I ordered the Amazon Fire TV on the day it was announced. As a bit of an impulse buy, it looked like a hands-down improvement over the WD TV set top boxes that I currently have. While the WDTV development seems to have stagnated, the Amazon Fire TV is just getting started.
Media set top boxes like the WD TV, Roku 3, Apple TV, and the Amazon Fire TV all connect to the Internet in order to stream your content from various service providers. They all also hit around the same price point under $100. If you have a large TV and a subscription to services like Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu Plus, or others, a set top box can help you play these services on your TV (without the need to upgrade your TV to a smart TV) or attach your laptop. They have a dedicated function and enable easy browsing and streaming of video or music content.
With Smart TVs, laptops, game consoles, Chromecast and set top boxes able to stream these videos to your television, like your entertainment center, it has become a crowded space. What sets the Amazon Fire TV apart is the Amazon ecosystem surrounding it and the hardware put into the box. With a quad-core processor, 2GB of RAM, ethernet, and dual-band/dual-antenna Wi-Fi, the Fire TV has a lot under the hood. Along with the hardware, the Fire TV uses the same fork of Android as the Kindle Fire tablets.
I believe the utilization of the hardware is quite apparent. The menu and navigation is crisp and super responsive. I am blown away, compared to the WD TV, how fast the navigation can move around the screen. Another feature of the Fire TV is the voice search using a microphone built into the remote and voice recognition but with the system as responsive as it is, typing in a user name and password to log into a subscription is hardly annoying because you can fly around the keyboard.
The Fire TV does not get turned off. It will go into a low-power mode after a time of being idle so it can keep itself updated on its own. This is a nice feature that improves the system responsiveness even further but a waste of electricity that could add up over time.
While the Fire TV was an impulse buy for me, I think it certainly has its merits but also its limitations. The most important thing of a set top box is access to the content. My WD TV could never get Amazon Prime streaming content, so I mostly ignored their offerings. Obviously with an Amazon device, their ecosystem is front and center. The WD TV used to offer a subscription-free, ad-free CrunchyRoll channel but removed it and others in an update. While the Amazon Android App store has a Crunchyroll app for streaming anime, it is not available on the Fire TV yet for some reason.
The WD TV did excel at playing local content from my NAS but I recently started running into problems where it would not be able to find the shares. With no means to manually enter the share path, I was at its mercy. The Fire TV is able to stream my local content from the NAS thanks to Plex on the NAS and the Plex app installed on the Fire TV.
I did not purchase the separate game controller and don’t plan on really using it for games. I did play a few levels of Sonic CD which took on a humorously challenging new level by using only the provided remote. The capability of games is nice and a lot more should come on board now that the Fire TV is out from under the wraps. Part of me just hopes the future of the device doesn’t get bogged down in games or distracted from its streaming goal.
I’m happy with the Amazon Fire TV device and I think the price point is approachable. It will be quite nice if I decide to activate Netflix after Game of Thrones and my HBO subscription wrap up. The device is still in its infancy but I look forward to its development and hopefully gaining more partners like Crunchyroll and expanding the Prime Instant library to offer more content that is now easily accessible.
The Amazon Fire TV can be purchased from Amazon.com for $99.