When it comes to boxes you can plug into your television to give you more content, no one should discount the new Amazon Fire TV. If you simply want to know whether or not you should buy the Fire TV, just scroll on down to the last paragraph now. If you want to know a little more about the device and it’s unique features, read on.
Speaking of convenience, the Fire TV comes preregistered with your Amazon account info so you can literally hit the ground running. Something else to love in the ease-of-use category: no line-of-sight necessary to get a signal from the remote to the box. Nice touches.
I have to say I really love the way the remote handles rewinding and fast-forwarding. A tap of the left or right side of the large circle button automatically skips back for ahead by 10 seconds. After trying this out repeatedly, this seems just about perfect for catching that thing you wanted to see again or missing those things you don’t feel are worth your time. Also, going further backward or forward is smooth and quick. It’s probably the best scrubbing experience I’ve come across up to this point.
Now for the answer to the question on everyone’s mind… What actually differentiates the Fire TV from the Apple TV, Roku and Chromecast? In terms of processing power, the Fire TV is 3x faster than it’s competitors. It also sports 2x the mem of Apple TV and 4x the mem of the Chromecast. The Fire TV is thinner than either Roku or Apple TV boxes, but it’s also wider.
Like the Apple TV does with Airplay for iPhones, iPads and Macbooks, Fire TV lets users “fling” TV shows and movies from their mobiles devices (Kindles and the new Fire phone out of the box, with an option to install an app to offer similar functionality for Apple devices). When you fling content to the Fire TV from your mobile device, your device acts as a second screen and provides playback controls and displays X-Ray information (IMDB info for movies and TV shows). X-Ray info is also available right inside the Fire TV’s interface so it’s easy to see info about characters, for instance.
Amazon is also taking a stab at the living-room gaming crowd by offering games from developers like EA, Disney, Gameloft, Ubisoft and more. Right now that translates into a catalog of about 100 games that have been optimized for the Fire TV. Yes, you can play Minecraft on the Fire TV, along with NBA2K14 and Asphalt 8.
Some games work with the Fire TV remote, but if you really want to get the most out of the gaming experience you’ll want to grab an Amazon Fire game controller which pairs via Bluetooth. Unfortunately I haven’t gotten my hands on one of these just yet, so the jury’s still out on how it actually feels in your hands. That said, one feature that sounds pretty cool is the GameCircle button which will give you access to leaderboards, achievements and friends.
Fire TV delivers 1080p HD video and features Dolby Digital Plus surround sound. On the back of the box you’ll find 5 ports: power, HDMI, optical audio, ethernet and USB.
In terms of content the options are pretty straightforward and comparable to what you’d find on any other box with one major exception: access to Amazon Prime content. Aside from that you’ll find Netflix, Hulu Plus, Watch ESPN, Crackle and more on the video front. On the radio front you can choose from Pandora, iHeart Radio and TuneIn. If you’re one of those dinosaurs with a bunch of CDs that haven’t been used as coasters yet, you can use AutoRip which will give you free digital copies of your past purchases.
One tool parents will likely love is Amazon FreeTime which lets them control what kids can see and set time limits for when they can watch or play.
Amazon Fire TV’s best feature? The screen savers. Just kidding (although the photos are mesmerizing full-screen beauties I could probably watch for hours).
So, should you but Amazon’s Fire TV? If you’re a Prime member or Kindle Fire HDX user it’s a no-brainer. If you don’t yet own an Apple TV, Roku or Chromecast, sure, the Fire TV offers a great experience with convenient search. If you’re already tied into the Apple or Android ecosystems you may not find the experience compelling enough to make you switch, although if you would like the addition of a game console you can control as a parent, it may be worth using in tandem with other hardware. Roku fans, especially those that own the Roku Sreaming Stick which leaves less clutter around your TV, probably won’t give Fire TV a second thought.