back to article Boxing clever? Amazon Fire TV is SO CLOSE to being excellent

Amazon has made its Fire TV video streaming device available in the UK; an inexpensive set-top box that runs the company’s de-Googled version of Android, as also found in the Fire Phone. Confusing matters, Amazon also offers the Fire TV Stick. This will be available on November 19, but only in the US. Amazon Fire TV Amazon …

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  1. Roger B

    WiFi?

    Anyone know what the Wifi range is like? My parents are after something to make a TV that has no aerial connection "smart" I am thinking this or a smart bluray player might do the job, two walls to get through to pick up the Home Hub 5 signal.

    1. Graham 24

      Re: WiFi?

      Try a wireless extender like http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B0055Y6PUA?psc=1&redirect=true&ref_=oh_aui_detailpage_o01_s00

      My parents (why do we end up doing all their tech support?) had to get a WiFi signal up a level, and then through a thick external wall (an extension was added to the house, so an external wall now is inside the house), and the wall was made of granite blocks. Before extender - very spotty, dropped out 10 times a day. After extender, no problems at all. Much less hassle than running an ethernet cable.

      1. JDX Gold badge

        Re: WiFi?

        HomePlug might be another great option.

        1. Salts

          Re: WiFi?

          Just had the same for my parents - B & Q has a TP-Link home plug 500mbps for 28 quid, less than 5 minutes to setup, BT Home Hub 5 to the Sky box

      2. Tim Jenkins

        Re: WiFi?

        I suspect it's not just the thick walls that attenuate wifi; after encountering several otherwise inexplicable not-spots inside modern or recently converted buildings, I'm wondering if the increasing presence of metallised film on higher u-value plasterboard, and/or those foil coated bubble-wrap insulation blankets that get nailgunned into thinner internal stud-wall voids are having an effect too.

        1. Flatpackhamster

          Re: WiFi?

          I'm sure you're right. Things like fuse boxes and electrical cables can often cause the same effect. I had a client whose wifi wouldn't reach across the hall from one room to the next, and the reason turned out to be the fuse box built in to the wall of one of the rooms.

        2. Martin-73 Silver badge

          Re: WiFi?

          @Tim Jenkins: Yes, metallized plaster board can seriously bugger up wifi. Ex's house ended up with cat 5 run for the TV boxen, because wifi was flaky, despite being less than 10m away from the AP.

      3. VinceH Silver badge

        Re: WiFi?

        "My parents (why do we end up doing all their tech support?)"

        To the best of my knowledge, I have never ever done tech support for your parents. :p

    2. big_D Silver badge

      Re: WiFi?

      Good in my experience. My laptop can't stream Prime over WiFi in the lounge, but the FireTV has no problems.

      With our 50mbps Internet connection I can start fast forwarding through the titles in a TV series or film within a second or 2 of it starting (HD mode).

      1. Roger B

        Re: WiFi?

        Thanks for all the replies, I actually have a pack of Homeplugs left over from the Youview Trial, so that might be an option, not sure if their TV is plugged into the wall or an extension cable though. I dont think my dad will want to spend more on the WiFi extender, he'll be after the cheapest option available, so if the box can't get the signal then the Homeplug option will be looked at.

        Thanks again,

        1. JDX Gold badge

          Re: WiFi?

          My HomePlug unit acts as a WiFi network as well as having ethernet sockets - so you can simply have one WiFi network per room (I have one in the garage).

        2. Salts

          Re: WiFi?

          @ Roger B

          Standard extensions have never been an issue for me with homeplug, however extensions with surge suppression tend not to work, the one I did today for the parents, one end had an extension without surge suppression and it was no problem, but as we all know YMMV.

  2. James 51 Silver badge

    There's no option to hide the paid for content in the amazon apps or on the website when you look through prime instant video. The instant video doesn't work on android tablets and doesn't work on blackberry handsets even through they are running the same .apk which works on native android phones. Amazon are messing their customers around and it annoys me.

    1. fruitoftheloon
      FAIL

      James,

      Amazon instant video runs just fine on my Note II, the app is loaded (unsurprsingly) via the amazon app store rather than google play.

