27 March 2019
I had this device in wish list since launch. Was very excited to find it being launched in our country. With cost of internet going down significantly & good content availability since few years, Amazons FireTV is undoubtedly the best option.
My TV was already smart along with Mira-cast support so I avoided it for long. Then LG stopped supporting this model & its app store degraded with time having less or no content/apps.
I still ignored this as I was very much occupied with mobile and content. Then came another headache with TRAI rules which significantly increased pricing of DTH packages, with 1/4th of earlier channels at same price.
So I thought now is the time to switch to this wonderful fire TV device & extend things beyond DTH channels with several of streaming services at our disposal, all via big screen instead of small mobile screen.
INTRO TO FIRE TV
A perfect streaming device which brings in Alexa voice smartness & goodness of Internet TV with curated content by several providers. As add on you also get Screen Mirroring (Miracast) & Cast.
It’s a world of entertainment contained in small Android platform based standalone HDMI stick with 1000’s of movies, TV shows, apps etc, all in Full HD (1080p). Number of apps are preinstalled with a lot of FREE content and you are free to install others.
P.S. Min connection speed of 4Mbps is recommended for pleasant experience.
1. Fire TV stick
2. Alexa enabled voice remote with IR support (connects via BT)
3. Power adapter (5V | 1A | 5W)
4. USB cable (~ 5 feet or 58.5 inches or 148.5 cm)
5. HDMI extender (~ 4.25 inches or 11 cm)
6. Quick start guide
7. 2AAA batteries
Fire TV Dimensions: 85.5 mm x 30 mm x 12 mm | Weight: 31.2 g
Remote Dimensions: 38 mm x 142 mm x 16 mm | Weight: 65.5/43 g (with/without batteries)
Ports: HDMI male connector, micro-USB female port
Key Specs: Quad-core ARM 1.3 GHz processor, Mali 450 GPU, 8GB Internal
Wi-Fi: Dual-band, Dual-antenna 802.11a/b/g/n/ac
BT: Bluetooth 4.1 + LE
Device storage available: 5.94 GB
Software v126.96.36.199 | 4.89 GB free, v188.8.131.52 | 5.27 GB free
1. Good quality, solid build device with easy setup (make sure to use high speed broadband instead of mobile hotspot, else be ready for ‘amazon home not reachable’ issue).
2. Fully capable standalone streaming device based on Android platform.
3. Highly capable Bluetooth remote with Alexa voice support. It does not require pointing to device.
4. Remote also has IR capability for general TV functions (on/off/volume/mute). This requires pointing to TV’s receiver.
5. Mobile app available to control device. So dependency on physical remote is less.
6. Intuitive, fast & snappy interface without significant lag. It lags if music or install task is running in background.
7. Rich curated free content with almost all of streaming services supported. Prime, Netflix, Hotstar, SonyLiv, Spotify, Gaana etc. Premium content requires subscription.
8. Capable Amazon app store to find many of required apps.
9. Since android based, you can just side load any other android app.Compatibility is another thing.
10. Supports Screen cast/Mirroring/Mira-cast. So covers up Chrome-cast as well.
11. Web browser available to virtually support any content on web, if app not available. E.g. YouTube
12. Wake up of fireTV via home button also switches on TV if not on. (HDMI CEC required)
13. Alexa can also switch on TV. “Alexa, Turn on TV” (HDMI CEC required)
14. Deep integration with Prime video and music. Alexa voice or fireTV search will not work for content of other apps. It though works fine for music across other apps.
15. It comes preregistered to Amazon account used to make purchase.
16. Compatible with smart home devices via Alexa enabled remote. E.g. Philips Hue, Smart switches, Cameras etc.
17. Sufficiently long USB power cable.
18. Remote range is more than 55 feet. I was able to check up to 55 feet and it worked well.
19. Video quality setting, low, medium, high to have a check on data usage. To set, Settings → Preferences → Data monitoring → Video quality
1. Biggest issue is the search which is exclusive to Prime content. For rest it displays browser or YouTube link. For such a streaming device, search should extend across all apps.
P.S. It works ok for playing music across other apps. If songs not found on prime, it searches it on others and play accordingly or you can even specify app.
2. Limited storage with no card support. So you are left with only ~5 GB for deployment.
3. Since it’s just another HDMI device connected to TV so if you switch inputs and does not exit streaming content on Fire TV, it keeps on running and consuming data.
