July 29, 2014 - PeterT
Amazon Fire TV – Part 1 – The Basics
A look at the first part of the Amazon Fire TV experience
I am definitely into tech and gadgets. I already had and was using Apple TV for quite a while when I heard about Amazon Fire TV, Amazon’s new set-top streaming media device. I was getting disenchanted with Apple TV lacking apps since the rest of the Apple experience was built around an App Store (iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and even Mac OS X computers) concept. Too many keynote events came and went without any significant change to the Apple TV. It did what it did pretty well, but I felt it could and should do more. I had dabbled in Roku and Google Chromecast too, but they didn’t do the job for me either. It was time for another option.
Enter Amazon Fire TV
I am an Amazon Prime member and have been for quite a while, so I am definitely a part of the Amazon ecosystem already. I frequently take advantage of the free 2-day shipping, so I was shopping on Amazon and noticed there was some buzz about Amazon Fire TV. The description and general vibe started with “streaming” and that is at the core of what Amazon Fire TV will do for you. The hardware specs seemed really good (except for storage space, and I’ll cover that and how to solve that issue in a future installment), so I knew there was potential there. When I looked closely at what was under the hood and how it compared to Apple TV, I was truly impressed and my mind moved over to gaming and other potential. Yes, I knew you could yell “Gary Busey” at the remote and it would search. Their marketing worked there, I don’t think anybody didn’t understand that part.
No unboxing video or explanation here
I’m not a totally tech blogger or really interested at all in doing any unboxing crap. I hope that’s not what you were looking for. The set-top box part is small, black, and unobtrusive and the remote is small and easy to use. The packaging is actually pretty well done, so perhaps I should get more into unboxing. It also comes with a battery for the remote, the power adapter, and a small instruction booklet. You really don’t need it, though. The unit has ports for HDMI, Ethernet, USB, optical audio, and one for the power adapter. Setup is easy and the unit comes preconfigured with your Amazon account information already. Just connect Amazon Fire TV to your TV via HDMI and connect the power adapter and it fires up fairly quickly and even shows you a cute little startup video (which you can repeat later from the settings menu if you so desire). You’ll have to pair the remote too, and that was quick and easy.
Streaming is the Prime functionality
See what I did there? Obviously Amazon Fire TV is made to serve those that are well into the Amazon Prime ecosystem, or even the Amazon ecosystem in general. I’m frankly surprised that you can’t shop with it right out of the box: “Buy a Gary Busey mask!” shouted into the remote should bring up listings for Gary Busey masks on Amazon in my opinion. Alas, this does not work. Perhaps someday my dream shall be realized. If people start robbing banks in Gary Busey masks, please don’t point the authorities to this blog entry. Aside from that tangent and odd wish, streaming is really good on Amazon Fire TV. Strong hardware specs (quadruple the RAM of Apple TV with a and four times as many cores) plus the ASAP feature that “predicts what movies and TV episodes you’ll want to watch and buffers them for playback before you hit play” make for a smooth streaming experience. Compared to my TV’s built-in Netflix, Amazon Fire TV just blew it away and compared to the other streaming devices I have, had, and have used, it was still a much better experienced on Amazon Fire TV across the board. Prime Video is great, and I found myself finding much more than I had found previously using the other ways that I can view Amazon Prime Video. Many, many things added to my Watchlist for sure. The non-Prime services like Netflix and Hulu, etc all provided a stellar experience right out of the box for me. I’d like to see more depth in the Android versions of these apps overall, though, but I would lump those suggestions in with a more general Android list of gripes for them. Perhaps for another post.
Speaking of another post…
This has been far too long as it is and I have barely scratched the surface. Since I’ve had Amazon Fire TV from day one and I’ve used it extensively (including some far more advanced topics like tackling the storage problem, sideloading apps that are not available directly on Amazon Fire TV over your wifi network, and more) I will try to get back for more installments and interesting blog posts about Amazon Fire TV. Until then, I said good day sir!