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 …

  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

        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?

    2. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      The weird thing is, this is exactly what Amazon did with books.

      They launched the Kindle, but there was a Kindle app available on every other device they could manage. They supported Blackberry and Win Phone too. So you could get your books from one program, whether on PC, tablet or phone. And of course were able to buy from Amazon's store, right from the app. Or buy in browser, and have it magically turn up on the phone.

      Isn't that how they also operate with music? I buy many of my CDs from Amazon, and because I haven't got round to ripping the latest (due laziness in replacing a dead PC), I stuck the Amazon Cloud Player on the iPad.

      I really don't understand why they aren't doing this with video. I've just got a Chromecast and assumed it would work with Amazon, as it does with Netflix. I didn't buy it for that, but it was in the back of my mind, if I felt like a few months of gorging on films.

  11. JimmyPage Silver badge

    Maybe it's me

    but there's very little available for "free" on Prime. Considering it's costing me something, I don't like paying more.

    There is a massive gap in the market for a business which takes a *single* payment, and then allows access to NetFlix, Prime, BlinkBox, Sky and all the other Johnny-come-lately "exclusive content" providers. Which I would pay.

    Otherwise torrent are thataway ---->

  12. Bassey

    Wii Console

    It sounds like, at the moment, you are better off getting an old Nintendo Wii off eBay. They can be had for about £50 (or £70-ish with tons of games). They make better games players, you can download Netflix, iPlayer, Amazon Prime Video and plenty of other Apps plus, with a very simple update, they can be made into a brilliant XBMC style media player accessing all the video, music and photos from a NAS.

    I suppose the real downside would be that you're limited to 480p but, given that it can do pretty much anything we've been more than happy with ours as the main media player for a few years now.

    1. 404 Silver badge

      Re: Wii Console

      Yepyep, tried the Wii with wifi, but the Xbox360 sitting next to it is hardwired to the network and can do 720p.

      What I want to do is outfit each tv with a ethernet hardwired bluray player for the full 1080p from the NAS. Even the Walmart specials can do Netflix and whatnot.

    2. Lallabalalla
      Thumb Down

      Re: Wii Console

      480p looks poor even on a 28" set :(

    3. JEDIDIAH
      Linux

      Re: Wii Console

      > It sounds like, at the moment, you are better off getting an old Nintendo Wii off eBay.

      Nope. I had the in-laws setup with a Wii. The moment they saw my Roku the were like "why didn't you ever tell me about this. Buy me one of these."

      "Hacking a Wii" isn't even an option there.

      The Wii is a different tool for a different job.

      1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: Wii Console

        Nope. I had the in-laws setup with a Wii. The moment they saw my Roku the were like "why didn't you ever tell me about this. Buy me one of these."

        Indeed. When we get a set-top box, it'll be whatever my wife believes will require the least amount of setup and cause her the least amount of grief. I don't care enough about television to bother with one at all, and for her it's minimum-effort entertainment. She already does plenty of things that require thought - she's a professor and a university administrator, she reads on average a novel a day, and so on. When she decides to take a little time out for TV, she doesn't want to have to download apps or do anything besides tell the thing to find whatever she wants to watch.

        I expect we'll end up with Apple TV, because she has all the Apple gear. (I don't like anything Apple's made since the //gs, but as I said I don't really care.) But she also has Prime, so maybe she'll go with Amazon. So long as I don't have to spend time troubleshooting it, it's all fine with me.

  13. Cuddles Silver badge

    Cut-price console?

    Not really. You can get a PS3 for the same price (from Amazon of course) which does every single thing this box does, plus a hell of a lot more - DVD, blu-ray, actual games that aren't crap, and so on. This isn't a cut-price console, it's just a shit one.

