The new Amazon Fire TV redefines the way you receive content on your screen by adding 4K video support and Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant to the already excellent media streaming platform making it even stronger.
THE GOOD: Responds perfectly. Alexa voice assistant enhances voice search.
THE BAD: Content mostly favors Amazon subscribers.
The streaming set-top box space is becoming increasingly crowded with the key market players redirecting their focus on the 4K Ultra HD. Well, Amazon understands this better with the introduction of the new Amazon Fire TV, an iteration of its tiny set-top box, which comes into the market to take on Nvidia Shield TV, and Roku 4 Streaming Media Player. There are some key upgrades from what we saw in the Amazon Fire TV (2014) such as the video resolution that is now 4K ultra HD video support, high processing power with the addition of a new 64-bit MediaTek quad-core processor, which is almost twice as fast as the previously used Snapdragon 600 processor. The new Fire TV box also supports 801.11ac Wi-Fi with MIMO, for an improved Wi-Fi video streaming experience. The device is a top performing set-top box that most video streamers may find worth considering that comes at an affordable price.
The Amazon Fire TV is a small sharp-edged black square with a matt top that has an Amazon Logo embossed on it. The device measures 4.5x 4.5 x 0.7 inches and weighs 270grams and the remote measures 1.5x 5.9 x 0.7 inches and weighs 68grams, batteries inclusive and 45 grams on its own. The Fire TV is small enough that it fits well in the living room without intruding on the available space hence it can go unnoticed. The device does not have any buttons hence you got to handle everything using the remote.
The Fire TV runs on a MediaTek Quad-Core up to 2 GHz processor combined with a dedicated Power VR GX6250 600MHz (Max) GPU, this is a departure from the 2014 Fire TV’s Snapdragon 600 processor and there is some noticeable improvement in terms of performance especially if you have been using the Fire TV Stick. Add this to 2GB of RAM and you get a faster device that loads Netflix, ITV Player, BBC iPlayer and Curazon Home Cinema fast enough for you to notice. There is a standard 8GB of internal storage with around 5.5 GB of space available for use perhaps for downloading your favorite apps. We do not expect to see so much space on this device since it is mainly meant for media streaming therefore not a big issue as in the case of a tablet or smartphone.
The device can comfortably handle games with a resolution of 1080p and 60fps, something that game enthusiasts will find amazing. The amazon app store comes with a number of games including Sonic the Hedgehog, Beach Buggy Racing, Riptide GP2, GTA and Minecraft Story Mode. Most of this games are mobile versions hence the game developers have their work cut out for them to improve on the gaming experience on this device. If you are interested in gaming then you may consider purchasing the Fire TV Gaming Edition to improve your gaming experience as the remote control is a bit clumsy.
You can also install apps from the Amazon App store including Dailymotion, Spotify, Vevo, and BBC News. Amazon says that the store has 4,200 apps, games and channels so you cannot run out of watching options.
In terms of connectivity, the Fire TV comes with one USB 2.0 Port to connect with other peripherals, a MicroSD card slot that allows you to expand the storage to 200GB. An HDMI output port to connect to your 4K Ultra HD screen, unfortunately you have to purchase the cable separately. There is a 10/100Mbit/s Ethernet port that offers wired Internet connection incase the router is not up to the task and it has a built-in 801.11ac Wi-Fi with MIMO.
The remote control has all the navigation buttons and media controls you could expect, similar to what other devices have such as Roku TV. However, it is disappointing that the remote does not have an integrated headphone feature as seen on the Roku 3 to avoid disturbing others when listening to late night TV. But then if you have Bluetooth compatible headphones, you are sorted.
The most exciting feature on this device is the Alexa Assistant with additional voice features apart from what we saw in the Amazon Fire TV (2014), such as the ability to provide traffic and weather information, sports scores or playing music. The Voice Search Functionality allows you to bark orders at the fire TV.
There is a Microphone button on the remote that you have to hold down in order to ask amazon whatever you want, for instance, if you want to narrow down your watching selection you can make the following command, “Show me comedy films from 2014.” The voice functionality saves you the pain of using the strenuous directional buttons on the remote together with an on-screen keyboard in search of long titles. However, the voice search functionality is only limited to Amazon content at the moment and they do not launch apps, hopefully they shall expand this functionality in the near future to cater for Netflix, YouTube among others.
The 4K ultra HD display is among the headline features of the Amazon Fire TV. The streaming of 4K content is entirely available on a 4K supported TV and it is important to note that you will need a special kind of HDMI input to make this possible, namely HDCP 2.2. Otherwise without a 4K TV the video output will be 1080p. Enjoying the 4K perks is however limited by the amount of 4K streaming content available in the market, basically YouTube, Amazon Prime and Netflix that is if you have subscribed. Notably, the streaming entirely depends on the speed of your internet connection.
The Amazon Fire TV is a decent device that offers fast speeds both in navigation of its new-looking interface and streaming of your preferred on-demand content such as Netflix, BBC and Amazon itself. If you are not an Amazon prime video subscriber, then you are likely to feel like a second-class-citizen because most of the content heavily focuses on Amazon‘s Media libraries. But if you still want to stream the highest video quality they you may consider having the NVIDIA SHIELD TV, Roku 4 streaming media or Apple TV device. All said, the Amazon Fire TV could not be the best media streaming device out there, but it is definitely worth the bucks as it scores where it matters most and appeals to a majority of cord-cutters.