Amazon Fire TV Review 2018
Amazon made waves throughout the streaming industry when it announced the new Amazon Fire TV for $70. If you’re looking for a high performance streaming device, the Fire TV won’t let you down. It boasts a 1.5GHz dual-core processor, 4k HD streaming support, Alexa integration, and Dolby Atmos support making it one of the more powerful devices on the market. At only $70, the Fire TV is also one of the cheapest options out of the latest models of streaming devices.
Like the Chromecast or more recent Roku devices, the newest Amazon Fire TV has moved away from a standalone box and gone the way of the dongle. It connects directly to your TV’s HDMI port with its small built in HDMI cord and then just hangs there. It’s a nice change if you’re someone who values your entertainment center’s space or if you have a wall mounted TV. Rather than have an HDMI cord hanging down below the TV to connect to the box, the Fire TV is completely out of sight. You will, however, need to power the new Fire TV device still. If you don’t have an outlet behind your wall mounted TV, you’ll still need to run a cord down your wall as if the device wasn’t a dongle.
If you’re familiar with the Google Chromecast, you might know that the latest model is a sleek black circle with nothing but the Google Chrome logo on it. It’s impossible to not see the similarities between the two devices, with Amazon opting for a diamond shape that has sleek edges rather than the circle.
However, the Amazon Fire TV is a bit heavier than the Chromecast and we were worried about it pulling on the HDMI port. Amazon customer support informed us that the device was tested on numerous TVs without issue, but that didn’t stop us from adding some Velcro tabs to the back of the device and TV to hold it up. Velcro is cheap and simple enough that it’s definitely worth the added peace of mind.
Unlike the design of the box, the remote’s design hasn’t changed at all. If you’ve used the remote on the older Fire TV models then you’ll understand why it wasn’t changed; it’s a work of art. The remote is simple, elegant, and intuitive. It’s not bogged down by excessive buttons and menu options and allows you to navigate the Fire TV interface with ease. We do wish the remote came with volume buttons, but that’s typically controlled with the TV remote anyway.
If you’d prefer to not use the remote (or just don’t feel like standing up to get it) you can also use the free app on your phone to control it. If your phone is also on the other side of the room, feel free to yell to Alexa to change the channel for you. Alex’s integration with the Amazon Fire TV is great news for those of you with Amazon Echo devices in your home.
If we’re comparing the Amazon Fire TV to the Google Chromecast Ultra, it’s hard to award either party points over the other for look. We’d probably give a slight edge to the Fire TV in a head to head for overall design though. They both look incredibly similar, but Amazon offering a remote control tips the scale in it’s favor over the Chromecast’s slightly lighter design.
Like most Amazon products, the Fire TV is backed with Alexa support. If you have an Echo or an Echo Dot, setting it up to control the Fire TV is laughably easy. As long as both devices are on the same WiFi connection all you have to do is say “Alexa Play The Walking Dead”. Alexa will then search the network for the device, discover it, and then pair the two. There is slightly more work if you have multiple Alexa devices or Fire TVs, but the Alexa app makes pairing them easy.
Keep in mind that Alexa can control the Fire TV itself, but it doesn’t actually control the TV. If you get used to have Alexa do all of your Fire TV dirty work for you, finding out that she can’t change the volume can be devastating.
In our testing, the voice recognition was quite easy and smooth. Sometimes the Echo Dot would get confused with some commands, but it’s no different than the other voice command programs on the market. Being able to control the Fire TV, movie room lighting, and turn off music with voice commands to the Echo is quite an experience though. As the platform continues to be developed we’re exited to see what else will come out of Alexa. Hopefully she’ll be able to fully control the home theaters of cord cutters everywhere in the near future!
The user interface is something that helps set the Fire TV apart from the Google Chromecast. On the Chromecast, you have to launch apps on your mobile device or a desktop on the network before the Chromecast will take over playing it. It’s great for sites that don’t have apps or are desktop specific, but is a little annoying for big names like Sling TV, PlayStation Vue, Netflix, or Hulu. The interface for the Fire TV means your phone or computer won’t be tied up while you’re trying to watch the latest episode of Game of Thrones.
Navigation is simple and the high performance hardware makes it wonderfully smooth. We did our testing on WiFi since we didn’t purchase the $15 Ethernet adapter and ran into no issues. We watched Monk through Amazon Prime TV and a few episodes of Stranger Things’ second season on Netflix. Both shows immediately started streaming in 4K.
Although your situation might be different based on your internet speeds, router type, and location of your TV, the Ethernet adapter is an option that can help. Even at $15 extra, the Amazon Fire TV costs less than the Roku Ultra that has built in LAN options.
It’s a little annoying that the Amazon Fire TV no longer supports a native YouTube app (or YouTube TV), but at least there’s a work around. To watch YouTube on the Fire TV you have to download a browser app and navigate to the main site. Although not ideal at least there’s still a way to watch it, unlike trying to watch iTunes on the Fire TV for example.
The Fire TV does support most major streaming services and includes a huge library of apps. We wrote a guide about Amazon Channels and how useful it is to have multiple subscriptions housed under one roof. Since both Amazon Channels and the Fire TV are made by the same company, you can be sure that the integration between the two is flawless.
Overall Fire TV Review
It’s hard to not like the Fire TV. It’s one of the cheapest 4K streaming options and is such an improvement over previous models. The constant quarrel between Amazon and Google makes YouTube integration a little lack luster, but we hope that’s where the bickering will end. Both companies are charging forward in the streaming services industry and disagreements between them could prove to be a constant burden to consumers. If you’ve been enjoying Google’s content more than Amazon’s, it might make more sense for you to get a Chromecast to avoid any future problems.
That said, if you’re looking for an incredibly powerful and well designed hardware for an Amazon quality price, the Fire TV is a fantastic option. It supports most major services, ties into Alexa, and is both intuitive and fast. If you haven’t jumped on board with 4K streaming yet, Amazon also offers a smaller 1080p HD device for cheaper. The other device, named the Fire TV Stick, is a little less powerful but will save you some money up front.
Both the Fire TV and the Fire TV Stick will let you stream your favorite content and also come backed by one of the biggest companies on the planet.