Amazon Fire TV 2017 Review: The Little Box That Thought It Could
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Our verdict of the Amazon Fire TV 2017 (Gen 3):
Great choice if you're already within the Amazon ecosystem, but the performance and interface really need to improve.
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You won’t find Chromecast or Apple TV on Amazon. For a while now, tech companies have been involved in a multi-front platform war. This war includes some strategic power plays to try and outmanoeuvre each other. One of which was Amazon banning Chromecast and Apple TV from their store, while pushing the Fire range instead. But does Amazon’s latest offering – the 2017 edition Fire TV – have what it takes to lure consumers into its ecosystem? Let’s find out.

Specifications

  • Dimensions: 2.6in x 2.6in x 0.6in (65mm x 65mm x 15mm)
  • Weight: 3.1oz (87.1g)
  • Processor: Amlogic Quad Core 1.5Ghz
  • GPU: Mali450 MP3
  • Storage: 8GB (Not upgradable)
  • RAM: 2GB
  • Operating System: Fire OS 6 (Based on Android Nougat)
  • Max Resolution: 4K HDR up to 60fps
  • Networks: Wifi (802.11ac), Ethernet via $15 optional adapter
  • Ports: Micro USB, HDMI via non-removable cable
  • Audio: Dolby Atmos compatibility, Dolby Digital Plus, and Dolby Digital

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Amazon Fire TV 2017 Review: The Little Box That Thought It Could fire tv and remote

Unboxing and Getting Connected

After prying open the Amazon fire orange box, you will find the “pendant,” power brick, micro USB cable, remote, and 2 AA batteries. It would be advantageous to have a free USB port on your TV to avoid having to need the power brick for the sake of neatness. However, using the power brick will mean a slightly faster boot up time. It will also warn you if the port on your TV doesn’t have enough power for the device. It will still work but be unable to push 4K content.

Amazon Fire TV 2017 Review: The Little Box That Thought It Could firetv unsupported power

When the device first boots it will ask for some internet. This is where I seem to have hit my first snag. The Fire TV wasn’t picking up any 5Ghz Wi-Fi networks. I thought this might have been a software issue. So I connected via the detected 2.4Ghz network and the device immediately did a software update. Upon reboot still no 5Ghz network. After rummaging through the internet, this seemed only to be remedied by manually setting my router’s 5Ghz network to channel 36. As soon as I changed it, the Fire TV detected and connected to it without complaint.

The reason this is a concern is 2.4Ghz networks have fewer channels and are generally much busier and prone to interference. This may make it difficult to stream 4K content if your device is quite far away from your Wi-Fi access point. This is where 5Ghz comes in with its many channels. I’d much prefer to leave my router in auto mode because it will detect busy channels and automatically switch to one that has the least traffic. If you’d prefer to forego the Wi-Fi issues entirely, there is a $15 optional ethernet adapter that is available from Amazon. Just something to bear in mind.

Setup

Another thing to be mindful of is the device is not engineered to be a set-top box like the older 2nd generation Fire TV it is replacing. It is referred to as the “Pendant” and is made to hang from your HDMI port similar to the Chromecast. You may want to spend a few dollars and grab a male to female HDMI cable to avoid the dangle look in the interest of neatness.

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Amazon Fire TV 2017 Review: The Little Box That Thought It Could firetv hanging in there

The initial software update took around five minutes. One neat but simultaneously concerning feature is that the device is pre-programmed with your Amazon account details. So you will see your name on screen before actually typing anything.

If you prefer, you can download the Fire TV app on your Android or iOS device. As long as your device is on the same network as your Fire TV, you will be able to use your device to control your Fire TV. This makes typing your login info much easier, text-based searches, and even Alexa controls work from within the app.

Once you’re signed in, there are options for setting parental controls which will require a PIN when trying to watch specific content. You are then awarded the opportunity of choosing which additional streaming apps you’d like to download. From here there is a short but informative introductory video to the Fire TV. It covers some of the integrated Alexa features and a quick a reminder of the 4K HDR content which is now at your fingertips.

