Black Friday Deals Cyber Monday Deals About Us Go to RetailMeNot ››

Amazon Fire TV: What You Need to Know The online giant ups the ante with its own set-top box

Amazon Fire TV

Amazon Fire TV: What You Need to Know The online giant ups the ante with its own set-top box

Facebook
Twitter
Pinterest
Instagram

In its quest for world domination, Amazon is releasing the Fire TV, its very own entrée into the world of streaming devices. That means media addicts now have yet another option when it comes to accessing their favorite TV shows, movies and music.

Although there are plusses and minuses to the Fire TV, Amazon’s got a slight edge in one arena over Apple TV, Chromecast and Roku: gaming. The Fire TV will support 96 games at launch, including the popular Minecraft: Pocket Edition, The Walking Dead and Monsters University.

What’s good about it:

The biggest twist that Amazon is offering with Fire TV is that it’s voice-activated. So you won’t have to do that super-irritating thing of scrolling up and down the alphabet with your remote, only to have to back up and start again because you hit the wrong button. With Amazon’s Fire TV, you’ll hit a microphone button and speak into the remote, telling it what you want to see, or which actor you want to watch. It will then present you with search results. (There’s a pretty hilarious Fire TV ad starring Gary Busey, who admits he likes talking to inanimate objects but gets sad when they don’t talk back.)

Also cool: The Fire TV has the X-Ray feature that Kindle owners are familiar with. So when you’re watching a show and want to know who the actors are or what other movies they’ve been in, you can immediately summon metadata, which will appear on your tablet.

And you won’t likely find anything as robust as FreeTime parental controls on other devices. This feature allows parents to control what apps, purchases or services kids can use or make. Mom and Dad can even set time restrictions (an hour is an hour!) for how long the kids can watch TV.

Amazon Fire TV

What’s not-so good:

There are a couple of caveats with the Fire TV. For one thing, it’s $99, which puts it on par with the price of an Apple TV. In order to get the best out of the Fire TV, you’ll need to pony up $40 for the Fire Game Controller and $99 for a Prime subscription, which makes the streaming box cost more like $200-plus. Also, that nifty voice feature won’t work with third-party apps like Netflix or YouTube. And the search results nearly always turn up media on Amazon—even if the movie or show is also available on Netflix or Hulu, sometimes for free.

Also missing on the Fire TV is HBO Go, Vudu and Spotify. And, of course, you’ll have zero access to Apple’s stuff (iTunes, for example).

Basically, this is Amazon drawing a line in the sand, saying, “Pick a side!” while Roku—with it’s 1,200 apps—stands in the corner, whispering, “I’m Switzerland!”

What the critics are saying:

It looks pretty: “It is insanely thin. It comes with a thin, sleek, small black remote that works via Bluetooth. You will probably lose this small remote.”—Gizmodo

The graphical interface is easy, and it’s very fast: “The Fire TV is powerful. How powerful? Well, it has things like a quad-core processor, a dedicated graphics processing unit, and 2 gigabytes of RAM. According to Amazon, the inclusion of these things makes the Fire TV three times as powerful as an Apple TV.”—Rolling Stone

Amazon Fire TV Games

X-Ray is cool: “That’s a built-in, native second screen experience which could prove very useful.”—Techcrunch

Thumbs-up on gaming: “What really sets the Fire TV apart from the three other streaming boxes is its gaming ability.… Amazon is selling the Fire TV as a full-fledged Android gaming machine, with access to titles from major developers with high production values. ‘The Walking Dead,’ the acclaimed adventure game from Telltale Games, will be available, as will ‘Minecraft,’ the building simulator from Mojang.”— Tom’s Guide

It’s a little expensive for what you get: “I don’t see a compelling reason for anyone with a competing device—an Apple TV, a Google Chromecast, a Roku box—to buy it if they’re satisfied with what’s already in their living room. At $99 it’s the same list price as Apple TV, three times the price of the Chromecast, and twice as expensive as a Roku.”—The Guardian

It’s lacking in content: “The Fire TV has [fewer apps] than Roku or Apple TV; there are no HBO Go or Spotify, which are big misses. The Fire TV has 180 apps in total; Roku has some 1,200.” — The New York Times

Parents will love it: “Its secret weapon may be its FreeTime parental controls, which are some of the most advanced you’ll find. Combine those with Amazon’s massive library of popular children’s programming, and the Fire TV might be a major hit with parents.”—Slate

Specs, if you care about that sort of thing: “Fast quad-core processor, 2 GB of memory, dedicated GPU, plus 1080p HD video and Dolby Digital Plus surround sound.”—Amazon

Coupon tips from our editors banner 

Amazon: Get free shipping on select items over $35.

Facebook
Twitter
Pinterest
Instagram

Leave a Reply