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Amazon are about to release their Fire TV Stick and here is our review.

FireTVStick-Kitchen

Fire TV Stick connects your HDTV to a world of online entertainment. With a huge selection of movies and TV episodes, voice search that actually works and exclusive features like ASAP, Fire TV Stick is an easy way to enjoy Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, BBC iPlayer, low-cost movie rentals, live and on-demand sports, music, photos, games and more.

What’s in the Box?

The box contains the Fire TV Stick, a remote, some batteries, a manual, an HDMI extender, a USB power cable and a plug.

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A Closer Look

The Fire TV Stick is quite small as is the remote.

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Using the Fire TV Stick

The first thing you to is connect the USB power to the Fire TV Stick then connect the Fire TV Stick to an HDMI socket on your TV.

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Then switch on the TV and away you go.

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There is a 3 minute getting started movie you can watch.

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If you have an Android or iOS device you can download the Fire TV Remote App to the device. When you tap connect you need to put in a pin number that is displayed on your TV.

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Then you can use your device as a remote, including using Voice Commands.

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Final Thoughts

Most modern TV’s now internet capabilities and even apps like Netflix and Amazon built in, but what if you have a TV that doesn’t have it – what do you do then? Well that’s where the Amazon Fire TV Stick comes in. It’s a small device that connects to an HDMI port on your TV and delivers streaming content with very little effort.

The Fire TV Stick is a dual core device with 1GB of memory (that’s double what Google Chromecast or the Roku Steaming Stick has) and a dedicated VideoCore4 graphics engine. It also has 8GB of flash storage so you can store quite a lot on it.

It can stream up to 1080p HD quality TV or movies and has Dolby Digital Plus surround sound capabilities.

The Stick is wireless and connects to your home router using a dual bank (MIMO) signal ensuring the best quality you can get from the Stick – after all, when you are watching a movie the last thing you want in the middle of a major action scene is for the device to stuff buffering!

The Stick gives you the ability to connect to a variety of subscription and streaming services such as Amazon Instant Video (obviously) and Amazon Prime Instant Video, Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Spotify, YouTube and lots more. There are also over 400 games you can play if you get bored of watching TV or listening to music.

The Stick was very easy to set up and within a few minutes I was choosing what to watch.

The inclusion of an HDMI extender in the box really worked for me. The TV I wanted to use the Stick on is mounted to the wall and in my case part of the mount goes over the HDMI sockets on the TV. Normally this isn’t a problem for the HDMI cables I use but the Stick is a bigger than the cables and so needs some clearance, and that’s where the HDMI extender worked perfectly.

The remote is easy to use, and if you want to add voice search you can easily do so by downloading the iOS or Android app.

There is a feature of the Stick called ASAP which stands for Advanced Streaming and Prediction, which basically means it learns what you like to watch and dynamically adapts to your viewing habits which enables immediate viewing of your chosen TV show or movie.

You can also view your own videos and photos on the Stick – you just have upload them to Amazon Cloud Drive first.

Because the Stick is so small you can easily pack it in your bag when you go away so you can view content wherever you are.

If you have a older TV or you just want the ability to watch TV shows and movies wherever you are then you should get yourself the Amazon Fire TV Stick, it delivers everything you need.

The cost of the Fire TV Stick is £35 and it can be ordered right now from Amazon.

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Roku are famous for making small streaming boxes, but now they have announced a streaming stick for use with SmartTVs!

roku-streaming-sticktvunitoutzoomed

Don’t rush looking for the Streaming Stick just yet though as it is not scheduled to appear until late 2012. No news yet on pricing either, but it is expected to be a similar price to their current boxes.

Here is the press release:

Roku Breaks the Smart TV Mold

New Roku Streaming Stick Integrates “Smart” Experience into TVs Instantly

Saratoga, Calif. – Jan. 4, 2012 – Building on the success of the award-winning Roku streaming players, Roku® today unveiled a new solution to make a better Smart TV. The new Roku Streaming StickTM is a cordless device about the size of a standard USB flash drive that will plug into a TV to instantly transform it into a Smart TV. The Roku Streaming Stick will feature built-in WiFi, processor, memory and software to deliver Roku’s growing collection of streaming entertainment. With these new Smart TVs, consumers will enjoy a fully integrated high-definition streaming experience.

“Insignia is proud to be among the first manufacturers to pair the Roku Streaming Stick with a TV,” said Scott Jacobi, Director of Exclusive Brands at Best Buy. “The Roku Streaming Stick provides an elegant and easy over-the-top streaming solution for customers who want the full experience of a Smart TV without adding an external set box, HDMI cable and power adapter to their TV. Insignia looks forward to rolling out our first MHL-enabled TVs compatible with the Roku Streaming Stick in 2012 at Best Buy.”

“Roku was the first to stream Netflix to the TV and since then has been applauded for delivering a first rate Netflix experience,” said Greg Peters, vice president at Netflix. “Now Roku is taking streaming innovation to the next level and giving consumers a seamless Smart TV experience. The Roku Streaming Stick is a great solution for Netflix because it allows us to deliver the Netflix experience found on the Roku platform to potentially any TV.”

