When Amazon Fire TV was launched, Amazon wanted to address three problem areas with regard to the consumer streaming experience: cumbersome search, cloud ecosystem and poor performance. Recently I bought the Amazon Fire TV and would like to reveal the ten things that I love about it.
# 1 – The way it looks. Black is my favourite colour and I found the minimalist design with its essential ports in the back (power, HDMI, optical audio, Ethernet and USB) as very sleek. I love the posh packaging, it reminds me of other products from Apple. In the package you will find a remote control, a quick start guide and the required batteries (these ones are Amazon branded).
# 2 – The true-to-life picture quality. This is possible thanks to the support of 4K Ultra HD! Chromecast and AppleTV do not support this feature as of now.
# 3 – I found setting up the system as very easy. In comparison to other set top boxes, this seems to be the easiest with regard to setting up. However, if you face any trouble in the set up process, you don’t need to worry. There is a short introductory video which will tell you what you need to do. You will also see 10 short and simple videos on how to use the user interface.
# 4 – Did you know that you don’t need to log into your Amazon account by entering usernames and passwords because Amazon pre-programs the unit with your Amazon account information? Yes, Amazon content appears automatically. Great, isn’t it? However, make sure your Amazon Fire gets delivered to your correct address, otherwise someone else could basically watch lots of movies on your account!
# 5 – Navigation is simple and similar to navigation on Roku and Apple TV. You can use the remote to move around and select the options. The response is really quick, the content that I previously bought from Amazon was ready to view without big issues. Once you click on the icon, you can start watching in few seconds. The processing power is according to Amazon, three times faster than the latest Apple TV. The remote looks attractive with a great design and also feels good when holding it.
# 6 – The variety of channels. You will find all the most popular services, such as Hulu Plus, Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Amazon Instand Video, Plex, Demand5 and Sky News. You can also see a YouTube app, which is freely available and for which you don’t need to login (even though you might make a better experience if you do log in). You will access to your favorites, YouTube channels, your viewing history etc. Crackle, VEVO for videos and Pandora for music are further free channels that are included.
# 7 – The voice search feature, that comes along with the remote control, is really great. It means basically that you can simply use the remote (which has a built-in microphone and a cloud powered voice recognition) to SPEAK your search instead of having to engage with an on-screen letter grid. The system works very well by trying to understand what you are saying. You just need to press and hold the button while you talk. Alexa, the voice service, allows you also to use the Fire TV voice remote to check things, such as sports scores, the weather, play music etc. Since it uses bluetooth for communication, you don’t need to point the remote to the box, and it allows you to hide the box behind the TV or inside a cabinet (if you wish to do so). There are also no line-of-sight issues. However, be aware that it only provides you with Amazon search results and not with YouTube voice search. If you are subscriber to Amazon Prime, or you like to buy or rent from Amazon, it is a great working feature.
# 8 – The games play very well and look great on the system. The library at its launch was quite extensive.
# 9 – I also appreciate the fact that I can view my photos which I stored on my Amazon Cloud Drive, and playback music that I purchased via MP3 store. Also you can stream Spotify directly to it. This works well especially if you have decent TV speakers.
# 10 – I found the price for the new Amazon Fire TV of £79 as pretty reasonable. Compare that to the Roku 3 (which we will be reviewing shortly) and the Apple TV.
In summary, it’s a device that is simple to use, works well and is priced reasonably. Would I still change something? Yes, I would allow some more user customisation in the user interface, more third party apps in the main menu and extend the search function to scan across all of its services. Amazon should definitely allow voice search integration into BBC iPlayer, Plex, 4OD and Netflix. It could make it the best set top box on the market!