Amazon Fire TV Review, A Competent Media Streamer

Apps and Content

Amazon’s Fire TV supports many of the most popular content offerings available including Netflix, Hulu Plus, YouTube, Showtime Anytime, Watch ESPN, Crackle, and Flixster. Even if you have a Blu-ray player or TV that has built-in Netflix capabilities, the Fire TV will provide additional options for music, movies, and games. Obviously the Fire TV isn’t the only box around that can stream content to your TV. While Roku definitely has brand recognition with many users since it has been around for a while, Amazon has a strong brand and relationship with customers as well. As far as popular services are concerned, the Fire TV and Roku 3 have many of the same options with a few minor differences. One key difference is that Roku supports HBO GO while the Fire TV does not. Amazon has some of its own exclusive content however, such as Downton Abbey and Justified.

Although you’ll find icons for Netflix, Hulu Plus, YouTube, and others on the Apps screen, you’ll need to install each of these apps before you can use them. While we assume most users will eventually install a handful if not all of these apps, we’re big fans of letting the end user decide what is, and what is not, installed. In just a few minutes, we had all of these apps and more downloaded and installed.

Some of Amazon Fire TV's current content options...

You can also use the Fire TV to show off pictures and personal videos from a recent trip or other event. Photos and personal videos stored on your Amazon Cloud drive can be accessed through the Photos menu.

Parents who are concerned about their children’s TV and gaming habits will soon be able to enable Amazon FreeTime on the Fire TV. With FreeTime, parents can create personalized profiles for up to four kids, limit screen time, and restrict certain types of content. An update is expected this Spring that will include this functionality.

Music options are plentiful on the Fire TV as well. Currently, the Fire TV supports popular streaming services such as Pandora, iHeartRadio, TuneIn, and Vevo. This Spring, Amazon will release an update to the Fire TV that will make it possible to listen to music from your Amazon Music Library and see lyrics while you’re listening using a feature called X-Ray for Music.

In addition to voice search, another feature that really differentiates the Fire TV from other set top boxes is the fact that the Fire TV offers a game library that far surpasses what you’ll find on the competition. Keep in mind this isn’t designed to replace your PS4 or Xbox One, but you may be pleasantly surprised to see some of the titles available on the Fire TV. Amazon has an exclusive gaming title called Sev Zero, which is a game in which you fight off aliens. Other popular titles include Hill Climb Racing, Despicable Me: Minion Rush, Deer Hunter 2014, and Hungry Shark Evolution.

To enhance the gaming experience on the Fire TV, Amazon offers a gaming controller which is sold separately for about $40. This wireless Bluetooth controller features all of the controls a gamer would expect including dual analog sticks, A, B, X, and Y input buttons, left and right shoulder buttons, left and right triggers, and lighted player indicators. The controller also has integrated media buttons. According to Amazon, the Fire Game Controller doubles the number of games you can play on Fire TV. A few titles that are compatible with the controller include Minecraft – Pocket Edition, Asphalt 8, and NBA 2K14. (Some of these games such as Asphalt 8 can also be played using the Fire TV remote.) The Spring update to the Fire TV will also enable users to play thousands of touch enabled games using a Fire TV app that is installed on your phone or tablet.

It’s important to keep in mind that the Fire TV’s 8GB of onboard storage can fill up quickly if you’re installing a bunch of apps and games, especially since games such as Asphalt 8 require over 1GB of storage. 

Although there are plenty of titles available that don’t require the gaming controller, if you want to get serious use out of the Fire TV as a gaming device, you’ll probably want to invest the additional $40 to pick up this Fire TV add-on.

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