For the last couple of years, my household has been an Amazon Firestick and FireTV household. It made sense, the sticks were cheap, they had access to all the streaming services and I could use them with Plex, which is now our preferred way to consume most entertainment (we have our own NAS Plex server, have ripped all our movies, TV shows, and music onto it).
The problem, though, is that the Firesticks have gotten worse and worse. Between a new user interface and buggy software updates, they constantly crash, they’re SLOW, and the biggest problem we had is that Plex would just not work a lot of the time. We even had instances where we’d turn off our FireTV and it would be off – but the audio would still be playing!
I use Plex for several hours a day and I was getting increasingly frustrated. Watching Plex on our Samsung SmartTV was so much better, so I knew it wasn’t Plex itself.
I kept thinking it would get better with more software updates between Plex and Firestick. Firesticks just continue to get worse. The software is just way too buggy and slow. And honestly, I think it’s because Firesticks are just bare minimum ‘computers’ – the chips are underpowered, there’s not enough memory and they simply cannot handle modern streaming.
There had to be another way, right?
I didn’t want to go back to Roku – mostly because their sticks and boxes have the same problem. They’re cheap, which means they’re crap. I also don’t like Roku’s habit of advertising to you.
Other than building a dedicated streaming box from scratch and hooking it up to my TV, what were my options?
It looks like the two options are Apple TV and Nvidia Shield. Both cost about the same. I researched both.
Since I’m firmly in the Apple ecosystem for computers, phones, and tablets, I figured, the Apple TV was the best option. When I looked at the specs, I got excited. The current iteration of the Apple TV uses iPad chips. When I use Plex or any streaming service on an iPad, the experience is great. So, maybe it’ll be great on the TV?
I took a leap and bought one. Quite a leap as they’re expensive, almost $200 when you add in taxes. A Firestick is $50 (sometimes less) but you get what you pay for!
I plugged it in and set it up. And within hours, it was like that moment when you put on glasses for the first time after getting a prescription – I suddenly realized what I was missing out on – frustration-free streaming TV!
The Apple TV is FAST. So incredibly snappy. Switching between apps is like the blink of an eye.
Was Plex any better?
Hell yes, it was. The interface is better, it’s so fast and snappy. In the almost three weeks of usage, it hasn’t crashed once. It’s never slow, and it’s not buggy at all. It does what it’s supposed to do and it does it well.
The Apple TV remote takes some getting used to – it’s very sensitive so you end up selecting many things by mistake. I also love the screensaver feature, which adds some color and character to the room when you don’t want to watch TV. I haven’t used the Firestick in weeks and I don’t think I ever will again.
The Apple TV is expensive, but the benefit is that it’s basically a small, powerful computer. The software is great, and crucially, Plex finally works that way I’ve always wanted it to work.
As time goes on, I will be replacing all our Amazon Fire-based TV devices. I’m so done with buggy, underpowered products that just don’t get any better.
So, if you want to use Plex on your TV and want the best experience, do it on Apple TV. Spend the extra money, it’s very worth it.
Update: After I wrote this, I also added another Apple TV to our bedroom TV and, while I bought the ‘slower’ HD version, it’s a substantial improvement over the FireTV. If you’re considering the Apple TV – I recommend getting the 4K version as it has a faster chip and is noticeably snappier than the HD version.