The Amazon Fire TV introduces a new way to get your entertainment. This is the first micro-console that really gets it right in the history of the tech industry. Expect to see companies taking notes off of Amazon for generations to come after the Fire TV has successfully redefined consumer home electronics.
Starting out with the selection of viewing material available, at low-cost and in some cases for free, allow us to take you through the many ways we found Fire TV to be a useful product for a vary wide variety of people. After this initial section we will discuss the device with more big picture thinking providing Ease of Use and technology analysis, apps + performance evaluation, and a final verdict.
Amazon Voice Search has enabled the ability for owners of the Fire TV to simply say the name of any movie, television show, actor, genre, or app, and be taken directly to it. You can also use this to search for a list of results such as simply saying “zombies” to see an entire variety of zombie-based film, television shows, apps, games, and more. Amazon Prime and Amazon Instant Video provide the best and most direct option for purchasing and streaming video content, but there’s just about every alternative available on the Fire TV as well.
Tons of apps are used to make Fire TV into more than just an Amazon box. Some noteworthy inclusions are Plex, Showtime Anytime, Twitch, WWE Network, Starz’s Manga, as well as the Smithsonian Channel, Bloomberg TV+, Vimeo, WatchESPN, HuffPost Live, AOL On, Pandora, VEVO, iHeartRadio, DailyBurn, and FitYou. The predictable apps are here, and feel right at home as well. These include stuff like Netflix, Crackle, Hulu Plus, YouTube, Flixster, and more. But it doesn’t end here. We will do our best to mention as many apps as we find possible but please know that there are tons already on the Fire TV, many of which are very useful and free.
This Review will focus on the most interesting, unique, or useful and omit apps we haven’t had time to try out yet – but stay tuned to our Amazon Fire TV for more on those. One last thing, if you have kids Amazon has a parental control setting and a “FreeTime” mode that allows kids to enjoy the content you hand select for them (which there’s many kid shows / apps to choose from) and gives you the choice to disallow any item or time restrict them, etc. Now back to the fun stuff for us adults…
If you’re like me, you don’t really have that “one trusted source” for information these days. You probably like to shop around and hear multiple sides to each story that hits the news – whether it be your tech news, politics, or more importantly your favorite video games news. Frequency is a pretty awesome app for the Fire TV that allows you to do just that. Watching news updates + Internet Video on your industry / category of choice or by source all in one app just seemed worthy of its own shout-out. This is great for those looking to spend more time gaming and watching movies, and less time remembering which app they were supposed to check for updates. Just stick them all into one and save time.
Fire TV provides the avenue for users to play content from virtually any provider they currently have subscriptions with. View Netflix, purchased / rented content on other major providers, or even from multimedia servers where you store bought content as digital hard drive files. The options seem to be endless as easily more apps could come out and expand this service. The most popular ways to view television and film content will likely end up being Amazon Prime (which now includes the exclusive rights to all HBO content such as all seasons of The Sopranos), Amazon Instant Video, Netflix, Hulu+, and Crackle for a number of reasons but there are also new emerging apps that people have never heard of expanding this market and what it’s capable of. This includes many niche offerings such as Starz’s Manga channel and more.
Beyond just renting and watching movies / television shows, apps are also available that allow the Fire TV to access your entire Google Drive performing actions, watching content, or even creating virtual scrapbook presentations based off of a photo album. At the least, this shows that Amazon is allowing the Fire TV app environment to be somewhat open-minded. While curated, Amazon Fire TV’s app service does not feel forced at all, and feels very much full of quality albeit quirky indie developer spirit and support.
Fire TV as a Gaming / Apps Service
Gamers should be happy to know that Amazon took the gaming aspects of the Fire TV extremely seriously and have turned the operating system into an integrated gaming machine OS. While in the middle of playing Sev Zero on the Amazon Game Controller, I was able to access my user profile (RealGamerNewz) on the Fire TV simply by hitting the GameCircle button on the Game Controller. This brought up my progress thus far on earning all of the game’s Achievements, as well as data on how long I’d been playing and what my fellow Fire TV owning friends were up to lately.
