The Best Apps for Streaming NAS Media on your Amazon FireStick
If you are a proud owner of an Amazon fire stick and a NAS drive, then chances are you have been looking for the perfect way to enjoy all of the photos videos and music on your NAS server via the Amazon fire TV accessory. Sadly, although the fire stick and fire TV 4K both arrived with enormous support for cloud-based streaming services such as Netflix and Prime video, there is surprisingly small support for enjoying Media over your home network. This can be quite frustrating, as you may already own an impressive library of movies and box sets you have acquired over many years in a digital format. Although support of network-based storage is limited for the fire stick, it is not impossible and in fact, there are a few applications available to help you enjoy your multimedia. Today I want to talk about the top 5 apps for enjoying your NAS media on your Amazon fire TV stick.
What is DLNA? And Why Should You Care
You can watch the media from your NAS on your fire TV in two ways. The first is to enable internet access to your NAS drive, setup DDNS or cloud type access, and then add that address to supported apps on the fire TV 4K. This method is far from 100-per cent reliable and all too often encounters problems if your network is busy, you wish you fast forward or rewind media frequently, or if your NAS has a dynamic IP it can be lost. The most reliable way to enjoy the media living on your NAS via your Amazon fire TV stick is to use DLNA services, or ‘Digital Living Network Alliance‘ certified devices. These are devices that are equipped to make themselves accessible on the shared network of your home or office. Think of the network, in basic terms, as being made up of all of the devices that are currently using or are connected to the internet connection in your building (TVs, Laptops, Phones, etc). Below are the top 5 DLNA apps for Amazon Fire TV to help you access your NAS media seamlessly.
PROs – Very similar in design to Plex (metadata downloading for thumbnails and media info, graphical style), very straight forward to use once setup, popular features like ‘watch later’, ‘watched’ and ‘continue’, Functions with ANY Synology NAS, Very responsive
CONs – Setup isn’t quite as straight forward as it could be, Slower Metadata searching than Plex, Requires Video Station to be installed on the Synology DSM side and set up fully – so you cannot jsut use the DLNA Media Server App, Emby or your Plex Library
Probably one of the most accessible DLNA NAS apps for Amazon Fire TV is the Synology branded DS video application. Though this is only available to Synology users, this application lets you access all of the photos and video on your Synology NAS, as well as having a similar layout to the likes of Plex. This free application is one of only TWO apps on the Amazon App Store that is developed and released by an actual NAS brand (the other being DS Photo, again, from Synology).
Synology has an impressive history of developing great first-party software for their NAS platform, as well as a well-established history of creating proprietary apps for popular commercial hardware(such as Amazon Echo), so it isn’t a huge surprise that they would beat everyone else to the punch and have their own FireTV App. It is a very functional app and although it could benefit with a few extra tips on screen, or a few splash screens to advise about the best way to set up your media, it is still an excellent media application for your firestick. If you are a Synology NAS owner, this is a must own.
PROs – VERY easier User Interface, Plays pretty much ANYTHING, Can access your NAS over DLNA and the Internet, Fast operation, Fantastic and intuitive media controls during playback, very familiar brand
CONs – Icons on the GUI are too large and inconsistent with the side bar text, lacks another of metadata scraping and regular viewer features of Plex and Kodi
If you have been using Windows PCs for most of your life, then chances are when it comes to playing any video file that the stock default media player couldn’t play, your immediate solution was to use VLC Media Player. Since the days of Windows XP, there are some brands of freeware and community software that have never left our hearts (WinRAR, Notepad, WinAmp) and VLC Media player is an app with a HUGE amount of history. Therefore I am pleased to confirm that not only is VLC available for Amazon Fire TV, but it is also a very easy application to use and can very easily be used to connect with your NAS via DLNA networks or the internet. As this is another free app, there is very little reason not to use this application if you are a beginner/novice, but it is worth highlighting that this application lacks another of the more sofa-friendly options of the likes of Plex, Kodi and Synology DS Video.
The VLC Application is definitely one of the best DLNA applications out there, but it is not completely perfect. For a start, the user interface is designed around a big, big button interface and if you are spanning libraries where there are many folders or files, the effort to scroll through the lists can be tiresome (as the graphics display that cannot be changed, can only display about 9 things on screen – the average boxset is 12-24 episodes on its own). Additionally, despite the files and folders being big graphics, the left-hand navigation is listed in the text in white. Against the orange background and against the big icons next to them, can make them hard to read. All this aside, the actual control of the media when in use is easily one of the very best you can get! Second, only to KODI, the VLC user interface whilst media is playing is slick, fast, intuitive and utilizes all the controls of the FireStick Remote control (options, play, fast forward, suspend, etc). A great app, if slightly marred by design inconsistencies.
