Amazon Fire TV is a 4K Ultra HD streaming set-top box. This second-generation version now supports Amazon Alexa voice assistant and other new features. The second generation has the same interface and works the same way. The main difference is support for 4K content & Alexa support.
This set-top box is great when used with Amazon Prime services. The Fire TV is a rival to the Apple TV, Chromecast and Roku's media streamers.
Let's explore the Fire TV:
The new Amazon Fire TV may look identical to the original Fire TV box but there are several updates in the new model. The key update is the support for 4K Ultra HD.
4K support means you can hook up the Fire TV to your 4K TV, and you can watch videos in Ultra HD (3840 x 2160) at up to 30fps. In order for this to work, you will need a compatible TV with an HDMI 2.0 port which supports HDCP 2.2.
You will also need a relatively fast internet connection. Amazon recommends at least 15Mb/s for Prime Video in 4K, but Netflix says 20Mb/s. Other apps may require more. The Fire TV has an HEVC decoder, so it can play videos streamed in this new format. Amazon is making much of its 1080p content available in HEVC so you'll be able to watch Full HD videos on a slower internet connection, and fewer data will be used – almost half.
More processing power is needed for 4K video, so Amazon has upgraded the processor to a 64-bit Mediatek quad-core chip which it says is 75 percent faster than the Qualcomm Snapdragon in the previous model. It also has a dedicated graphics engine, 2 GB of memory, 8 GB of storage and expandable storage of up to 200 GB.
Amazon has also changed the Wi-Fi and upgraded it to dual-band 802.11ac. The final change is that the remote control communicates via Wi-Fi instead of Bluetooth.
DESIGN AND SETUP
The top is like the back of a Fire tablet or Kindle: matt black with a glossy Amazon logo. The front and sides are also glossy black and a small white LED lets you know the box has power - just like an Apple TV. An external power supply is included in the box, but you'll need to provide your own HDMI cable.
Setup is easy, as you simply choose your Wi-Fi network, enter your password, then enter your Amazon email address and password. It's a bit fiddly using the on-screen keyboard & directional pad on the remote. The Chromecast is easier since the remote is your smartphone or tablet. And the new Apple TV lets you use an iPhone or iPad for painless setup.The Fire TV doesn't require you to own any smartphone or tablet: you need only an internet connection and an Amazon account (you don't need a Prime Instant Video subscription).
The Fire TV doesn't require you to own any smartphone or tablet: you need only an internet connection and an Amazon account (you don't need a Prime Instant Video subscription). The box runs a version of Amazon's Fire OS which is also used on Fire tablets and the Fire phone. It's based on Android, but you'll never see so much as a hint of recognizable Android anywhere.
Fire OS is a dark-looking, an easy to use the system on the Amazon's tablets, and things are much the same on the Fire TV. The main menu runs down the left-hand side and includes Home, which shows things you've watched or played recently, newly added Prime Instant Video items and other featured or 'top' content.
Other sections include Prime Instant Video, Watchlist, TV, Films, Apps, Games, Photos and Music. Quite obviously there are no books, magazines or newspapers, and no web browser or email apps - these are all better suited to tablets. Video Library is a place to see all your bought and rented content from Amazon.
If you head to the settings menu you can sync all relevant purchased Amazon content, rather than going through each section or searching for that content and downloading it individually. You can also set restrictions to prevent anything being purchased without entering a passcode, and even block different types of content entirely such as apps.
Alexa still works best with Amazon music and video because you can control playback with your voice. You can now say “skip ahead 2 minutes” to jump past the opening credits. Miss something because you were interrupted? Just try “rewind 30 seconds.” It just works like the Amazon Echo.
Check out the Amazon Echo review here.
- Amazon Fire TV supports 4K Ultra HD for true-to-life picture quality with 1080p streams on Amazon Video, Netflix, YouTube, Hulu and more, even without a 4K TV.
- You can enjoy over 7,000 apps, games, and Alexa skills including access to over 300,000 TV episodes and movies on Netflix, Amazon Video, HBO GO, Hulu, and more.
- Launch and control content with the included Alexa Voice Remote. Simply say, “Play Game of Thrones” or “Launch Netflix” and Alexa will respond instantly.
- Watch the best of live TV and sports from AMC, HGTV, ESPN, FOX, and others with a subscription to Sling TV, or top-rated primetime shows with CBS All Access.
- Prime members get unlimited access to Prime Video, featuring thousands of movies and TV episodes at no additional cost.
- Play current favorites or quickly discover what to watch next directly from the Home screen.
- Universal Search expanded to over 75 apps and channels.
- You can select your favorite teams in the Alexa app, either using a web browser or your Fire tablet, iOS or Android device.
- Using Alexa, just say “give me my sports update” to see the latest scores.
The Amazon Fire TV is an excellent set-top box which is powerful and well designed. The voice search works well too with Alexa. The interface is slick and easy to use, even if it can be confusing working out what you can watch on an Amazon Prime subscription. The Fire TV is one of the best video streamers, but it really makes sense if you pair it with a Prime Instant Video subscription and use Amazon's other services.
One of the main reasons for buying the new Fire TV is to get Amazon and Netflix's 4K content on your TV. Amazon doesn't charge extra for watching 4K content, but Netflix does. The Fire TV also offers plenty of other content including Spotify, BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, All 4 and Demand 5. The Fire TV allows you to install apps and play games using the bundled remote or the optional game controller.