While streaming boxes aren't anything new (Roku, Chromecast and Apple TV for example), the new Amazon Fire TV is a little black box that gives more than one source of content with the easy of use Amazon is known for.
As soon as the device was announced I placed an order. These aren't available to ship directly to New Zealand so I used a forward service to have this shipped to its final destination here in Wellington.
The device arrives already configured to use your Amazon account. You can use it New Zealand since its adapter support 240v but you will need an adapter for the different pin configuration. Connect the Amazon Fire TV to your system or TV via HDMI (cable not included) and either connect to your home network via ethernet or WiFi. I rather use ethernet for it is more reliable when streaming media content such as HD videos.
As it is, out of the box you will have access to some pre-installed apps, but most are geolocked to the USA. First thing is to use a service such as Unblock-us or UnoTelly to gain access to the streaming servers. You achieve this by changing the network configuration in your box (an alternative would be changing this setting in your router but this could have adverse performance impact when accessing local services).
Once the network is configured you get access to a vast collection of content - some free, some paid. Apps such as TuneIn Radio, Frequency, Docurama, Vevo, Vimeo and YouTube (amongst others) will give you access to an array of free content. Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Instant video will give you even more content, paid.
I even found an app, Flixster, that will allow you to play your collection of UtraViolet titles. for those not familiar with this service, UltraViolet is a free, cloud-based, digital rights library that allows users of digital home entertainment content to stream and download purchased content to multiple platforms and devices. Basically you can register your digital content (mostly movies) with online services partnered with UltraViolet and use any of these services to stream digital versions of your content. It is quite common to find Ultraviolet codes now in digital movie such as Bluray.
You can also access local content using the Plex app. For that you can configure the Plex server to run in one of your local PCs, set the libraries (photos, home videos, music) and access all your existing content locally. This is a good way to access your photos, since the built-in Photos app is linked to the Amazon Cloud storage and will only play photos that are uploaded to this service.
The Amazon Fire TV comes with a small wireless remote control that's very basic: directional pad, some buttons (OK, Home, Back, Menu) and media control (Rewind, Play|Pause and Forward). This remote control is also used for voice searches, a feature that currently works with Amazon Instant Video only but is said to be adopted by other apps such as Netflix and Hulu.
Basically you press the MIC phone and the search box will come up on screen. You say the TV show or movie name, or even an actor's name and a list of results will appear on screen for you to select. Very easy to use and it worked pretty much every time I tried it - even with my accent.
Streaming quality and time to start will obviously depend on your connection. In that respect I have to say the Vodafone cable network lives up to expectations and most of the times we had a trouble free experience during playback of streamed content.
Overall quite impressed - and happy with the purchase.
- Easy to use interface
- Preconfigured to use your Amazon Instant Video account
- Access to services free and paid
- USB port is not being used at the moment for local playback
- Your photos are only accessible via Amazon Cloud content unless you install a third party local server