Amazon Fire TV – Review

When Amazon released its Fire TV in October of 2014 it set itself squarely in the line of its major rivals, Apple TV, Google Chromecast, Roku 3 (Now TV) in what has become a battle for our screen time by some of the world’s largest tech companies. It promises to be a titanic battle so let’s have a look at Amazon’s offering.

Available for £79 the Fire TV box is aggressively priced around its main rivals, and at first glance seems like an attractive package until google re-enters the market with its Nexus Player.

Fire TV is intuitive, compelling, inventive and does away with some of the niggles that customers of other streaming boxes have encountered. Part of the reason for that is some of the sophisticated hardware under the hood. The quad-core processor, 2 GB of Ram and superior wi-fi antenna ensure that the user experience of the Fire TV box is sharp and speedy. The box itself is a sleek looking little number at less than ¾ of an inch high the little gloss black box is small enough to hide away into most places.

Set up is easy also; there are 4 ports on the back of the Fire TV box one of which is devoted to power. The HDMI is self-explanatory and the optical audio cable will work with Dolby 7.1. There is an Ethernet port but the built in Wi-Fi adapter should be more than adequate if your Fire TV box isn’t near your broadband hub. Amazon will ship your box automatically with your Amazon account linked to it and after a brief tutorial you can add the box to your wireless network or Ethernet quickly and get started.

Amazon’s own apps come installed as standard and are easily accessible via the main search, other apps such as the BBC iPlayer, Netflix and Demand 5 are available as third party downloads along with a few other media services for video and music but because this is an Amazon platform third party apps always feel like second class citizens. Expect Amazon’s own products to be front and centre for most of the time, which if you’re an amazon customer should be fine but after that it’s a bit of a pig.

There are music streaming services also, the Spotify app should appease most users who want this facility but there are other ones too.
FireTV Channels
The remote is handy and ergonomically designed with a Microphone in the end enabling Amazon’s unique voice search, which while excellent as what it does using a cloud based voice search it limits the search areas to Amazon’s own products rendering it virtually useless. If Amazon is claiming this device to have such an excellent customer experience then they should genuinely consider looking at this and rectifying it. Netflix offers far better content than Amazon Prime but if I use Amazon’s voice search I am limited to searching Amazon’s own library and still have to use the remotes arrows to use ANY other application.

The focus of the interface is largely to sell Amazon’s bolt on products which if we’re honest is to be expected given the manufacturer. There are 40 apps available currently, with presumably more in the pipeline, this is a long way behind their competitors which number in the three figures.

The more interesting part of this project is the Game’s section. Amazon has clearly gone after the casual gamer that doesn’t want to spend £300 on a games console and tries to pick up those left behind by the departures of Nintendo’s Wii, budget gamers if you will which is clearly why the device pack’s far more whack than its competitors.

There is a dedicated game controller for the platform (which is a chargeable extra) to prove how serious they are and major developments are in the offing with several major game developers. Having the now legendary Minecraft available as a launch title will help draw people to this feature a lot, with Rockstar (makers of Grand Theft Auto) already invested and with Fire OS being based on Android porting existing games shouldn’t be too much trouble for major game developers, so look for older GTA games to make their way to Fire TV quickly.

If you are interested in an Amazon Prime subscription, or already have one then this is certainly the box for you. If you are unsure about that then it’s worth giving this device a second thought, It’s a lovely device, make no mistake and an Amazon Prime subscription is not required to run it but its user interface is geared best to those who go balls to the wall on Amazon’s services. If you are also looking for a cheap way to entertain the kids with games then this might be worth a look also.