Home and The Interface

The header is occupied by some featured content followed by any apps you’ve interacted with recently, then all the additional downloaded apps. If you wanted to avoid the now unwatchable HD content (I’m such a resolution snob), Amazon highlights the 4K HDR content The Cheapest and Best 4K HDR Smart TVs You Can Buy The Cheapest and Best 4K HDR Smart TVs You Can Buy Those in the market for a new Smart TV have a tough choice to make. It's not a gadget that you upgrade often, so you want something future-proof. So, what do you get? Read More , so you can bask in the glory of your expensive TV. Remember, certain apps like Netflix will require a premium subscription to take advantage of the additional pixels.

Amazon Fire TV 2017 Review: The Little Box That Thought It Could firetv home

This is where things start going a little south for the Fire TV. The User Interface (UI) is extraordinarily busy. Scrolling through each of the tabs there’s waves and waves of Prime content. HBO and Netflix remain the only services with their own sections on the home screen. There is a “Recommended By Your Apps” section, which aggregates content from more than 150 apps into a single home screen row. Helpful, but it’s very disorganized and impossible to customize. There is some benefit of getting content from within other apps, but there just isn’t any method to the madness.

Performance

In terms of internal specs, the 2017 Fire TV is faster than the Stick, but actually has a slightly slower processor than the retired Fire TV (Gen 2). This translates into quite a fluid interaction overall, but some apps like Playstation Vue have been reported to lag behind button presses. Hopefully this down to the app developers and not the hardware implementation.

As for 4K HDR, it’s a nice perk for users with compatible TVs. HDR essentially creates a wider gamut of colors allowing for a more vivid image. This allows the screen to run at higher brightness levels without blowing out colors in bright scenes or ruining shadow detail in dark ones. Some of the Apps available on the Fire TV that take advantage of this technology are Netflix and YouTube.

Alexa Has a Face

One of the exceptional benefits of having Alexa connected to your TV 7 Creative Uses for Amazon Echo and Alexa 7 Creative Uses for Amazon Echo and Alexa You’ve seen the ads starring Alec Baldwin, but you're still not sure what Amazon Echo does or whether you need one in your home. We’re about to find out. Read More is that you now have a visual representation of Alexa’s results. This makes things like checking the weather, shopping on Amazon, and even buying food quite intuitive. Weather is displayed as a week-long forecast as opposed to just being read out aloud. And if you couldn’t be bothered to open your browser on your phone to search for food, Alexa will display restaurants nearby, with their opening times and contact info if available.

Amazon Fire TV 2017 Review: The Little Box That Thought It Could firetv alexas facejpg

You can bring up Alexa simply by holding the mic button on the remote or swiping down if you’re in the Fire TV mobile app. One considerate exclusion is that you don’t say “Alexa, play Stranger Things.” All you need to do is just hold down the mic button and say: “Play Stranger Things.” This prevents any other Echo devices that are within earshot listening to your request and getting confused. If you do have an Echo device near your TV, you won’t need to have the remote near you to command your Fire TV. It all works as part of the ecosystem.

The disappointment with Alexa is that results are sometimes convoluted especially for slightly advanced searches. Asking for “New horror movies” will generate many results that may have just had those words in their titles. Alexa is also incapable of contextual searches here to help refine those results any further. Launching directly into movies is possible but currently only available with Amazon Video for the time being. The sad part is, Siri and Google Assistant are quite far ahead for their respective devices.

Should You Buy the Fire TV?

The Fire TV will make a good addition if you fall within one of two categories. If you are already heavily invested in the Amazon Echo ecosystem, the Fire TV makes a helpful companion to your other devices. If you are looking to sideload Android apps like Kodi How to Install Kodi Media Center on an Amazon Fire Stick How to Install Kodi Media Center on an Amazon Fire Stick In this article we explain how to install Kodi on an Amazon Fire TV Stick. Which, when you've finished, will leave you with the best media center for anyone on a budget. Read More onto a device, the Fire TV also caters for this. In those regards, the Fire TV provides an adequate performance boost over the Stick with the addition of 4K HDR support. If you don’t fall within those categories be sure to check out other devices like the Chromecast Ultra or Roku Ultra, which may better fit your use case.

