How to Use Your Amazon Fire Stick on a Non-Smart TV [December 2020]
It’s the holiday season, and although televisions have never been cheaper than this year, there’s a good chance you aren’t ready to upgrade form the high-end set you bought a decade ago. Although TVs have come a long way in the last few years—4K, HDR, and all sorts of new software built-in—that might not mean anything to you. After all, a display is a display, and if you bought a fantastic 1080p TV back in 2010, it likely still looks great today, especially if you aren’t interested in 4K content.
Of course, those older TVs are missing a crucial element necessary to enjoy your favorite movies and shows: streaming services. What was once a nice addition to your cable package is quickly becoming the only way to watch original shows, movies, and more. Netflix’s original content constantly draws eyes and ears on the internet, while Disney’s streaming service has all-new originals set in the Marvel and Star Wars universes coming to you over the next five years. Meanwhile, HBO Max plans to premiere WB’s entire 2021 film slate day-and-date with their theatrical releases, making a trip to the theater all but obsolete.
If your TV had these apps built-in, you’re all set, but if your TV doesn’t include apps, you don’t have to run out and upgrade today. For as little as $29, you can pick up one of Amazon’s Fire TV Sticks for your TV, adding thousands of apps, games, and on-demand rentals from the company to your TV. Setting up your Fire Stick only takes a few steps, even if your television is older, so grab your new streaming gadget and get ready to unlock hours of entertainment.
Which Fire Stick Should I Buy?
If you don’t already have a Fire Stick picked out, you’ll want to make sure you head to Amazon’s website to grab yours. Amazon sells three distinct versions of the Fire Stick, though they all feature identical software experiences once they’re set up.
- At the low-end, you’ll find the new Fire Stick Lite, which was first released in 2020. At $29—and available for as low as $18 during holiday sales and Prime Day—the Lite version of the Fire stick is, in our eyes, perfect for most non-smart TV owners. You’ll get all the great software included in the other two models, without the additional hardware extras that aren’t needed.
- In the middle, you’ll find the standard 1080p Fire Stick. At $39, it’s only $10 more than the Lite version, and in addition to a slightly-improved processor, you’ll find the newer Fire Remote included, which features voice commands and volume and power controls for your television. Look to see if your television has HDMI-CEC—we’ll talk about it a bit more below. If it does, this is the model for you; otherwise, these features aren’t worth the increase in price.
- Finally, Amazon sells a 4K version of their Fire Stick, identical in nearly every way to the original 1080p model. At $49, it’s $20 more than the Lite version, but offers 4K HDR support for your cash. If your TV is 4K, it almost certainly has smart apps, but this is still a great buy for switching away from the (usually bad) software included on most TVs. This is also a great buy if you’re trying to futureproof your investment. If you pick up a new 4K television in a few years, you’ll be ready to go with this unit.
Once you have your Fire Stick in hand, it’s time to set it up with your TV.
Setting Up Your Fire Stick
First and foremost, you’re going to need to make sure your TV has at least one HDMI input. If you’re using a TV that is much older than modern displays, you may find there’s no HDMI port at all. If your TV doesn’t have an HDMI input, you can still grab a converter like this to use your Fire Stick with composite cables—although, truly, you should think about upgrading your TV for a better experience.
For everyone else, make sure that you have a wireless internet connection in your home, insert the batteries in your Fire Remote, and you’ll be ready to follow these setup steps:
- Start by connecting your Fire Stick to power. The 1080p models can use the USB port on your television (if there is one), but for the best experience, plug the Fire Stick directly into an outlet using a USB adapter. The 4K model requires a power outlet.
- Connect your Fire Stick to the HDMI port on the back of your TV. For the most part, it doesn’t matter which HDMI port you use. If it doesn’t fit, make sure to use the extension cable included in the box.
- Using your television’s remote, select the input that matches the HDMI port you plugged your Fire Stick into (e.g. HDMI 1, HDMI 2, etc.). When you’ve selected your display, you’ll see your Fire Stick bootup display as your device starts,
- If your remote doesn’t auto-pair, hold the home button for fifteen seconds to ensure the remote and Fire Stick are synced. This should happen automatically.
- Follow the on-screen instructions for connecting your Fire Stick to your WiFi network.
- Register your Fire Stick with your Amazon account.
- Once you’ve reached the home screen, you can navigate through the various setup menus to install apps like Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, and HBO Max. Each of these apps will require login information.
If you’re using the converter we linked above to plug your Fire Stick into your television, remember to match each color to the composite inputs on your television.
How to Get the Most Out of Your Fire Stick During Setup
There are a few things to keep in mind when setting up your Fire Stick, depending on how old your TV really is.
- First and foremost: check your TV to see if it supports HDMI-CEC. This is a special version of HDMI that allows your television and any electronics plugged into the CEC port to work together, so that your Fire Stick can control the volume on your TV, or your TV’s remote can control the menus on your Fire Stick. HDMI-CEC has been around for over a decade, so it’s possible even older, non-smart TVs have it equipped. Most brands refer to CEC as their own special names; for example, Samsung calls it Anynet+. If you can, use a CEC-equipped port for your Fire Stick. It’ll give you the best experience possible.
- In the settings menu of your device, you should check your display settings to make sure your resolution is set properly. For example, if your TV’s resolution is 720p, ensure that your Fire Stick isn’t set to 1080p, and vice versa.
- Even if you decide to buy a new TV in the next few years, Amazon’s software is far better than what most TVs come equipped with. Factor in auto-updating apps and a wider range of content than any TV on the market today, and sticking with Fire Stick just makes sense.
- If you use any of Amazon’s Echo products, you should know that you can use Alexa to control your Fire Stick. While the voice-equipped remote is the easiest way to do it, you can also turn to your Echo speakers to ask Alexa to play shows, movies, music, and more right from your TV.
- Amazon sells an ethernet adapter for your Fire Stick if you’d rather use it over a wired connection. This can help anyone who has fast internet but not a router, or anyone who wants to plug and play their internet and forget about having to deal with WiFi.
Make Your TV Smarter
Whether you’re looking to breathe new life into an older TV, or you’re looking to finally start streaming on Netflix, Amazon’s Fire TV ecosystem is the place to be. Not only can it make a boring TV “smart,” but when you do finally plunge into the world of 4K UHD displays, it can carry right on over to your new TV without an ounce of setup.