever one device that unlocked a world of futuristic, high-tech magic and solved first world problems you never knew you had, the Echo is it.
First and foremost is the Echo Dot's integration with the perpetrator of this rabbit hole, the Fire TV Stick. Setup of both devices is a breeze, with a bevy of standard wifi configurations and micro USB plugs to attend to before the two devices can communicate. The Echo requires installation of the Alexa (the device's voice-activated virtual assistant) smartphone app to talk to other devices and learn "skills" that help Alexa help you. After plugging in pertinent account info for Netflix and the like, Alexa is ready to rock.
I yelled "Alexa, watch Stranger Things," and within seconds the landing screen for the popular Netflix series was on my TV. It took a few clicks of the included Fire TV remote to find the right episode, but anyone who's been on the verge of tossing their iPhone out the window because Siri refused to cooperate will find Alexa's finely-tuned listening skills to be a sweet relief. Tell Alexa to pause, and she pauses playback. Tell her to rewind 30 seconds and she'll make it so. It's a magical experience, and the luddite inside me who'd developed an allergy to hot tech trends after being burned by an expensive bout of early adopter-ism in the aughts was thrilled to learn how cheap and easy a voice-controlled domicile can be. And that's just for streaming TV services, which may be the least interesting thing Alexa has the skills to manage.
Promising seamless integration with apps like Spotify and NPR, as well as an endless world of smart devices Alexa can easily learn to control, the Echo really is the dream of a space age bachelor pad come to life. Want Alexa to dim your lights and queue up some sexy music? There's a skill for that. Want Alexa to add avocados and Secret Aardvark Habañero Sauce to your shopping list? There's a skill for that, too.
In the following weeks, I'll be detailing the process of turning my modest one bedroom apartment into a budget-conscious (and less dystopian) facsimile of 2001: A Space Odyssey, with the automation of as many mundane tasks and simple flicks of a switch being the primary focus. Does anyone really need to brew a pot of coffee every morning by shouting "Alexa, brew coffee!" into the ether? Probably not. But when it's this cheap and easy, why the heck not?
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