Enter the Competition!

Amazon Fire TV (2017)

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  1. Alfred Chan
    November 17, 2017 at 2:07 am

    I have a baidubox for few years and this probably could replaced it if have I won it. :)

  2. Paul V
    November 14, 2017 at 3:36 pm

    I would love to win this, my 1st gen Roku and its 8-bit interface is really boring

    • Yusuf Limalia
      November 14, 2017 at 8:23 pm

      All the best Paul!
      Keep an eye on the giveaways section. There's always some cool tech we're giving away!

  3. Hirak
    November 11, 2017 at 1:39 pm

    One dumb question: can I access YouTube?

    • Yusuf Limalia
      November 11, 2017 at 2:42 pm

      “The only stupid question is the question that is never asked.”
      -Ramon Bautista

      And yes you can access YouTube, in all it's glorious 4K HDR goodness

      • Gaz
        November 23, 2017 at 9:17 pm

        Hello,

        I will start off by saying thanks to everyone there for all the interesting and well-written articles.
        The articles are succinct (don't contain reams of highly technical info or complicated test results), but contain all the basic information needed for us to see if the product is worth looking further into.
        Ever since I first came across this site, I have enjoyed going through MUO regularly, checking out what is new and your thoughtful impressions and comparisons to similar products.
        Then to top it off, you then give us the opportunity to own the product in your giveaways.
        Excellent job, THANKS.

        Not arguing or hassling, just pointing out something.
        I got told back in the 70's - "The only stupid question is the one you do not ask" when I started nursing.
        It was a general mantra used by all the tutors.
        And as far as I was aware, they had been saying it for years before I started because older trained nurses used to say it when we were first released onto the wards.
        It is basically the same quote as to the one you mentioned, although I have never heard it referred to as from Romon Bautista before.
        It was something that our tutors made sure we understood (for how else do you find out?) as we were dealing with peoples lives and if there was anything that worried us (even if it seemed inconsequential), we were to ask.
        And if the people we asked didn't know the answer, we were to keep asking until we did find out.
        I have been saying it (and asking potentially stupid questions (-: ) ever since.

        Don't know who first started it nor when it was first used, but I know that this was said way before Ramon Bautista was even born.
        Putting that issue aside, it is a very important statement for all of us to remember.

        Another one they used a lot was "If unsure, better to ask first before you do the wrong thing"
        Or as a carpenter friend taught me many years ago - "measure twice, cut once"

        • Yusuf Limalia
          November 23, 2017 at 9:30 pm

          Thank you so much for your kind words. I’m glad our mission of trying to explain tech is being so well received :) when I wanted to quote that saying I actually didn’t know who said it, so I googled it to ensure It wasn’t coming across as my saying. Thank you for correcting my error :) good luck in the giveaways!

    • Yusuf Limalia
      November 11, 2017 at 2:42 pm

      “The only stupid question is the question that is never asked.”
      -Ramon Bautista

      And yes you can access YouTube, in all its glorious 4K HDR goodness

  4. learnhax.net
    November 9, 2017 at 9:18 pm

    nice post keep it up

    • Yusuf Limalia
      November 10, 2017 at 11:23 am

      Much appreciated. Thank You =)

  5. learnhax.net
    November 9, 2017 at 9:17 pm

    nice post man. keep it up

  6. likefunbutnot
    November 9, 2017 at 9:12 pm

    There was a rumor that there would be a new high-end model with an IR transceiver and microphone pickups so that it's able to act as a Dot and control other home theater hardware. That's the model I want. The current FireTV model is a big step down from its predecessor. The older model is still available in retail outlets and is a far better option than this device, since it has useful features like a proper Ethernet support.