    As for all the complaints about Prime, I really don't get it. No content provider offers everything you want at any time. Netflix or one of the others may happen to have a selection that more closely matches your taste and therefore be a better choice for you, but some people apparently want to be able to watch anything that has ever been made at any time without ever paying a penny, and that is simply never going to happen. Compared to "traditional" TV services like Sky and cable, Prime and all the similar services are so much better I'm constantly amazed that the old model still exists at all. No, you can't watch absolutely anything you want with no caveats, but compared to "pay significantly more per year in order to watch exactly what we want when we tell you you can, and incidentally most of it will be adverts" it really is a no-brainer.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Cut-price console?

      Agree about it being poor compared to PS3 - almost everything mentioned in the article is already done less annoyingly with just my TV and sound bar, YouTube iplayer media file playback photo sharing BT-audio.

      My problem with Prime is that it made my expedited parcel delivery more expensive in order to bundle me an unwanted TV service. The service itself is always changing what can be viewed too without warning - 90% of my watch later list went from free to paid (or just plain not available any more) in a few months.

      1. Jay 2

        Re: Cut-price console?

        I too ditched Amazon Prime when my last yearly subscription ran out. I didn't mind paying £50 for the zippy delivery etc, but I did mind paying an extra £30 for something that I was never going to use. I had a brief look at what TV/Film was available, the selection was pretty dire and anything vaguely interesting required you to pay even more money.

        Amazon manged to further annoy me by cancelling their BoA/MBNA Mastercard, which gave you an Amazon voucher in a sort-of cachback way (more spending = bigger voucher). It was nice to get a few quid off just to go about my normal spending.

        1. T-C

          Re: Cut-price console?

          I will ditch my Amazon Prime membership when it runs out for the same reasons but what really winds me up is that Amazon Video is available as an app for Roku in the USA but not in the UK even though we are paying more for Prime Membership.

    2. MJI Silver badge

      Re: Cut-price console?

      The PS3 is definately good at this, better than the PS4 currently.

      Streaming

      Blu Ray

      Tend to use it mainly for that now until I get the new Borderlands game, or get an urge for Killzone multiplayer (don't like Shadowfall).

    3. fruitoftheloon

      Re: Cut-price console?

      Cuddles,

      I couldn't agree more, the effective price of the video element of prime is negligible (once the 'shipping cost' element is removed), whilst Amazon have certainly reduced the quantity of stuff that is inclusive it is still pretty good.

      Also prime does HD streaming perfectly here (in the middle of Devon), whilst iplayer and youtube are nowhere near as smooth and instantaneous.

      Plus my little lad can control it just fine (with parental controls in situ natch)

      Cheers,

      j

  14. Markus Imhof

    So-so

    Got one about a month ago, and ordered it when they sold it as introductory offer for 49 € here in Germany (which, incidentally, is the current one-year subscription price for Prime).

    Yes, a games console can do anything that beast can do (and some things better), and we got two.

    Yes, a smart TV can do all/most of what that beast can do, and ours could.

    But: a (ok, our) one year old smart TV is hard pressed with video streaming, which more or less regularly leads to stopping the currently watched movie/episode. The fire TV just works.

    I can't simply stick[1] a games console behind the flat screen (and the wife _will_ complain about any visible cables).

    A full blown games console will use a lot more power and make a lot more noise.

    So, for video streaming of Amazon Prime content (and at the introductory price), that box is ok. The improvements over the TV app are worth it for us. And for gaming, there's still the xbox 360. But I agree with the review: there could be more (much more) possible on the app side. There's neither an app for Watchever nor for Netflix available, so we still have to use the TVs apps if we want to watch any competing streaming service.

    [1]3M dual lock is great for that ;-)

  15. ssssssssssssssssssssss

    I have a Chromecast sitting in a drawer, as attempting to demo it to both my flatmates (non technical) highlighted the fact they would *never* use it. The phone remote control aspect was far too geeky.

    The Fire tv on the other hand was received with joy. Pick up the simple remote, up down left right and select. Pick a film or tv episode, done. The BBC iPlayer app is great as our tv is not "smart", plus our signal reception is spotty, so no guarantee the dvr will work for a whole episode.

    The cheap PS3 route was an option, (and still is, as I like the occasional game) but I wanted something with as few barriers as possible to content. The Fire tv does that just now.

