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Amazon Fire TV Review

Last week Amazon released a set top box the Amazon Fire TV (Buy Now $99) to compete with the likes of Apple, Roku, and a host of others. And of course the HT Guys got a hold of one and put it through its paces. This will be a shorter review than previous boxes because we have done so many and they are essentially the same. Today we’ll focus on the differences.

Features

  • Prime Support – Unlimited access to over 40,000 Prime Instant Videos on your HDTV, including Amazon exclusives like Downton Abbey and Justified
  • Large Selection of Content – Over 200,000 TV episodes – and movies, millions of songs, and over a hundred games.
  • Voice search – Say the name of what you want to watch and start enjoying in seconds.
  • Specifications – Quad-core processor, 2 GB of memory, dedicated GPU, plus 1080p HD video and Dolby Digital Plus surround sound
  • Easy to set up and use – Pre-registered to your Amazon account so you can enjoy favorite titles and personalized recommendations
  • Instant streaming – Exclusive new feature ASAP predicts what movies and TV episodes you’ll want to watch and buffers them for playback before you hit play
  • Parental Controls – Amazon FreeTime lets you easily limit screen time and create personalized profiles just for kids (coming soon)
  • Games – Play titles like Minecraft-Pocket Edition, The Walking Dead, and Monsters University, plus free games and Amazon exclusives. Paid games start from just 99 cents

Performance

The Fire TV works like all other devices in this category. You connect it and start watching content. A nice touch is that if you buy this yourself, as opposed to getting it as a gift, it comes connected to your Amazon account so you can start watching Prime instant videos or ordering paid content through your Amazon account. You can go from out of the box to watching movies on demand in minutes!

The user interface is what we would call basic. Its fast and laid out nicely but is not what we would call elegant. Perhaps in a subsequent release. For now, it gets the job done.

Hulu and Netflix are supported but you have to download the apps as opposed to being pre-installed. That adds about a minute to the install for each application. Logging in requires you to type with an onscreen keyboard. It would be nice if there was a remote app that allows you to type on your phone instead of using a D-pad controller.  Both apps produced video quality that was similar to AppleTV and Roku. There are about 180 apps available for the Fire TV ranging from video content to games. The notable apps for video include: Netflix, Hulu, Watch ESPN, Youtube, Vimeo, and Showtime Anytime. There are also music apps like Pandora, and a bunch of radio apps. For a full list check out Amazon’s website (http://www.amazon.com/b?ie=UTF8&node=7031433011)

The Fire TV also has games which makes it a great choice for casual gamers. There is a game controller that looks like your typical game controller for an additional $40 (Buy Now). We did not test the game controller however, we did download Asphalt 8 and attempted to play it with the remote control. Graphics looked good and game play seemed fine. We are not gamers by any stretch but for a $99 box mainly used for watching content having a fairly high quality game aspect to it seems like a major plus. While it won’t replace an X-Box or Playstation it sure will satisfy many who don’t need all that hardware. We suspect that as more games come online this aspect will only get better.

The remote is a typical remote for a device like this. It has has directional buttons, select, home, play/pause, ffwd/rew, and a menu button. What makes this different is that the Fire TV also has a voice search button. With this button you press and hold while you speak what you are looking for and if it exists within Amazon it will show up on screen. If it is free with Prime it will be indicated otherwise you will have to pay. What would be nice is if the search worked across all content platforms. Some content is free on Netflix but costs money on Amazon.

Audio sounded great. It was so nice seeing the Dolby Digital + light up on our receiver. High quality audio streamed through the set top box for $99 sounds like a good deal to us!

Conclusion

There are a lot of set top boxes out there competing for your eyeballs.  No one of them is the perfect for everyone. Having access to a easy to use store where you can buy high quality audio and video is a major plus that the Fire TV and AppleTV have. Throw in an easy to use game market and a slight edge has to be given to the Fire TV. With that said, if you are not an Amazon prime subscriber you will be better served with the Roku 3. If you are an iTunes user, well we probably lost you after the first paragraph. If you are like Ara, you may as well buy both! Cut the price in half and its a must have for everyone!

Download Episode #630


Posted by The HT Guys, April 10, 2014 11:09 PM

About The HT Guys

The HT Guys, Ara Derderian and Braden Russell, are Engineers who formerly worked for the Advanced Digital Systems Group (ADSG) of Sony Pictures Entertainment. ADSG was the R&D unit of the sound department producing products for movie theaters and movie studios.

Two of the products they worked on include the DCP-1000 and DADR-5000. The DCP is a digital cinema processor used in movie theaters around the world. The DADR-5000 is a disk-based audio dubber used on Hollywood sound stages.

ADSG was awarded a Technical Academy Award by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 2000 for the development of the DADR-5000. Ara holds three patents for his development work in Digital Cinema and Digital Audio Recording.

Every week they put together a podcast about High Definition TV and Home Theater. Each episode brings news from the A/V world, helpful product reviews and insights and help in demystifying and simplifying HDTV and home theater.