This week, Amazon introduced a streaming box. They call it the Amazon Fire TV.
Now, I already have a Roku. And an Apple TV. And a Chromecast. Oh, and a TiVo. So, why do I need another streaming device? Well, I don't. But I got one anyway. And, I spent a good deal of last night looking it over, trying it out.
|Unboxing the Amazon Fire TV|
I opened the box, hooked up an HDMI cable (not included), plugged it in, and was ready to play.
Of course, there's the updates that it has to download. Seems even a brand new item -- released on Wednesday, connected on Thursday -- has to have updates. So, there's that irritant.
But, the device itself? Yeah, it's a good little streaming box.
Couple of things I noticed. The remote has no dedicated 10-second rewind button, like you get on Roku. Rather, the standard rewind mode is in 10-second leaps. To rewind 10 seconds, you have to hit rewind and then very quickly hit Play. At least, on Hulu Plus and Netflix, you do. On Amazon content, pressing Rewind a single time (a single click) achieves a 10-second rewind. Not a major deal, just something to get used to.
The selection of apps is kinda sparse, compared to Roku, but it has more available than Apple TV, although there is not a complete overlap. It does have Netflix, Hulu Plus, WatchESPN, Vevo, Vimeo, YouTube, Crackle, Bloomberg, Pandora, iHeartRadio, Showtime Anytime, TuneIn Radio, Plex, plus a decent selection of games.
Some major missing channels include Sky News (Roku, Apple TV), The Weather Channel (Apple TV), PBS (Roku, Apple TV), WWE (Roku, Apple TV), Yahoo! Screen (Roku, Apple TV), HBO GO (Roku, Apple TV), Watch ABC (Apple TV), MLB.TV (Roku, Apple TV), VUDU (Roku), Dailymotion (Roku), and some others.
Oh, about the games. I don't care about games. But, if you like playing games, it lets you. There's an optional game controller you can buy, if you want to play games. I don't. But you go ahead.
Again, Roku is king of content. It has almost everything, including a lot of stuff with limited appeal. Apple TV has limited content, but most of it is good content with wide appeal. Amazon Fire TV is closer to Apple TV in the limited content, but most of the good stuff, but it seems it really wants to be Roku.
Hulu Plus and Netflix, two of the biggest subscription services, don't come pre-loaded. But, they're easy enough to find and add. Especially if you already have them installed on a Kindle Fire tablet. Even if not, they're easy to find.
Both work similar to the way they work on Roku. The experience of navigating the menus is consistent. Once difference is that, unlike Roku, you do have the "Play from beginning" option on Netflix content.
The Amazon Fire TV is also very responsive. You press a button, it responds. Quickly.
They do a very good job of integrating the non-Amazon content in the menus. For example, on Roku, if you go to Movies or TV on the Main Menu, you are essentially in the M-GO app. However, on the Fire TV, while the emphasis is on Amazon, you also get access to non-Amazon content.
For instance, I've been watching the old Doctor Who episodes. So, when I go to TV, then scroll to "Your TV Shows" section, I see shows I own or have in my Watchlist, including The Mentalist, Star Trek, Major Crimes, and, of course, Doctor Who. When I select Doctor Who, I see episodes that are on Amazon Prime, and episodes that are on Hulu Plus. I didn't see any Netflix episodes, but I think that's because all the episodes available on Netflix are also available on Amazon Prime.
Again, they did a good job of integrating non-Amazon content into the menus, but only for content that other services offer they Amazon doesn't.
Let's get right to it: is it worth it?
Well, if you already have a Roku or Apple TV, it would be hard to make the case for a Fire TV box. It makes more sense to add it to an Apple TV setup than it does a Roku setup. But replace either? I wouldn't give one up for it.
If you were interested in your first streaming box, I'd still recommend a Roku (particularly the Roku 3), if I had to pick just one. But, if you chose an Apple TV instead, you'd be making a good choice. And, now I'm comfortable saying that if you chose Amazon Fire TV, you'd be making a good choice.
Before this week, online streaming boxes were Roku, Apple TV, and then everybody else. Now, it's Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, and then everybody else.