So it was just over two weeks ago that Amazon announced their set-top box the Amazon Fire TV and the same day we went ahead and order ours with the Amazon Fire Gaming Controller as well. I wasn’t sure what to expect from Amazon’s offering in this space but I can tell you that my expectations have been blown away. What you get with the Amazon Fire TV is pretty basic You get the very small Fire TV box and Fire TV Remote. You can buy the Fire Game Controller additionally at a separate cost. Everything is black with white letters with a basic and simple look. In my review of the Amazon Fire TV I’m going to focus on two major components; The TV & Movie experience and gaming.
The Amazon Fire TV is a fast and easy to use experience
To put it simply, the Amazon Fire TV is fast. It’s fast when you turn it on, fast when searching, fast when downloading apps and games and fast when you start watching streaming content in both standard and HD. I’m very surprised at how quickly video content loaded from Prime Instant Video, which you get access to in Fire TV if you’re an Amazon Prime subscriber. The video is always high quality from the start and I never saw pixilation when using Prime Instant video. The only time I saw any was when I was using Watch ESPN but it didn’t take long for it to catch up to high quality after you start streaming. I’ve tested connection speed on both wired and wireless and can’t tell the difference between them.
The interface is very plain and simple. I would like to see some more color options and the ability to change the background photo on the main screen. The very gray UI is a bit boring but with the very visual movie poster style icons for each movie, TV show or app helps pop out to you the main items to focus on. Otherwise the user interface is simple to navigate as its’ broken down in to easy to understand categories and sections.
One of the bigger items Amazon focused on is voice search and yes it works very well. You will want to be in a relatively quiet environment but voice search is pretty accurate and fast across all of Amazon’s content and apps that have added support for it. Voice search works by hitting the microphone button on the remote and talking into it. Voice search is your best and fastest way to get the content and apps that you are looking for so if you have a Fire TV already be sure to use it!
To talk quickly about the remove, it’s very simple with just a few buttons. Connects fast over Bluetooth and everyone that uses shouldn’t have a problem with it but I would have liked to seen a IR blaster on here so you can control your TV’s volume and power through one remote. It’s my only major grip about an otherwise solid remote.
To sum it up on the software, most users that decide to grab a Fire TV should be satisfied with it the fast, fluid and responsive experience.
Amazon’s Fire TV is the best Android Gaming Console I’ve Use
I really wanted to take some time to talk about the gaming experience because I feel it’s a significant part of the Fire TV’s overall package which the Fire TV packs some very powerful specs with a fast quad-core processor, 2 GB of ram and a separate GPU (graphics processing unit also known as video card) that gives you the fast experience that I was talking about software earlier, and they also lend a hand to the excellent gaming experience on the Fire TV.
The main games I played were Sev Zero which is a third person shooter that combines strategy, tower defense and action and the other game was Asphalt 8 car racing game. While a couple of these games do support using the Fire TV remote as a controller I used the Fire Game Controller for all the games I played and some of the games are only playable using the controller so if you are looking to buy the Fire TV and want to do some gaming I would go ahead and grab that Fire Game controller at the same time.
The controller’s design and layout is similar to an Xbox controller. If you have used one before it’s going to feel familiar. The Fire Game controller connects fast over Bluetooth and is very responsive in games made for it. Playing games like Sev Zero and Asphalt 8 which takes advantage of the Fire Game Controller have controls are tight and responsive. Some games that were not do have a noticeable delay and hopefully those apps will get updated to work better with the Fire TV Game Controller. There is also a game center where gamers can get achievements, leaderboard and play against each other in multiplayer. The controller even had a “beach ball” button to gain access to it.
But overall android gaming on the Fire TV is awesome. Both of the main games I played looked great and played find in with HD graphics. I found myself really playing Asphalt 8 a lot more then I normally would with android games and I think it’s because I didn’t feel it was an “android gaming console” it just felt like a gaming console to me regardless of the software it’s based on. This is going a long way in my view of getting android gaming in the living room and mobile gaming developers should really take a look at the Fire TV as a way to go from the small smartphone and tablet screen to the large TV screen.
The Fire TV sets a blaze on the set-top box road
The Fire TV is a satisfying entertainment experience. Especially if you are a Prime member. You’ll find yourself watch a lot more of the Prime Instant Video content then you did before and with other streaming services like Netflix, Hulu Plus, Watch ESPN and others coming along the way like HBO Go the Fire TV a great one stop show for all your media, TV and movie needs.
The issue lies more in that we have a lot of devices that already do this and are well ahead of the game. Roku, Apple TV, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Wii, Wii U are among the many in this fight for living room entertainment. Most of these are missing the ability to add cable TV which still many like to have along their other streaming services. This is where Xbox One (Reivew)had an upper leg in supporting cable TV. You also have media giants like Comcast who have improved their entertainment services and offering (See Comcoast X1 Review and Next Gen X1 Update) that challenge in this space as well. It’s going to be a battle but I think with the right services, software updates and message the Amazon Fire TV will be the next big hit for them.