4. Sending device to sleep does not auto switch off TV unlike waking up which switches it on. It need to be manually done.
5. No Google Playstore support & Amazon store has limited apps.
6. No YouTube native app.
7. Costly accessories be it remote or Ethernet adapter.
8. Screen mirror is slow with ~1 sec delay but so happens with TV’s built in Miracast too. You just can’t avoid this lag due to high bandwidth & processing requirement.
Here cons are having slight affect on functionality of device. For that 1 star deducted. So a 4 star device.
▶ SMART TV
# Simply converts dumb TV to smart TV by proving world of internet & entertainment on screen
# Comes with a lot of goodness of Android platform
▶ ALEXA VOICE REMOTE & SMART HOME
# Now a day’s Alexa works well in Indian context and can very well understand the accent.
# Alexa enabled remote is there to impart smartness to home too with voice control for smart home devices like Philips Hue, Smart switches, Smart bulbs etc
# All Alexa skills work here. Like booking cab, ordering food, news flash, weather update etc
▶ IR FEATURE IN REMOTE
# Can control compatible TV with same remote. No need to manage multiple remotes. Supported options: on/off, volume +/- & mute.
▶ Wi-Fi & BT connectivity
# Wi-Fi simply helps it to connect to internet
# BT helps it to connect to remote and other devices like keyboard, or headsets (I was unable to make BT mouse work with fireTV)
▶ STREAMING APPS
# Prime Video, Netflix, Hotstar, SonyLiv, Zee5, Voot etc for video content while Prime Music, Gaana, Spotify etc for audio content.
# Subscription may be required for premium content while some may be ad supported. Lots of free content available on all of apps though.
# At least one subscription of your choice is recommended. Prime may be a good choice owing to extra benefits.
# Regular TV shows are available without subscription on all of apps after 1 day.
# News channel live app are available.
▶ SCREEN CAST / SCREEN MIRRORING / MIRACAST
# Many TV’s don’t have Miracast support built in, which helps to mirror mobile or laptop screen on to TV
# Fire TV stick comes with screen cast support letting you mirror content playing on device to enjoy on TV’s big screen
# To mirror, either long press home button and select 'Mirroring' or choose that option from settings. Then toggle use corresponsing option on mobile or laptop.
# It’s different from screen cast in way that, screen cast just mirrors whatever’s on mobile screen to TV while cast only casts relevant content be it video or audio on Fire TV via its app.
# Many of apps on mobile like Prime music, Prime Video, Netflix etc will have cast or watch now option.
▶ SOFTWARE & FIRE OS
# Interactive interface with apps and content on main screen.
# Top part have tabs that split up main screen into Home, Movies, TV Shows, Apps, and Settings.
# Below you have recent, my apps & games etc
# You can configure data tracking & parental control during initial setup or from settings
# Video quality, reboot, reset to factory settings, deregister device etc options also available.
# Equipment control is wonderful thing. It lets your FireTV device control TV & AV receiver, power on, volume control etc. (this is done via HDMI CEC or IR)
# While on other TV inputs, pressing home button takes TV to FireTV input.
# Screensaver option is nice to have. You can have your own set of images by uploading to available cloud storage.
# Regular updates provided by Amazon.
1. Connect Fire TV to HDMI port of TV directly or via HDMI extender.
2. Connect USB cable to Fire TV and adapter.
3. Insert adapter in socket.
4. Switch on power supply. It boots up with ‘Amazon’ text followed by colourful ‘FireTV stick’ text.
5. Install batteries in remote & follow on screen instructions to pair it. A press of home button required on prompt.
6. Follow on screen instructions for initial setup, Wi-Fi configuration etc.
7. If not preregistered, follow on screen instructions for same.
8. Enjoy the world of internet based content & you will just forget DTH, cable TV and all.
▶ Device boot time: 40-50 sec
▶ App Install & launch:
# Firefox: Install 11 sec, launch 8 sec
# Silk: Install 50 sec, launch 5 sec
# Netflix: Install 30 sec, launch 15 sec
# Hotstar: Install 30 sec, launch 12 sec
# Spotify: Install 10 sec, launch 7 sec
# ES explorer: Install 48 sec, launch 7 sec
▶ System Update time: 3-4 min
▶ System interface is smooth except for if music or any download/ install task in running in background.