      Cheers,

      Jay

      1. Thecowking

        The note 2 is a phone, not a tablet (just :P ), amazon instant video works on phones, because they've accepted that no one wants the fire phone, but they still think people might want the kindle tablets. Thus it won't run on android tablets.

        That, combined with the fact there's no way to unbundle the instant video from prime and you have to just suck up the extra cost is why I'm cancelling my prime account after many many years. Shame really, I liked the free postage and the next day delivery.

        1. 404 Silver badge

          @Thecowking

          Amazon Video for Tablets runs fine on vanilla Android 4.4.4 -> FireHD tablet, rooted and running Cyanogenmod 11-20141008-SNAPSHOT-M11-tate (cheap capable tablet for Clash of Clans lol).

          We use Prime quite a bit - aquarium supplies, automotive parts, and whatnot. Worth the membership just from shipping in our case, video is just a bonus.

          What tablets won't run the app?

          1. Thecowking

            It works on Tablets now? Is it US only? Because I've not been able to install it on a Nexus 7, or at least I couldn't two weeks ago when I complained about it to Amazon.

            Just tried again and it installed on my Nexus 9 which is nice.

            No videos work (this video is not available for this device), but it's slightly better. So while I briefly thought "Hurrah" now I'm back to hating Amazon.

          2. Thecowking

            Oh after some searching, apparently German and UK accounts won't stream to tablets. So that's very nice of them.

            1. JDX Gold badge

              Amazon Prime UK works fine on my wife's Android tablet. It's a Nook which she replaced with Cyanomod's Android.

        2. fruitoftheloon

          They both run android don't they?

      2. Mattjimf

        But the Note 2 is an android phone, which he states runs the app fine.

      3. James 51 Silver badge

        Out of curiosity, can you cache shows to view off line the same way you can with a kindle fire?

        1. 404 Silver badge

          @James 51

          Yes, program called PlayLater will copy/convert video streams to Mpeg-4. I've been populating my NAS(s) with tv series (The IT Crowd rocks btw) and movies from Prime and Netflix - finally cut the cord so to speak. Pretty much anything in my house can access content on my home gigabit network. It works quite well.

        2. fruitoftheloon

          James,

          I don't think so, presumably that is a conscious design decision, otherwise no-one would buy their own-brand kit.

          J

          1. James 51 Silver badge

            Thanks. Guess I'll just hang on till I see one second hand for £50. Would be nice to have that functionality for train/plane.

    2. Nick Ryan Silver badge

      Amazon Instant Video (Prime Instant Video) works just fine on my Nexus 7 tablet.

      They had been messing around for a while, only supporting Amazon's own devices but recently have seen the light.

  3. James 51 Silver badge

    "Fire TV can't stream soundtracks to Bluetooth headphones either"

    They've missed a trick there. That's something I and I am sure many others would find useful.

  4. Ben Rose

    Plex?

    I see Plex is the screenshot, was it tested?

    1. GreggS

      Re: Plex?

      I use it and it's perfectly fine. Not quite up to the finesse of the Samsung TV app but better than the Roku one.

      1. Ben Rose

        Re: Plex?

        Thanks, if it's not up to Samsung app standards I'll pass for now.

      2. JEDIDIAH
        Linux

        Re: Plex?

        The more important question is whether or not this thing can handle all formats directly like a PC copy of Plex or XBMC would. Transcoding servers require more power and noise than a respectable GPU.

    2. Jopn

      Re: Plex?

      I've got a Plex server running on VM using my NAS as a datastore and can stream fine from it.

  5. Longrod_von_Hugendong
    FAIL

    That is a shame...

    I was planning to buy one, but after that review and lack of features think I will upgrade my Apple TV instead.

    On the plus side, if they do address these things, then I will buy one.

  6. AOD
    WTF?

    No way to stream local media??

    If you want to playback local media on your FireTV, then you can sideload XBMC/Kodi onto it and get your NAS hosted content that way.

    I've picked up one of these recently (got it on Pre-order for £49) and I have to say it is a decent bit of kit. I'm seriously thinking about a second and retiring my 2 x 2nd Gen Apple TVs (also running XBMC).

    Not sure what the going rate is for jailbroken ATV2s these days but it would probably help pay towards the Gaming PC I want to get for Elite Dangerous.

