Amazon Fire TV Review

Here is an overview of the scope of services as well as my personal assessment of Amazons new streaming box “ Amazon Fire TV ”, which has been available since Sept/Oct 2014 now in the US.

 

Amazon Fire TV

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Amazon Fire TV Review

 

My situation:

I’m an Amazon Prime customer – but no prime-enabled Smart TV. I ordering the Amazon Fire TV on the basis that I was curious whether the streaming ability in conjunction with my already slightly elderly living room LCD TV from Sony (built in 2009) was possible and whether the total package really in practice carry the promised “add value.”

Delivery:

In addition to the actual Amazon Fire TV in the appropriate amazon packaging, it contain an accompanying remote control including require batteries containing (2x AAA), a power cord (power cable to power supply) for the power supply and a printed Quick Start Guide.

Aesthetics/Design:

The easiest way to probably describe the overall appearance would be to use the simple term “simple”. An inconspicuous square black box that doesn’t beg for a lot of space to be present upon which to be seats. The Amazon logo on the top is not to be overlooks, but does not interfere. What I perhaps you don’t like so much is the sharp edges and corners of the box (even though some effort also there, somehow to ensure they’re “round” down).

What is not present, but is requires:

You definitely need a sufficiently long HDMI cable to connect the box to your TV (HDTV) to connect. Off the Amazon website, the basic “Amazon basics HDMI cable” should serve this purpose and should ideally be order at the same time if require. Of course, there must be a free HDMI slot on the TV to be use solely by the Amazon Fire TV box. A further prerequisite would be to ensure you have an appropriate broadband Internet connection; most streaming providers recommend a minimum bandwidth of around 6Mb/s.

Connection to the Amazon Fire TV box:

There are only 3 connections required: The Amazon Fire TV box has its own power supply (power cord), you need to connect to the TV (HDMI cable) as well as a connection to the Internet supply (router). The latter can be done using either an Ethernet cable or wirelessly via WiFi (Dual Band with 2 antennas). The installation is done via Wi-Fi on initial setup or can be accessed later via “Settings / System / Network”. Once after scanning and the home network has been found, only enter the passkey and the connection is established. Amazon Fire TV does not possess a separate ON / OFF switch, but just goes into stand-by after around 30 minutes of non-use. To completely turn it off, you’d have to manually disconnect the box from the power supply.

Getting started:

Amazon Fire TV is pretty much ship in an preconfigured state. That is, it is already connected/linked with the respective Amazon account through which the order was carried out from. If you want to later pass on or sell the box, you can unsubscribe at any time from your account (via “Settings / My Account”). After initial switching on, only a few basic steps are required to be undertaken which is in accordance with the instructions on the screen (language). Following this, an automatic software update to the latest version is carried out. The device is ready for use after about 5 minutes or so. At the beginning, there’s a very nicely made explanatory video (but rather for absolute beginners!)

Homepage:

Here you will find a very intuitive interface. On the left side there is a narrow column of text with the preambles (movies, series, watch list, library, etc.). Different colors tiles can then select different content in the main part: Movies, shows, apps and games (separated into free and chargeable categories).

Just for clarification: An existing Amazon Prime membership is a prerequisite for the use of free content. The purchase of the Amazon Fire TV “alone” is not enough for free use of content.

Amazon (Prime) Instant Video:

For prime customers

There are currently over 13,000 movies and TV shows available. In recent months, almost daily new arrivals have been added. While the content quantity is massive, time-availability has been lacking for me, unfortunately. Outside the free-Prime range, of course, there is access to the regular Amazon Instant Video offering, through which you can borrow or buy newer movies and series. The quality of the streams is consistently very good, no dropouts, nothing jerky (again, most of this will depend on the quality of your internet connection).

Whether a Prime membership is worth it

Each individual must decide for himself or herself. Even if it sounds like preferential or VIP treatment, it is ultimately nothing more than a binding contract with a fix terms with clear rules inclusive of an annual flat rate with shipping cost exemption, a lending library for e-books and said streaming flat rate for selected movies and series content.