    1. Efros

      My 8 and 7 year old grandsons have took to the chromecast like ducks to water, they think it's extra cool to be able to select their chosen video (always bloody minecraft) and it appear on the 52" plasma. Keeps them relatively quiet and amused, therefore worth the $30!

      1. ssssssssssssssssssssss

        Indeed, and it'll come out when relations come to visit (Doodlecast being the game of choice).

      2. JEDIDIAH
        Linux

        Phones as remotes.

        My kid is also not bothered by the whole idea of using a phone as a remote. This is good because he lost one of the Roku remotes. It's a bit more awkward than a real remote but still usable.

        It's interesting that someone dismisses this idea in principle because it's basically the big thing with Apple's streamer.

        1. Efros

          Re: Phones as remotes.

          I have an AIOS device which I can use my phone to control, also DirecTV genies and mini genies can be controlled from an android app., this can be quite entertaining if the other viewers are not aware of this.

  16. Derichleau

    What about advertising

    The other month Amazon decided to send me an e-mail to promote Norton Antivirus despite the fact that I've been opted out of promotional e-mails with Amazon for years. When I questioned this they said it was because I'd spent over £30 with my last order. Since then, I've not purchased anything from Amazon that exceeds £29.99 and its' surprising what bargains you can find elsewhere. For example, I purchased a new TV in August from John Lewis for the same price as Amazon but with a free five year guarantee. Fair enough, I had to pay the postage but still, it's a far better deal.

    My point being... I loath companies that think they have a God given right to promote their products and services to me and this is why I wouldn't consider Amazon Fire TV. If they're not already advertising on the TV then it can't be far off. You're much better off waiting until a product is released by a UK data controller so that you can opt out of all direct marketing - even marketing served to a TV.

    Webmaster www.mindmydata.co.uk

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: What about advertising

      Amazon do love the spam. I'm perfectly happy to take special offers from companies I use a lot. I don't mind a glance at their email, if it's interesting I save for later, or delete if not.

      But one day I had 3 different emails from Amazon, and it had got to the point where I was getting more than 10 a week. This didn't make me buy more, it made me hit unsubscribe.

      The stupid thing is, they have a good chunk of my purchase history. Some of their stuff seemed well targeted, and so I bought things on special offer I otherwise wouldn't have. But some of the rest of it was horribly badly targeted, and as well as all the attempts at targeted ads, they'd also do general ones for any-old-thing. You'd have thought even marketing could work out that you can have too much of a good thing...

  17. Dabooka Silver badge
    WTF?

    is it really SO CLOSE to ebing excellent?

    From what I read apart from an impressive (for what it is) harware set, it actually came across as a little bit shit.

    Or was that just me?

    1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

      Re: is it really SO CLOSE to ebing excellent?

      The interface needs a bit of tweaking to allow the filtering of paid for content and just better management of paid for content or multiple user-roles (eg. kids vs adults access).

      However the interface is a world apart and beatifully smooth and usable compared to the unmitigated trash disaster zone that is VM's Tivo interface - slow, ugly, unwieldy and inconsistent.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'd sooner buy the Google Play TV thing instead thanks.

    Nexus Player.

  19. Jay 2

    WD TV Live, same price, probably better

    I picked up a WD TV Live not so long ago for the same price. I was so impressed having a play with one at my brother's I went out to get one shortly after (I too also upgraded from Netgear ReadyNAS to a Synology). It also has WiFi, Ethernet, HDMI and optical, but will allow you to use the USB slot to pick up media. So far it's played everything I've thrown at it from NAS and Mac streaming via DLNA and NFS. It also has a few built-in apps like BBC iPlayer and YouTube, though I'm pretty sure Spotify requires you to have a subscription.

    1. Gannettt

      Re: WD TV Live, same price, probably better

      I agree with you on most of that. I do find my WD Live a bit slow, especially startup times, and prefer to use my Roku for Netflix, much, much faster to get started. For streaming from a NAS or USB stick, though, the WD wins hands down...even plays MKVs out of the box!

