A Week with the Amazon Fire TV

May 14th, 2014 Leave a Comment

Even though I’m more than content with the Chromecast, the Amazon Fire TV caught my eye for a very simple reason: Amazon Prime content.

I’ve been buying digital content from Amazon since they launched their MP3 Store, the first place to buy music without any DRM, back in 2007, and Amazon is the only place to get stuff like Dora and other Nickelodeon shows. Yeah, that’s a parenting problem.

Amazon doesn’t support the Chromecast and probably won’t anytime soon, and they don’t have an Instant Video app for Android, which is limiting for my household. So, I’ve been stuck using the Amazon app for my Smart TV, which isn’t ideal.

AmazonFireTV-578-80

Aside from being slow to launch and laggy, I can guess how much development support Amazon gives Smart TV apps compared to their Android, iOS and Fire OS apps.

So, when the Fire TV was announced, it immediately intrigued me. The capper came a couple weeks after when Amazon announced that much of HBO’s library would stream exclusively to Prime Instant Video. I’ve been putting off watching “The Wire” for years, and I can’t wait to rewatch “Oz.”

Another interesting aspect of the Fire TV is that Amazon mined comments on other, similar set-top boxes (e.g. Apple TV, Roku), using them as a large focus group of sorts. It’s rumored Amazon did this prior to launching the Fire HD as well.

This makes a ton of sense. Why wouldn’t Amazon look to compete in strategic areas where demand is strong and where they have a willing group of test subjects? This has to be in the fast-follower handbook.

Anyway, it’s been about a week since I got my Fire TV, and it’s about time to share some impressions.

Pros

Amazon claimed the Fire TV was fast, and the Fire TV is fast, screaming fast, like instantaneous fast. Compared to other ways I’ve used Instant Video, including the web app, it’s a joy to rummage through Amazon’s streaming collection, and videos play immediately. No snake chasing on a turntable, no spinning beach ball.

The Fire TV has Netflix and Hulu Plus apps, which means I can consolidate all my viewing on a single device. That ‘s nice, but the best part about this for me is that these apps are also significantly faster to load than the Chromecast or Smart TV versions.

Cons

I’ve read some poor reviews of the Fire TV; in fact, most of the reviews I’ve seen have been mixed at best. I suppose this is because the reviewers are comparing other set-top streaming boxes. I’ve only used the Chromecast, which I still love, and the Fire TV measures up well against it.

The two devices actually fit nicely into my household, with the Fire TV on the primary, living room TV, and Chromecasts on the smaller TVs in other spots.

My only con is about Voice Search, which Amazon is pushing hard as an innovative, differentiating feature. I tried it for kicks, and it took a couple tries for it to understand me. I may search for Gary Busey for giggles, but mostly, this just feels like a gimmick feature.

So, for me at least, the Fire TV is awesome. It fills a need and does so very nicely.

Thoughts? Find the comments.


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