▶ Remote Battery backup (TBU)
BT Range: 55 feet +
IR functionality tested ok: MI Smart TV (4A), LG Smart TV 47” (LA 6200), and LG Home Theatre
1. Easy pairing of remote. Just follow on screen instructions. Press home button on prompt, amber led flashes & upon pairing blue led flashes.
2. No need to point the remote to stick as it connects via BT
3. Press and hold home button to bring up shortcut menu. (Apps, Sleep, Mirroring, Settings)
4. Press and hold voice button, to give voice commands or interact with Alexa.
5. IR control viz on/off, volume up/down, mute requires pointing to TV or other device.
6. IR setup is launched on first start up. Plays an audio & asks to adjust volume. Switches different IR codes to find compatible one. Works similar to MI phones IR remote app configuration.
7. Remote firmware is also updated from time to time. Takes approx. 2-3 min.
FIRE TV APP
There’s wonderful app on Playstore which works as an alternative to remote with full functionality including Alexa voice.
In fact it will ease up your typing across FireTV interface with regular keyboard on mobile screen. Also helpful in copy paste operations across Fire OS.
Just connect stick to Wi-Fi and app discovers it. So only thing you need to key in via TV screen keyboard is Wi-Fi password. For rest there is app. ;)
AMAZON FIRE TV APP STORE & APPS
Having a built in store is a plus as you don’t need to fiddle around for apps. Amazon app store is quite good with a good set of required apps for devices core functionality. Prime apps come preinstalled. Some useful apps are listed.
VIDEO:: Prime Video, Netflix, Hotstar, SonyLiv, Zee5, Voot, Jio Cinema, Eros Now, VLC, MX Player
MUSIC:: Prime Music, Gaana, Spotify
WEB BROWSER:: Silk, Firefox
FILE EXPLORER:: ES Explorer
NEWS:: AajTak Live, ABP Live, NDTV, Aljazeera, BBC News, NBC News
Still it’s limited and not as rich as Playstore.
So for others, since device is android based, use your imagination. You can side load just any apk via wireless transfer. Download via web browser is disabled. Compatibility matters here as all are not optimized for TV experience.
E.g. some really useful apps but not compatible: AirtelTV, JioTV, TataSkyTV
For side loading,
a) Install ES Explorer on mobile & FireTV.
b) On your Fire TV, go to Settings → Device → Developer Options & turn on 'Allow apps from Unknown Sources’.
c) Download desired apk on mobile.
d) Transfer to FireTV using ES to ES LAN transfer and install.
FIRE TV VS FIRE TV 4K
4K version of Fire TV comes with some goodies like 4K content support, slightly better processor to support 4K content, HDR videos, Dolby Atmos, BT 5.0 etc but are they worth 2k extra you need to pay?
▶ Major hurdle here is 4K content availability. Our country is still catching up with Full HD content. 4K is far from reality for at least a few years. Rest features can be easily neglected.
▶ Then comes internet data. 1080p consumes approx. 2 GB per hour while 4K consumes approx. 7 GB per hour. Do you have that much data at your disposal? (Keep JioFiber’s preview offer aside, you will have to pay someday)
▶ 4K version lacks screen mirroring. So if its a big deal for you, then its.
UPDATE: With latest update version 184.108.40.206 Miracast is now supported.
You can always upgrade later on as these devices are not meant to last forever. Two or three years later, you will feel the need to upgrade. Getting a 4K stick then, will make a lot of sense.
Even having a 4K TV at present is not a good idea. It’s a gimmick for now which looks good on store display with optimized 4K content, but useless in real world.
▶ If you want to convert you old TV or even old smart TV (my case) with limited content to full featured smart TV with lots of content from different providers, Alexa goodness & smart home control, you are good to go with this Fire TV stick.
▶ In fact it can even act as replacement for DTH as all of channels are live with premium/subscription packages for apps or you can watch your favourite shows a day later on respective apps.
▶ If on previous generation of FireTV stick, upgrade only if you need new remote with IR functionality. Rest hardware is same.
▶ Then there’s 4K version of Fire TV. General suggestion would be to avoid it for now and save some bucks for subscription services, unless you want extra performance.
4K stick's performance is 1.5 to 2 times as compared to 1080p stick. But an average user won't notice the difference. Future proofing is another thing. As every electronic device tends to slow down after say a year or two.
▶ We also have MI TV box and other android TV boxes available. MI TV box is not officially launched here while other boxes are have quality issues.