Music is yet to be there with the November update as “amazon music” (switchable with “music”). On the first call I was pretty stun when I saw how many albums I bought in recent years on amazon, some of it was missing with the previous version. The tracks are clearly groups (by artist, genre, etc.) and can be play at will (randomly or playlist). Even the voice search works with the remote control, whether you are looking for an artist or a particular song. All in all, a really good supplement to, though almost a little scary.

An existing Internet connection is a mandatory required

To be able to watch streamed content on Amazon Fire TV. Films or series episodes cannot be download or temporarily store to the box later for offline reading.

Also under “Settings” you will find “Parental Control”, which can be individually configured. I have a precaution enabled, so now a PIN prompt appears first if you accidentally click on a pay content. No playback function via USB Amazon Fire TV despite it having a USB 2.0 port.

It seems that the USB slot not intended for connecting USB flash drives and therefore playing saved films, videos or photos directly on Fire TV on the TV or display. Amazon support informs me that the “the USB port on the Amazon Fire TV does not currently support accessories such as external hard drives, keyboards or charger cable for other devices”.

Well thank you very much! I think Amazon has missed an opportunity here to do something good for its customers. The ability for media content to be directly play from USB to Amazon Fire TV, I would then not be in the position to purchase another device with USB playback function (Smart TV, DVD player with USB slot etc).

A voice assisted search function is also present

A Voice Search that actually works – so the advertising promises from Amazon. Operation is simple. Simply click on the microphone button on the remote control, press and hold and speak after the beep the desired title, actor or director into the built-in remote control microphone and voila, it works! I was skeptical at first, but it actually works in most cases.

After less than a second, the speech is convert into text and is display on the screen. It is also possible to selectively search only free content by voice with the addition “only Prime”. Good thing! Offers from third parties will not be display in the results. Altogether, the voice search is a truly innovative and especially convenient feature to which I have quickly use for (and likes!). Sooner or later, such a function will probably be nationwide standard.

Games:

Who doesn’t like to have quick game here or there once in a while? Minecraft, Asphalt 8, NBA2K14, as well as a number of other, often paid games are present – all well and good, but these are the games I have previously played on either the PC, PlayStation or on my tablet – there isn’t a wide selection of alternative good quality games. While the Fire TV remote control acts as the game controller, it really isn’t too convenient to use.

It really isn’t suitable both because of its dimensions as well as in terms of the buttons (too small, awkwardly However, before purchasing this accessory, do check whether you can connect an existing game console controller to the Fire TV. In this day and age of internet, there are quite a few videos present on how to connect the FireT V wirelessly with a PS3 or an Xbox controller. Both are possible but only indirectly (additional paid app or PC adapter).

Hardware/speed/heat/noise:

The Fire TV Box possesses a modern quad-core processor, a separate graphics unit and 2GB RAM. All operations tend to be execute really smoothly and without significant time lag or stuttering. From turning on until ready to operate takes only a few seconds. Although these devices do not support Wi-Fi for fast 802.11n standard, the communication between the router and Fire TV sufficient to ensure an ultra-smooth streaming in perfect quality via W-Lan).

Remote control:

The remote control is comparatively small and light. It is reduces to the bare essential functions and thereby virtually self-explanatory. I find this very positive as the buttons are clearly arrange with clear symbols (no miniature lettering as so often found on remotes in this day and age).

Also worth noting is that the connection to the Fire TV box is made using Bluetooth, so you do not need line of sight as with conventional infrared remote controls. This allows the box to be place anywhere without any problems (i.e. behind the TV to “hide”).

The initial connection (pairing) with Fire TV during initial setup automatically work first time round. From time to time, do make sure to update the remote control software to the latest version as is recommend (“Settings / Control Panel” select the Fire TV remote connection).

Conclusion:

Not everything possible is offer and neither is this technically possible, but you do get a good chunk of most things at a very decent price. Everyone must ultimately decide for himself or herself what add value is offer to them by the simultaneous use of Fire TV and Amazon Prime. The two do go together for me rather perfectly.

The Fire TV without simultaneously taking advantage of the everlasting-improving Prime offering would make little sense. In my particular case, the new streaming box from Amazon is definitely a significant improvement from usage of Amazon prime on other devices (mobile, tablet, etc), because it gives me the ability not only to stream a wide variety of multimedia content easily and directly into my living room on a big fat non-smart TV.

We gave the Amazon Fire TV 5 star Tech Review

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