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's actually quite good

    The interface is quite good looking - better than the Roku. You can play local content on the Fire TV using Plex, which somehow didn't get mentioned in the review. You can also sideload apps without rooting. Some will work and some won't, but XBMC can be sideloaded and works brilliantly - another way to play local content.

    I don't expect my parents to sideload XBMC, but surely the Register's readership will grasp the concept?

  21. jason 7 Silver badge

    Love it!

    I'm a huge Prime delivery user (about 6 deliveries a week so it saves me a fortune) and I also used Lovefilm so the whole package is a no brainer for me.

    I pre-ordered My Fire TV and I've been really impressed. I wanted something to replace the antique and noisy Xbox 360 that had done all the streaming duties for us. I have cancelled my Gold Subs too so wasnt sure if I could carry on using it for that either. I think they lifted streaming from Gold only but...I didn't care by then.

    So now the Fire does all the streaming. All I use it for is Prime, Netflix and You Tube. The Gf has added on the pilates app.

    Mine is setup with Ethernet and a Amazon Essentials Fast HDMI cable. I would like to see 1080i added to the options as my TV doesn't support 1080p (it's elderly you see) but it's running fine at 720p.

    I would also like to see a better divide between Prime Free video and Prime Paid content as its a bit messy on that front. Oh and being able to delete stuff from the main menu I don't need to slim it down.

    Other than that it's a great little box.

  22. Irongut

    Meh

    Since I'm not already locked into Amazon's walled back yard it sounds like my Chromecast is the better device. About the only thngs FireTV does that it doesn't are play crappy games and stream from Amazon Prime. I don't need the former and the later seem to charge a fortune for anything good so even though I am a Prime member I've never watched anything on it, Netflix is a much better deal.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Fail for me

    I was planning on getting at least six of these for various family members and attaching hd's with family photo's and videos etc via usb since none of them have Nas or even wifi in a lot of cases. They would have made a very nice box for viewing those from, but of course Amazon have acted up with typical control freakery and screwed up root so they've lost these sales. Well done you plonkers.

  24. Greg J Preece

    The part I don't like is that it's a streaming box, but expects me to buy most things individually. I'm not interested in paying eight quid for a digital copy of a film unless it's high bitrate, DRM free, and not tied to a service. $8 gets me Netflix, which has tons of content and doesn't pretend like any of it belongs to me.

  25. Dan Melluish

    Fire TV stick remote

    Just to clarify, the Fire TV stick does come with a basic remote (so you don't have to use your mobile to control it). The compatible extra is the full blown voice-search remote from the Fire TV box.

  26. CBers

    Install Media Browser

    "Out of the box, the Fire TV lacks the ability to stream media from your own network, so if you've a NAS box crammed full of your music and video files then you'll be frustrated here."

    You can always install Media Browser (www.mediabrowser.tv), or Plex, to play those movies and music you have stored on your NAS !!

  27. BarkingMad

    Keep you eyes open. I just ordered a stick for $20. It was a prime customer price. I am not crazy about the price increase but It saves a lot of money compared to going out shopping and trying to find just what you want. Also in the states there is a free program for students with .edu accounts.

  28. Grubby

    So so

    I'm a big fan of Amazon, I have a Kindle and am a Prime customer and use both a few times a day. As for the customer service, again, excellent. As a company they're very good at knowing what customers want and the variances in how they want it, for example offering the same level of customer service via live chat, email and phone etc, and the same for their content, the experience is the same whether watching via my Playstation, iPad etc.

    The main problem is content, I've had this rant before on here about media content and the way it is packaged up and sold. The only way you'll get true choice is to buy every device / service as they all have 99% of the same stuff and 1% of the things you want to watch. When they review this outdated model and make it more affordable and therefore commercially viable for resellers the industry will move forward as the technology (the how) is far outpacing the content (the what).