Today’s Smart TVs become outdated in just a couple years because as software changes are made the hardware needs upgrading – that is if the software is even updated. That kind of short hardware product cycle is expected with a mobile device such as a smart phone, but consumers generally keep their TVs for six to eight years. By moving the streaming platform to a stick that’s easily replaceable, consumers no longer have to worry about their large-screen Smart TV becoming obsolete before its time.

“The Roku platform has been extremely successful as a stand-alone streaming device,” said Roku Founder and CEO Anthony Wood. “Extending the Roku streaming experience through the Roku Streaming Stick to Smart TVs is a natural next step for the market.”

“Smart TV manufacturers have struggled to find an application platform that sticks with consumers especially since software is not their area of expertise,” said Kurt Scherf, vice president and principal analyst at Parks Associates. “The Roku Streaming Stick is a game changer for the Smart TV market. It takes the leading streaming platform and integrates into the TV in a way that no one has been able to do The Roku Streaming Stick will not require any cables including a separate power source, and can be controlled by the TV remote. Like Roku players, it will deliver the more than 400 channels found on the Roku platform today and will benefit from regular, free software updates and channel enhancements.

The Roku Streaming Stick will be available this fall. It can be bundled with a TV in retail or sold separately for consumers to use with their own TVs.

The Roku Streaming Stick will plug into MHL-enabled HDMI ports on TVs. MHL is a new standard that uses the HDMI connector on TVs to deliver power and other critical elements for the streaming experience. MHL is currently adopted by nearly 100 hardware and manufacturing vendors including Nokia Corporation; Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd.; Silicon Image, Inc.; Sony Corporation; and Toshiba Corporation who are joint founders of the MHL Consortium.

Roku is the leading streaming platform. Since launching the first Netflix streaming player in 2008, Roku has delivered entertainment to nearly 2.5 million streaming players in the U.S. Roku features more than 400 entertainment channels including Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, Hulu Plus, Pandora, Angry Birds and HBO GO. Award-winning Roku streaming players are renowned for their ease of use, value and selection of content. Roku players are sold through leading retailers in the U.S.

Roku is founded by Anthony Wood, inventor of the DVR. For more information about Roku, visit www.roku.com.

Roku and Roku Streaming Stick are trademarks or registered trademarks of Roku, Inc.

Continuing the “How To….” guides, this guide looks at using a USB key to install Windows Home Server, either on a machine that doesn’t have a DVD Drive or just because you can use a USB stick.

WHS USB Key

In fact, once you have configured the USB Stick, you could use it to install or run anything – Windows Home Server, the WHS Client Restore disc, Windows 7, anything!

All you need for this is a USB Stick with enough space for whatever you need (in the case of Windows Home Server you could get away with a 1GB stick) and a copy of Windows Home Server (or whatever it is you want to install or run).

There are three stages to the process – preparing the USB stick, copy the files to the USB stick and installing the software from the USB stick.

PREPARING THE USB STICK

Plug in the USB stick to your computer/

You need to open a command prompt, but you will need to be acting as an “administrator” to perform these functions. There are two ways of doing this.

The first is to click Start, click Accessories and hover over Command Prompt.

Starting a command prompt

Press the right mouse button and click Run as administrator.

Running as administrator

The other way is to click Start, type in CMD and hold down CTRL and SHIFT together and press Enter.

When you are at the Command Prompt, type diskpart.

This will start the built in Windows disk partitioning software.

diskpart 1

The next thing you need to do is determine which disk is your USB Stick, so type list disk. In my case I used an 8GB USB Stick so it is showing as Disk 7.

listing disks

You need to specify that disk, so type select disk 7 (or whatever number the USB Stick is for you).

disk selected

You then need to clean the USB Stick, so type clean.

clean disk

You need to create a primary partition so type create partition primary.

create partition primary

You then have to select this partition, and as it is on the only partition on the USB Stick it will be the 1st one, so type select partition 1.

select partition 1

You now need to make that partition active, so type active.

active

Nearly there – so it’s time to format the USB Stick, and for speed and compatibility reasons its best to go with FAT32 rather than NTFS, so type format fs=fat32.

format the drive

Depending on the size of your USB Stick this may take a few minutes, so be patient.

format completed

The last thing you need to do is assign a drive letter to the USB Stick, so type assign.

assign

Autoplay will also probably kick in at this point and tell you Windows has round a removable disk, in my case Drive M.

autoplay new drive

Just type exit to finish and then close the command prompt window.

exit diskpart

COPYING THE FILES TO THE USB STICK

Put the DVD into your computer and then copy the files from the DVD to the USB Stick (in my case it is the M drive).

WHS disk contents

INSTALLING THE SOFTWARE FROM THE USB STICK

So now that you have your USB Stick with the relevant software on, it’s time to plug it into the machine you want to install Windows Home Server (or whatever) on. You will need to tell that computer when it power’s up to boot from the USB drive, so check the manual that came with the computer to see how to do that (it is often ESC, or F12, or something similar), you could also change the boot priority in the BIOS, but they you may need to set it back again afterwards so it is often easier just to select the drive at boot time.

And if all goes well you should now be starting the Windows Home Server installation. Just follow the onscreen steps to continue the installation. Good luck!

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