There’s a ton of free games and apps that can be downloaded, and In-Game Purchases are instantly shut off by a simple setting if you want to play it safe before deciding on investing. You must use your Amazon account and a primary payment option must exist for it (Bank Card or Credit Card), otherwise free games cannot be downloaded. Only a handful of designated apps can be downloaded without this primary function set up on your account, these were likely deemed essential to Fire TV (Netflix is among these). If you get the Amazon Game Controller – you can play Sev Zero for free without entering that banking information. This gives you something to play while waiting for your ATM replacements to arrive – which was the case for me, those things are ancient. Right?
After that you’ll be able to experience a great host of titles. Here are some of the top picks which you can expect Reviews for coming to RealGamerNewz.com very soon.
Ease of Use:
The Amazon Fire TV has the fastest and most intuitive interface I’ve seen from a metro-style navigational menu thus far. The fast and solid UI provided by the Fire TV in combination with the Video Search feature presents an experience with pretty much zero latency. Turning on a film is a snap as well, even over regular wifi connections this device takes only a few short seconds to start streaming then doesn’t stop to buffer at any point.
The Fire TV Remote is streamlined as well, just like everything else about the Fire TV. Everything feels less than a click away as menus respond instantly to simplified controls. No overly complex riddles to figure out here. All of the apps on this device have been carefully crafted with mistakes of the past easily avoided and most major streaming providers giving a seamless experience to viewers on the Fire TV. Simply plug in and play. Amazon Fire TV tries it’s best not to be complicated, and it achieves that. All user interfaces move even faster than that of next-gen gaming consoles, and are intuitive so they don’t require any thinking. Streaming music from popular apps like Pandora or an Amazon MP3 collection and accessing photos and home-videos from Google Drive or Amazon Cloud Drive are instantaneous and look beautiful on-screen with creative ideas for presentation to those viewing.
Amazon FreeTime as mentioned earlier is an extremely easy way for parents to set kids up with a selection of apps, tv shows, games, and films that they deem appropriate – with time limits per day, per application / content which they also decide. Once this is all set up parents can throw the Fire TV into this mode and feel confident to walk away with kids only seeing what they should and only for as long as they should. Some of the kid stuff available includes Nickelodeon, Sesame Street, PBS Kids, and more but there’s also a lot of great stuff emerging for the younger market which can be found and allowed on your own as a parent. Everyone raises their kids differently, and Amazon did a great job for leaving it up to you but also giving you that power to do it quick, do it fast, and do it right.
“ASAP (Advanced Streaming and Prediction)” might have sounded like a gimmick before opening up and plugging in the Amazon Fire TV – but it’s for real. Buffering a show whether using Amazon Instant Video or even an app like Netflix takes less than 4 seconds and doesn’t happen again during the middle of a Film or TV show – even if you’re on normal grade Internet and a standard WiFi connection. This device has 4x as much RAM as the Apple TV, Roku, and Chromecast and a Quad Core Processor with 3x as much processing power with its own dedicated Adreno 320 graphics engine. This makes Fire TV far better than any micro-console on the market. Their services and store is set up in a curated yet open way with tons of useful apps and games which also perform with excellence. This is thanks to the high specs and great architecture of the Fire TV overall, making it easy for development teams to create software and games for.
Similar to Wii U and PS4’s remote play feature, owners of the Kindle Fire HDX are able to control the Fire TV’s entertainment, mirror it on the tablet, and even control their Fire TV with the tablet – during apps, during movies, and even as a game controller for certain titles. Kindle Fire HDX is also used to jump into “X-Ray” mode which gives viewers detailed information about a film from the IMDb database.
Simply put, the Amazon Fire TV is a luxurious value, provides a pleasurable experience with everything you expect and more, makes Roku look like a paperweight, makes Chromecast look like a child’s toy, and makes your Cable Box look like a ripoff.