    If the big content providers persist with the current model the pirates will win and the whole industry will decline. The same happened with music, and all the retailers went belly up, you can now buy almost any music in any format from any provider. The model is flexible and combined with good tech the music industry is starting to make money again. Movies and games will go the same way within the next year or so I think, but what do I know, it's not like I'm an analyst or anything who's been looking at this industry for years... :P

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    No web access, what's the point? It's like buying a car you can't use on the roads.

  30. alan buxey

    issues to note

    hi,

    agree with most of the review. my biggest current issue is the parental control PIN - its not fine-grained enough. Yes, I can use it to stop content being streamed or bought... but if I only stop it being used for purchase then ANYTHING can be streamed - not just eg 'U content' material - littleones are able to stream ANYTHING thats available on prime. thats quite sucky.

    the other thing is lack of 'off' or power-down option. sorry....yes, it uses 'little' energy but I should still be able to turn the thing off or put it into low power standby

    ...PS it comes with amazon value AAA batteries... that seemed to last about 2 weeks. so yes, no 'batteries required' on box...but what a waste of materials to put 2 dead batteries in the bin(!) (why dont these things use inductive charging etc now...just leave remote ontop of the box to charge it.....especially as the box cannot be turned off (see above) without just hitting the mains power switch

  31. P. Lee Silver badge

    Do people still pay for films?

    Almost everything comes on free-to-air and repeats endlessly.

    Surely a PVR/XBMC should do the trick? (MythTV for me).

    Is it just me? I fail to feel the need to own it now on DVD (don't have blue ray), our local blockbuster closed so I almost never rent, and I probably only check the tv schedules once a month.

    However cool the tech is, I feel a bit beyond the idea of a big-screen tv. A 27" screen on my PC and a comfy office chair or a 15" laptop sitting on the duvet gives me as much as I need.

  32. Neoc

    How about developing plug-ins instead of HW?

    Yes, this is all nice and good for those who do not have a HTPC. But some of us have one, AND a cable box (damn it). The last thing I want to to have to add yet another box for Amazon, and another for Netflix (it'll come), and another for Google, and yet another for the BBC, etc, etc... Nor do I want to install a multitude of separate applications/software where I have to quit out of (say) MP to fire up the specialised iPlayer software or the Amazon player or whatever-the-hell-is-next.

    There is very good HTPC software out there already (XBMC, Media-Portal, etc...) How about writing plugins for them instead, huh? Shouldn't be much harder than writing your own dedicated players, surely? And by all means, slap all the login and DRM on your plugin as you like - I just want to be able to access your stuff in the same way as I access the rest of my DVD collection/Free-to-air TV, thank you very much. And as for *you* Foxtel... requiring me to use your official decoder cards to make sure I am an actual account holder is perfectly fine and understandable, but forcing me to use your STB to further decode the signal AGAIN... that's just being an <expletive deleted> It'd be so much easier if I could plug your cable into my HTPC, slide the (legal) decoder card in and (once again) have a consistent viewing experience.

    So, again: less specialised hardware/software, more integration.

    Thank you </rant>

  33. Wilfthebison

    No sub-titles discrimination Amazon doesn't care

    Un-like Netflix, Amazons streaming service doesn't support closed caption subtitles. This is because Amazon doesn't want to bother with hearing impaired customers.

    The issue existed because Love Film didn't bother with subtitles and now Amazon doesn't feel it needs to either.

    "We don't care about the needs of disabled people and we would rather they went elsewhere" being Amazons response to the problem.

  34. NeilPost Bronze badge

    One 1 account

    The only 1 account is hugely annoying from the Prime Instant Video and Prime Kindle Lending Library perspective too - Family accounts are linked to Prime membership - really, how hard can this be.

  35. kevinkanode

    I own Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV and Chromecast. I have to say I use Amazon Fire TV most of the time and I hardly use Apple TV anymore. Fire TV has some amazing specs, Dolby Digital 7.1, more memory and faster CPU. But to get most out of it you need to root it. After you've rooted the Fire TV, you will be able to install all kinds of apps on it from Google Play store such as: Beats music, Spotify, online games etc.; and more important, you will be able to install and use VPN on it which allows you to access U.S. streaming services like Hulu plus, Pandora.

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