Posted by Elias Saba on October 16, 2020
— 108 Comments
On the plastic wrapper of every Amazon Fire TV Stick is a message telling you to “use the included power adapter and USB cable” to discourage you from using the USB port on your TV to power the device. Many people miss the warning or ignore it for the convenience of having one less power adapter to deal with. If you’re currently powering a Firestick off of your TV or are thinking about doing it, here’s why you should reconsider using the stock power brick that comes with the device.
The main reason not to use the USB port on a TV to power a Fire TV Stick is that it greatly increases the risk of damaging or “bricking” your streaming device. I know there are going to be thousands, if not millions, of people who will be quick to mention that they have been powering a Fire TV Stick with their TV’s USB port for years without any issues. That’s fine and I believe them because I’m not saying doing so will absolutely damage the Fire TV Stick, but it does make it much more likely for something to go wrong.
All Fire TV Sticks come with a power adapter capable of outputting 1 amp of power. That doesn’t mean that a Fire TV Stick needs that much power to run, but it can technically pull up to that much power from the included power adapter. Most USB ports on TVs can only provide up to 0.5 amps of power because that’s what the official USB standard dictates for a high-power device. Most of the time, the Fire TV Stick uses less than 0.5 amps to run, which is why so many people have no issues powering off of their TV’s USB port, but the Fire TV Sticks power use fluctuates and can exceed 0.5 amps.
The most critical time for a Fire TV Stick to be receiving sufficient power happens to be one of the times that it actually consumes the most power, which is during a system software update. The Fire TV Stick’s power usage tends to peak during software updates, due to all the data being unpacked, read, and written. That’s the worst time for it to unexpectedly restart due to insufficient power because restarting during the wrong time during a software update can easily brick your device.
Worse yet, most TV USB ports lose power completely when the TV is turned off. You might think you’re careful and would never turn your TV off while your Fire TV is installing an update, but what about when you’re using your TV on a different input? Your Fire TV Stick might, unbeknownst to you, be installing an update while sitting idle. When you go to turn off your TV, you can unknowingly be doing so right in the middle of a Fire TV Stick software update.
If the risk of bricking your Fire TV Stick due to a poorly timed restart isn’t reason enough to not power it off of the TV’s USB port isn’t reason enough not to do it, the other reason is for better performance. All Fire TV models are designed to perform maintenance and background tasks while idle, even while they are in their sleep mode. This is so that they’re all fresh and ready for you when you go to use them. If your Fire TV Stick is always powered off when you’re not using it, due to the TV’s USB port losing power while the TV is off, then it has no choice but to perform that maintenance while you’re actively using it.
This means that what you’re trying to do with the Fire TV Stick and its own maintenance/background activity will be competing for the device’s limited resources. The result is a poorer performing device, or worse, a device that fails to work properly because it needs to wait for an update to install or a background task to complete. You’ll have a better experience using a Fire TV Stick that spent its idle time overnight taking care of its housekeeping chores.
If it makes no difference to you, you really should use the included power adapter instead of your TV’s USB ports to power a Fire TV Stick. This holds true for all models, Fire TV Stick, Fire TV Stick Lite, or Fire TV Stick 4K. Sure, the chance of damage and the performance hit of using the TV’s USB port is minimal, but it is still present. If you still want to use your TV’s USB port to power a Fire TV Stick, at the very least, check if your TV has a setting to keep the USB ports powered on at all times and enable it. Even then, I suggest getting one of these special power cables which have circuitry to handle the Firesticks peak power draws and are certified by Amazon for use with a Fire TV Stick.
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