Specific Specs and Extended Capabilities List:
- Quad Core Processor (fastest available in a micro-console)
- 2GB Ram (fastest available in a micro-console)
- Certified Dolby Digital Plus Surround Sound (only available on Fire TV)
- Voice Search (only available on Fire TV) (uses Bluetooth 2.1 Fire TV Remote which is included and has 2 digital microphones w/ noise suppression tech)
- WiFi Capable (Dual Band / Dual Antenna / MIMO)
- Ethernet Input (10 / 100 base)
- HDMI Output (720P or 1080P HD @60hz or @50hz Frames Per Second)
- Optical Audio Output
- Gamers can flip the Fire TV Remote sideways and use it in a way similar to the Nintendo NES days (on certain games).
- Amazon Game Controller is $39.99 add-on item that has L1, L2, R1, R2, X, Y, B, A buttons, two thumbsticks, an arrow pad, and more.
- 8 GB Internal Storage
- Future Expansion is a possibility through Cloud for high powered games / apps to eventually be streamed rather than downloaded and run locally.
- 1 Year Limited Warranty included
- Content Compatibility (not including app-expanded support): H.263, H.264, MPEG4-SP, VC1 (Video), AAC, AC-3, E-AC-3, HE-A, PCM, MP3 (Audio), JPG, PNG (Image)
Apps + Performance:
The Fire TV may not be here to compete with the PS4 and Xbox ONE for games, but it isn’t trying to. The Fire TV has a great library of existing games, many of which will never be released on those platforms. And the ability for Android developers to easily port games to the Fire ecosystem means this exclusive flavor of gaming won’t be slowing or stopping any time soon. The Amazon Game Controller for the Fire TV feels great, and Amazon Game Studios produced Sev Zero which feels a lot better than expected – and is actually pretty addicting even for a hardcore gaming veteran. This company was formed from industry developers who put together Xbox ONE titles and many others throughout their experience as veterans in the business. Many more unannounced titles are in the lineup from Amazon Game Studios which will likely never be released outside of this awesome Fire TV ecosystem. Other third party titles like Grand Theft Auto and Minecraft are also sure to keep those who came here for gaming quite happy, and for a fraction of the costs involved elsewhere.
As far as other apps, all of the ones we tested ran perfectly. This was better than expected, and from what we can gather Amazon is very firm on app development companies putting their best foot forward. The only app you won’t find is HBO Go and Amazon just purchased rights to HBO content so that will likely be remedied soon if not simply exclusive to Amazon Prime and Amazon Instant Video. Unlike the cable boxes that millions are tolerating these days, everything the Fire TV does it does instantly. ASAP tech means that there’s essentially no buffering other than 2-3 seconds before launching a Film / TV show. And yes, it actually works exactly the way it sounds.
Hands down, the Amazon Fire TV has destroyed its competition. Most of the set top boxes released have only been exciting to a small handful of people as the selection in viewing content just wasn’t there and the technology was just too slow and chunky. Fire TV introduces a new era in which it reigns supreme at this time. Google has recently announced the Android TV which is not out yet but is the only product that could hope to come close to this level of performance, selection, and ease of use. Unfortunately, I really don’t think Google can reach this level and by that time Amazon would have improved the Fire TV through updates and new app design anyways. The thing that makes the Fire TV so great is not simply the power it has or the apps it has though, and that’s why Google won’t surpass this anytime soon. What makes the Fire TV special is its focus on everything being fast and intuitive.
Apps on the Fire TV feel intuitive, menus feel organic, and not once did I stop and ask myself “How do I do this?”. It just flows. The fact that Android TV (which is not available yet) is the only thing remotely similar to the Fire TV, and it was announced immediately after Fire TV’s success was known, tells me that tech companies will be happy to simply copy the Fire TV from here on out.
If you’re going to get a Micro-console, there’s absolutely zero reason to choose anything besides the Fire TV. The only way that Amazon Fire TV could really improve is to have built-in DTS and to have its own HBO Go app (although it would be redundant since Amazon Prime now owns exclusive rights to much of HBO’s content). For $99 the value being offered is unmatched in the market. Overall, Amazon Fire TV gets a 9.9 out of 10 from RealGamerNewz.
Review Info: Amazon Fire TV and Amazon Game Controller were provided to RealGamerNewz by the manufacturer for the purpose of this review.
Disclosure: The author of this article worked for Amazon on a confidential project during a six-month contract which was completed as scheduled. ***That contract did not begin until 1 month after this article was posted.