With its latest Amazon Fire TV, Amazon has finally pulled out the big guns!! (Set to ship on October 25; today!!). The Company has finally launched a hardware that has what it takes to run and display the full-fledged Amazon experience; since the device keeps up with its software. The all new Fire TV offers everything the last model was missing. It is inexpensive, potent and finally has the ability to support 4K/HDR.
However, with several such boxes/dongles/gizmos already hoarding the market, what difference does another addition make? Is it as cool as the Apple TV 4K? Can it be a possible replacement to the ingenuous Google Chromecast? Is the interface and Alexa integration enough to beat Roku box? Well, you are to find out about all this and much more;
The new Fire TV is smaller than the previous Fire box, for it follows the digital trend, shrinking in size to increase user facilitation. The diamond shaped dongle, is a black squared sleek hardware with a HDMI slot at one corner and the micro-USB port at the other. The dongle is so small that unlike the previously released Fire TV and the Apple TV 4K, it does not need to sit on the media wall, rather hang it with the HDMI slot and if you have the slot at the back of the TV, you don’t even have to see it!
However, it’s a bit heavy in the weigh department compared to the Chromecast Ultra. So you might want to reconsider the choice of connecting and hanging it to the HDMI slot. Then comes the basic handy, remote with everything except the volume control key!! While Roku has taken care of this problem, Amazon didn’t really pay much heed to it.
Alexa Voice recognition
With a compact Alexa integration, the new Fire TV makes the Amazon voice recognition platform more useful compared to the other Amazon devices, like the Echo speakers. After all, as well as Alexa being a brilliant shortcut to finding content, its Fire TV implementation lets you play radio channels and favorite songs you’ve asked for through your TV and/or AV sound system. Meaning its plain simple to pair the TV with Echo, just say the command and the Alexa would find and pair to the Fire TV and you are good to go.
Additionally, Alexa in Fire TV can also control your smart home devices – like turning on your lights, adjusting your thermostat, or popping up a video feed from the baby monitor, security camera, or video doorbell, on your TV’s screen. Which is contrary to the other Alexa devices.
The HDR addition to the Fire TV has completely transformed the streaming capabilities, which previously were not there in the last Fire TV or other Amazon hardwares. HDR’s expanded brightness range and the wider color spectrums that usually accompany it all make the vast majority of shows look much more dynamic and pretty than they look in their SDR incarnations.
Dolby Atmos support
The latest Fire TV only supports the relatively low quality Dolby Digital Plus version of Dolby’s ultra-detailed, height-channel including Atmos sound system (There’s no Dolby Vision HDR, however). Also, it’s currently hard to find any content available through Amazon’s supported services that can play it. But it’s there, at least, ready for when more Atmos-supporting content comes online.
Fire TV, like other home media player devices, supports all the major streaming services, including big names like Netflix, YouTube, Hulu, HBO, Showtime, Starz, and of course, Prime Video. It also offers access to the newer crop of live TV internet services, like Sling TV, PlayStation Vue, CBS All Access, and Hulu Live TV. There are over 500,000 movies and TV episodes available via Fire TV, and 190 channels and apps can be accessed via voice search. (Roku, for comparison’s sake, can search across over 500 channels.)
However, Amazon’s catalog of 4K HDR movies is far smaller than its competitors. Apple’s upgrading iTunes purchases across its catalog to 4K HDR for free, and Roku owners can use Vudu, which offers virtually every new movie in 4K HDR but isn’t available on the Fire TV. That limited movie catalog means you’ll be mostly watching streaming TV in 4K HDR on the Fire TV: Amazon shows like Transparent and The Grand Tour, and Netflix stuff like Glow and Jessica Jones. YouTube also supports 4K HDR on the Fire TV, which is a plus over the Apple TV.
The $179 Apple TV has a huge 4K HDR library with the cheapest movie prices, but doesn’t support Atmos and is far more expensive upfront. The new $70 Roku Streaming Stick Plus has a far less polished interface, but it supports both HDR10 and Atmos. So that basically sums up where the Fire TV stands with its competitors in terms of its content.
The Fire TV is not a complex set top-box; it doesn’t really pose any issues while setting up. While the others like the Roku Streaming Stick+ with its additional antenna cable makes it a bit more complex, to set up.
- Size: 2.6″ x 2.6″
- Quad-core processor: 1.5 GHz (vs 1.3 GHz for Fire TV Stick)
- Wi-Fi: 802.11ac dual-band MIMO wireless
- Memory: 2 GB (vs 1 GB for Fire TV Stick)
- Storage: 8 GB (same as Fire TV Stick)
- Output resolution: 2160p, 1080p, and 720p up to 60 fps
- Alexa Voice remote included
- Audio: Dolby Atmos (vs Dolby Audio for Fire TV Stick)
- Amazon Ethernet Adapter supported (optional; $15)
Now jumping to the real deal, the price!! Currently it’s facing competition from a couple of high end products in market. The $100 Roku Ultra; faster and features an Ethernet port and support for USB storage. Then there’s the Apple TV 4K, which is basically the luxury choice at $179. It also competes with the $70 Chromecast Ultra, with its cheap path to 4K/HDR streaming. And the Fire TV for $79, so it’s really up to how you usage works and whether you want good quality content on the clock.
To sum up, the Fire TV is a pretty decent dongle, featuring 4K/HDR and the Alexa and let’s not forget the fine finish. It nevertheless lacks in the movie catalog department and the lack of Dolby vision support kind of smothers the hype.