I bought an Amazon Fire TV Stick a few months ago and love it. It is ultra fast, starts most shows instantly without having to buffer, and was super cheap.
The one thing I was missing was the ability to watch my other media, like DVDs and videos of my kids. The solution I settled on is called Plex. I also used Handbrake to get all of my DVDs onto my hard drive.
Plex is awesome. It works on everything: Android, iOS, Amazon Fire TV, Roku, Chromecast, and more. It automatically determines if your media file is in a format that your device can understand, and if it isn’t Plex will transcode it to an appropriate format for you.
The first step is to install the server component. My desktop is always on so I just installed it there. This part is always free. Once the server is installed, you tell it where your media is located. This was also easy, but mainly because I hadn’t picked a folder structure for my files yet. It was easy to organize them in the way best suited for Plex. If you need help, check the step by step quick-start guide.
Plex automatically downloads media information for your files, such as the cast, director, artwork, MPAA rating, synopsis, etc… It even found info for most of my old church films.
Next you install the client app on whatever device you’ll be using. The client apps typically cost a few dollars, depending on the platform’s marketplace. For example, it is $4.99 in the Apple app store. It is often free in the Amazon app store, so you can get it for Android or Fire TV without paying anything.
There are also some premium features that you can choose to pay for on a subscription basis. The only premium feature that I find compelling is the ability to sync a file for offline viewing. We paid for a single month of Plex so we could sync a few movies to our iPad for a recent trip. Totally worth it.