PROs – Simple and clean user interface, ideal for those who want a ‘file explorer’ experience, file level information can be accessed (size, type, modification date, etc), Can be used to access DLNA media on pretty much ANY NAS
CONs – Basic and non-graphical UI will put some users off, the PAID version seemingly is made of features you can get in many other applications for free
If you are a little more of a PC user or want a media player for your Amazon Fire TV to play media from your NAS, but DON’T want flashy graphics, then DG UPnP Player is exactly what you need! If you though the VLC App featured icons that were far, far too big and thought that Plex was all flash and no substance, then the DG UPnP application is certainly one for you. It is much more like a standard file manager and has the file and folder breakdown that is much more familiar to PC users in windows. It has the same playback coverage of VLC and will play pretty much anything you want to throw at it, but it is still a much more streamlined and simple app compared with many of the alternatives out there.
It is the simplicity and basic design of the UPnP application from DG that ultimate will end up putting some users off, however. Rather than provide a happy medium between design and simplicity, it gives you a very TEXT heavy user interface that although very straight forward, is very hard to make out from an average sofa-to-TV distance. The only other issue people find with the application is the fact that it arrives free, but only as a trial. This version of DG UPnP for Firestick only lets you playback a limited length of the video, before stopping and advising you to buy the full version. This is pretty off-putting for many people, not so much about the fact they are paying, but more because you are seemingly paying for a rather basic application with fewer features than free apps like KODI or PLEX. However, if you are looking for much more file explorer type user interface to browse through your media collection (with file sizes, formats and exact file names), then you will struggle to find better DLNA NAS media access for your Amazon Fire TV 4K or Firestick.
PROs – Best looking Graphical User Interface, Incredibly Intuitive, Unparalleled use of metadata to provide presentation information and images for your movies, widely available on all DLNA and Internet-enabled devices, so you can spread your media to many devices, Free version has everything you will need
CONs – Requires mid range NAS power to ensure faultless playback in all situations, supports fewer media formats than Kodi and VLC, you need a NAS that supports a Plex Media Server App
Easily one of the most popular applications for NAS and Fire TV on this list, indeed one of the best apps for streaming media you own in the world, is the Plex App in the Amazon App store. Plex arrives in both a free and a paid version, though if all you want to do is stream media from your NAS, then you can get away with the basic free version easily. One of the main reasons that people are so keen on the Plex media server application is because it manages to give you the smooth, polished and feature-rich user interface that many 3rd party cloud media providers (Netflix, Now TV, Amazon Instant, etc), but provides them with you accessing YOUR media, that you own. Alongside this, the impressive metadata scraping functionality from numerous high profile sources means that a TV series or movie on your NAS, that is just a single file, is presented to you via plex with thumbnails, cast lists, descriptions, reviews, recommendations and more.
Alongside these software features, there is enhanced sofa-to-TV features to help you catalogue, resume, index and share media with friends and family. You will struggle to find a better-presented application to enjoy your NAS media on an amazon firestick. The only real issue at all is that Plex does not have the open file support than KODI and VLC have, so in the event of plex finding a file that it cannot play (due to file compatibility), it will require the NAS to change it. This is less of a problem regarding size over DLNA, but certainly one for supported file formats. This means that your NAS will need to have the Plex media server application installed, as well as have sufficient power to convert these files if needed. This combined with the plex app on both the firestick and the NAS are heavier than most apps (very graphic heavy) means that in busy periods of NAS access, performance can take a bit of a hit. Nevertheless, Plex is still one of the very best applications for enjoying your NAS media on an Amazon Fire TV and Firestick 4K.
PROs – Light and Fast, Very Easy User Interface, Plays EVERYTHING, Completely free and includes online streaming add-ons, no extra work or proprietary app on your NAS need, Constantly updated
CONs – Cannot be installed from the App store and needs to be manually installed, associations with Copywrite Infringement
By FAR the best application for those that want to stream media from their NAS to an Amazon Fire TV, Kodi is an app that has been around for a long, long time. There has definitely been a dip in the number of users due to associations with Copywrite infringement and piracy, but this is down to the way people use the applications and not the Kodi app itself. One of the biggest benefits of the Kodi app, once installed on the firestick, is that you do not need to install anything extra on the NAS you are using. Whether you use a Synology, QNAP, Drobo, WD, Asustor, Buffalo or Terramaster NAS, you just need to turn on their DLNA Media Server option and that is it… Kodi will be able to find the contents over the network (though you may need your NAS login details) and then it makes it accessible. Kodi is able to play pretty much ANY media type and also supports Video, Photos, Music, Docs, Zipped files and more. This functionality is further supported with access to numerous online streaming add-ons (some legal…some not, so be aware before you install anything) and means that you have a multi-tiered media software on your Fire TV that cannot only stream from your NAS, but in some cases, record to it.
Kodi has been around for a long time and is still available to download and install on QNAP, Asustor and Thecus NAS drives, though the support is slowly dropping due to the illegal activities of some users as mentioned. If it wasn’t for the fact that some people have brought the good name of Kodi into the mud, I am sure it would be more widely available on streaming devices. The only issue of using KODI on an Amazon Fire TV is that it is still not actually available in the official app store. In order to install the application, you will need to use another downloading app to get the relevant files and install unofficially. Below is a guide from NASCompares and a Video Tutorial.
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