How to turn a $39 Fire TV Stick into the ultimate media center

Amazon’s Prime Day certainly evoked a flurry of mixed emotions. Many people were disappointed, but many were also able to score a deal. Personally, I scored Amazon’s Fire TV Stick for $25. Amazon reportedly sold hundreds of thousands of Fire TV Sticks within a 1-hour period. So if you want to get the most out of your Fire TV Stick, make sure and pay attention.First, let’s talk about why the Fire TV Stick makes such a great platform for a media center. Low Price Even at its $39 full retail price, the Fire TV Stick is a real steal. It’s closest competitors are priced higher and have lower specs. Yes the Chromecast is technically $5 cheaper than the Fire TV Stick, but it’s dead in the water without another device to initiate the media streaming and it has nowhere near the capabilities of the Fire TV Stick. Multi-purpose The Fire TV Stick runs Amazon’s Android off-shoot called Fire OS. Because Android is at the core of Fire OS, the Fire TV Stick can play games and use other apps found on Amazon’s App Store. You can also side-load apps from other sources onto the device, but we’ll talk about that a little later. Fire TV Stick Specs The specs on the Amazon Fire TV Stick are impressive for its $39 price.Processor: Broadcom Capri 28155, dual-core 2xARM A9 up to 1 Ghz GPU: VideoCore4 Storage: 8 GB internal Memory: 1 GB Wi-Fi Connectivity: Dual-band, dual-antenna Wi-Fi (MIMO); supports 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi networks. Bluetooth: Bluetooth 3.0 with support for the following profiles: HID, SPP 1080p video streaming 7.1 Dolby Digital surround soundHow to set it up The first thing you have to do is connect it your wireless network. This is a fairly easy thing to do, and the Fire TV Stick will walk you through the process.If you purchased your Fire TV stick from Amazon, then it will already come attached to your Amazon account. If you purchased it elsewhere you will either need to sign into your Amazon account or you will need to create one. Once you’ve logged in then you’re just about done. Just download your favorite apps and enjoy. Legal media options There are several options here. The Fire TV Stick supports just about every streaming platform out there. Here is a sizable, but not comprehensive by any means, list of popular apps.Netflix Hulu Plus Amazon Instant Video Crackle YouTube Pandora Sling TV HBO GO Fox Sports GO PBS Kids WatchESPN Bloomberg TV Twitch Showtime Anytime SpotifyIf you wish to play your own media, there are a few options for you. You should be aware that the Fire TV Stick does not support USB storage, so any media that you wish to play will need to first be downloaded to a shared location on your network or downloaded locally to the Fire TV Stick itself.The first option is Plex. In order to use Plex, you first need to download the Plex media server found here. You’ll need to run through the setup prompts and select the folder where your media is located. Once you have done this, Plex will scan your media and download cover art and media information. While this is happening you’ll want to make sure and download the Plex app from the App Store. You’ll then be able to browse and play the media you have on your computer.The second option that I’ll cover is VLC. VLC allows for local and network playback of media. However, as the local storage on the Fire TV Stick is limited to 8GB, you’ll want to stick to a networked storage solution. The upside of VLC is that it does not require a secondary media server to play media. The downside is that it does not give you the cover art and media center options of Plex.The third and final option I’ll cover is Kodi, formally known as XBMC. Kodi is my preferred option as it does not require a media server to be running on a separate PC, but it will still scan your media and download the associated art and media information. Kodi also allows for 3rd party add-ons and skins that can customize and add functionality to Kodi.Kodi isn’t an officially supported app on the Fire TV Stick. so you’ll need to sideload it onto your device. This can be a fairly complicated process, as one method requires you to use ADB command line. I won’t cover this as there are other much easier options.The option I’ll be covering is the Fire Installer app found on Google Play. Before you fire up the app, you’ll need to download Kodi from Google Play and install it on your phone or tablet because Fire Installer will only install apps to your Fire TV Stick that are already installed on your phone or tablet.Once you have installed Kodi on your phone or tablet go ahead and fire up the Fire Installer app. You’ll first be greeted by a set of setup instructions. The short version is that you have to enable ADB debugging in the Fire TV Stick’s settings and enter the Fire TV Stick’s IP address into the Fire Installer app. From there it’s as easy as selecting Kodi from the list of ins

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