    The only niggle I have is that the power cord has an external brick whereas the Apple TV is just a standard figure 8 two pin affair. The other niggle is that the use of Bluetooth also makes it harder to integrate into setups that make use of universal remotes/IR extenders (a la PS3) but a quick Google shows that there are solutions for this as well.

    1. johnnycab

      Fit for purpose

      I also got this device on pre-order for £49 with the main purpose of running Kodi and retiring the HTPC used for that purpose. In addition, to consolidate apps like iPlayer, Netflix, Amazon Instant Streaming et. al. into a single device rather than using the Xbox 360/PS3 for that purpose. Another criteria was to have optical S/PDIF out for an old but excellent Yamaha amplifier.

      The Spotify logo plastered on the box and used in promotional material is misleading to say the least! I got the Plex app for free last week from Amazon appstore under a promotion they were running. Also received a timely £10 credit towards apps, which was used to buy some old school games that use the FireTV controller and a wireless Xbox 360 controller.

      It is a shame that they have locked the new firmware to prevent rooting and/or using external storage via USB. However, the ability to side-load certain apps serves the purpose of the device for me. The options to change Themes or remap buttons on the remote via certain utilities is a bonus. I can always buy a Flirc dongle to use the Harmony remote, but there is no need for it just yet.

      With regards to the aggregation of Prime and paid streaming content - it is a real pain to look for the ubiquitous aquamarine lettering on the ribbon/stripe in the top-left corner of the box-art. Although, there is an option to apply a PIN for paid content in account settings to reduce any accidental purchases - this is separate from Parental controls. However, it would have been nice to have an option to hide the paid content globally.

      The device is fanless and stays ON 24x7; although it goes into a partial sleep mode, but a power switch would not have gone amiss. Regardless, it is a good device for the price paid for it.

      1. fruitoftheloon

        Re: Fit for purpose

        Jc,

        re looking out for the 'prime strip' on the cover art, there are many 'prime inclusive' movies that for some inexplicable reason don't have the visible stripe, I usually check the blurb underneath instead.

        Cheers,

        jay

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Minor corrections.

    "Music is less well served. Fire TV connects to Amazon’s cloud music service, which means anything you bought from Amazon MP3, auto-rip CDs (you buy the CD and Amazon automatically adds the MP3s), and up to 250 other tracks manually uploaded"

    1. It's not manually in the sense of copy / paste, you can choose a folder and synch it.

    2. If you have the Cloud Player subscriptions you can have 250,000 songs.

  8. GreggS

    Obsolete?

    Samsung TV's have the Amazon Prime app, the Plex media player, BBC iPlayer plus all the other catch-ups and I'm sure their competitors do too. OK, not everyone has a fancy "smart" TV but even so, it must be a gamble in this day an age with margins so tight to be releasing a piece of hardware like this, especially one tied down to a particular service.

    1. JDX Gold badge

      Re: Obsolete?

      Especially when games consoles also have all these apps, and you can (I think) also plug in your iPad to display content from all these iOS apps on the TV... presumably Android allows this too and obviously so does a laptop.

    2. big_D Silver badge

      Re: Obsolete?

      But it is cheaper than buying a games console and / or a smart TV.

      I find it very good for streaming Prime, ARD and ZDF, which is all I need it for.

      The only down side, here in Germany, is that you can't choose to listen to the original soundtrack. You have to mainly listen to the German soundtrack, which is a pain as an ex-pat Brit. That said, 80% of the time I am watching with my German family, who don't speak English.

    3. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: Obsolete?

      My 50" telly cost £500 a couple of years ago. Panasonic. Dumb as a brick. The Panasonic smarties, with as far as I can tell the same panels, were about £800.

      That £300 difference would buy me a Playstation to use as Bluray and set-top box. Or a cheap PC to do the same. Although when I tried my friend's PS3 the user interface was appalling, with the smallest text imagineable and horrifically complicated menu structure. It would have driven me round the bend. Has that improved? Or is the XBox better?

      Anyway I got Sky for a year on a cheap deal, and the Sky+ Box isn't bad. It's easy to use, and although you can't stream iPlayer live, you can download a show, and start watching after a few minutes.

