It’s an exciting time to be a cord cutter, and one reason for that is the unprecedented amount of competition in the streaming device market. Not too long ago, Roku stood pretty much alone in the streaming box market. Now, thanks to the arrival of Chromecast, a new Apple TV, and Amazon Fire TV, there’s much more choice in the streaming device market.
Of the new players in the streaming device market, Amazon is arguably the most exciting. Amazon is a huge company with a ton of resources, and they’re also in the curious position of being the only streaming device company that also has their own subscription streaming service (Amazon Prime).
Amazon is currently selling the second generation of their Amazon Fire TVs, and they’ve gained a loyal following for the device. We got our hands on one and gave it a try. Here’s our full review.
The Amazon Fire TV comes in a small box that hints at its compact design. The photo above shows everything that comes in the box. Just as with Roku, this is a BYO-HDMI cable situation.
The Fire TV has a nice small footprint, especially when you compare it to the larger Roku 4. We really like the inconspicuous design: this thing is small, black, and a very simple boxy shape. It won’t distract the eye when you stick it in your entertainment center or next to your TV.
The remote is simple, but perfectly effective. Amazon also sells gaming controllers separately.
The Fire TV connects to your TV via HDMI cable (again, not included). It also has a microSD slot, a USB slot, and an ethernet jack. The on-board specs are quite impressive: it has a quad-core processor and can handle 4K Ultra HD.
When you first plug in your Amazon Fire TV, you’ll be greeted by a simple tutorial. It’s a nice touch, and perhaps a necessary one, because the Amazon Fire TV is definitely a little less intuitive than its competitors.
You installed apps appear on the “Home” tab, which is similar to most streaming box operating systems. That’s simple enough, but that’s not all that will appear on your home screen: your selection of apps will share space with suggested apps and Amazon promotions.. Compared to Roku’s interface, the Fire TV dedicates less space to the apps you already have downloaded.
In a similar way, Amazon’s offerings are favored throughout the user interface. That’s great if you have an Amazon video library and an Amazon Prime account, but less useful when you’re not a heavy user of Amazon’s services.
That leads into our next point. While the Fire TV makes accessing apps slightly less elegant, it does an excellent job of integrating Amazon content into the interface. If you have purchased movies or TV show episodes through Amazon, you’ll find it easy to select them on your Amazon Fire TV.
The voice search is solid, and while it’s not the killer app that Amazon presents it as, it’s a serious help when you want to find content quickly. The fact that it can be used to find apps as well as content is really nice.
To be clear, Amazon Fire TV’s interface is by no means complicated, and tech-savvy users will navigate it with ease. However, it’s also clearly a little less intuitive and a little less aesthetically pleasing than its competitors, like the Apple TV or Roku.
Amazon Fire TV has all of the major streaming apps that you’d expect from a streaming box. Netflix, Hulu, HBO GO, and the like are all available on the device. You’ll find plenty of coverage for more minor services, too: there are apps for Crackle, Popcornflix, and more. The selection of apps on the Amazon Fire TV is quite large, but it doesn’t have the consistent quality of the more exclusive app stores available through Roku and Apple devices.
The sports situation is kind of interesting on Amazon Fire TV. On the one hand, the Fox Sports Live app is available for this platform, which is an big advantage over Roku 4. However, the Fire TV doesn’t have an app for the NHL’s streaming service, which is a little odd. Thankfully, the Fire TV does have the apps for the NFL, MLB, and NBA.
One huge advantage that the Fire TV has over its competition is its gaming selection. Casual gamers will love the amount of original games and ports available on the platform, and there’s even a first-party gaming control available for the system. It’s a solid little gaming machine – there’s nothing here that will blow away PC or console gamers, but it’s a clear step up from its gaming-impoverished peers, like the Roku 4. In a similar way, Amazon has the lead over some of its peers in terms of utility and social media apps.
The Amazon Fire TV offers 4K Ultra HD, a distinction it shares with the Roku 4. The Apple TV and many other streaming devices can’t match this.
We tried the Amazon Fire TV with both wired and wireless connections, and we were very impressed with the streaming quality. There wasn’t any noticeable choppiness or drops in picture quality when using major streaming services with either setup.
The Amazon Fire TV is available on Amazon for $99.99. Shipping is free. This makes it noticeably cheaper than the Roku 4 ($120) and Apple TV ($150).
The Amazon Fire TV is a powerful device, and it measures up well against its peers on the streaming device market. The device is made all the more impressive by its price tag, which is a bit lower than a comparable Roku and only 2/3 of the price of a comparable Apple TV.
Users with video libraries purchased through Amazon will love the Fire TV. So will tech-savvy users, who will appreciate its app selection and gaming prowess. More casual users, however, may want to look at Amazon Fire TV’s less versatile but more user-friendly peers, like the Roku 4.
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