      That's now over, and I've just spent £30 on a Chromecast. Which to my surprise is rather good. All I really want is NFL online games and BBC iPlayer though.

      So for that £300 difference I've effectively had a year of free Sky sport and a Chromecast, and I've still got change for a decent meal out. Or a new Chromecast (other thing) in 3 years, when the smart bits of the smart TV are out of date, but the panel still works so you can't replace it.

      Finally, is the Samsung easy to use? I've yet to see a TV menu system, that was anything other than an ugly, confusing mess.

      Actually that's not quite fair. The menu on my Panasonic is horrible. But the Freeview EPG is actually very well laid out.

      1. Tom 38 Silver badge

        Re: Obsolete?

        My 50" telly cost £500 a couple of years ago. Panasonic. Dumb as a brick. The Panasonic smarties, with as far as I can tell the same panels, were about £800.

        Sure, the same panels. Not the same electronics.

        1. JEDIDIAH
          Mushroom

          Re: Obsolete?

          Exactly. With a "smart" TV you are effectively forced to pay for crap you don't want or need. The built in media features are pants. The thing is likely spying on you too. It's far better to not waste the resources (carbon footprint and whatnot) and just let people buy the STB of their choice.

          When I bought my "smart" TV, the price premium was the same as one of my HTPCs.

          That TV certainly didn't deliver a comparable level of extra utility.

      2. fruitoftheloon

        Re: Obsolete?

        IaS,

        the epg on our Sharp aquos is a perfect example of how not to design something, it is completely f'ing useless.

        Which is why it was replaced with PlayTV on PS3.

        J.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    There's no subtitles

    I can confirm Amazon doesn't support these at all, in the UK. Hard of hearing dad (aka DEAF GIT) loves Netflix but hates having to put cans on, just to watch something on Amazon Prime streaming (which we have free, until the next subscription they won't be getting).

    1. JEDIDIAH
      Linux

      Re: There's no subtitles

      > I can confirm Amazon doesn't support these at all, in the UK.

      Well that's terribly disappointing.

      Captions and subtitles in general seem like a neglected part of most streamers.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Netflix is actually very good

        For some reason, a lot of the BBC stuff comes sans subtitles, but most other content comes with them, for those who are hard of hearing (or, like DEAF GIT, claim they can hear it all, as long as the words are there to help). Pity Netflix seems to be the only one.

  10. Hellcat

    If they sell the hardware for almost no profit, why not open up Prime to Chromecast? That's a device already available, with an already wide adoptance, which can be bought from Amazon (I assume Amazon gets a cut of the price), and would make Prime services attractive to those who have a Chromecast, but don't have Prime.

    Amazon seem intent on constantly reinventing the wheel, and making it about as hard for themselves to get into the market as possible. Also see the Fire phone... available exclusively on O2 (no thanks).

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      " Also see the Fire phone... "

      And the way they offer the Kindle Fire with a "pay us or get spammed with our choice of adverts", which caused me to instantly rule it out, and get a Nexus. Google of course don't give you the chance to opt out, but the there's a big difference between being forced-fed somebody else's choice of adverts on your own device, and the Google model of somebody else's choice of adverts displayed where you would in any event encounter adverts anyway.

      Seems to me Amazon are brilliant at internet shopfronts and good at logistics, but struggle with digital stuff and consumer propositions. In fact even with the reviewed device I'm left thinking "why would I want this? I've already got a house full of tablets and a Chromecast".

      1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        there's a big difference between being forced-fed somebody else's choice of adverts on your own device, and the Google model of somebody else's choice of adverts displayed where you would in any event encounter adverts anyway

        There is? I don't see it. Whenever I encounter advertising, it's always "somebody else's choice" - it'd be pretty odd for me to decide to advertise things to myself. (Yes, I know the target audience, but the conversion rate is horrible.) And my Kindle extra-cheap-because-I-let-Amazon-show-ads model displays ads only on the sleep screen and in a banner at the bottom of the main menu. They're less intrusive than ads in magazines (remember those?), far less intrusive than TV commercials (sometimes I'm in the room when someone else is watching live TV), and far, far less intrusive than the ubiquitous, ham-handed product placement in actual programming.

        As for "where you would in any event encounter adverts anyway" - why, because you're in their natural habitat?

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