Amazon makes more and more hardware nowadays. While it has had some flops – the Fire Phone comes to mind – its Kindle range of e-book readers and tablets continue to sell well.
With Fire TV, the company wants to conquer your lounge.
Is it a worthy contender to the likes of Apple TV and Roku’s streaming boxes? Let’s find out.
First impressions and design
Being about the size of a hockey puck, and shorter than the Now TV Box, it’s small enough to fit in a jacket pocket. It’s very discreet, with just the Amazon logo embossed black-on-black on the top and a small LED when switched on.
The sleek remote is comfortable to hold too, thanks to the same matte finish as on the Kindle Paperwhite. We could stroke it all day.
The menu is clearly laid out and a doddle to use. There are a few handy guides on getting started too, but it’s so intuitive you won’t need them.
As you’d expect, Amazon’s services take pride of place.
But there are plenty of others to choose from, including BBC iPlayer, Curzon and Netflix.
There’s no ITV Player, 4oD or Now TV, all of which are supported by Roku’s set-top boxes.
If you don’t have Amazon Prime (which costs £79 a year, or £5.99 a month for just Prime Instant Video), you will have to pay for a lot of the TV shows and films on offer. So make sure you check the price before you binge-watch.
One of the neatest features is voice search.
Hold the microphone button at the top of the remote and say the name of the film, genre, actor, director, TV series, app or game.
It got it right every time we tried it, but it’s not perfect.
You can only use it across Amazon’s services. Open iPlayer, say, and use voice search, and it’ll pull you out of the Beeb’s app and back into Amazon land.
A search for “Double Dragon” also failed to show up the game Double Dragon Trilogy, which we stumbled upon by chance later.
It also works as a games console, though it won’t let you access titles – or apps – from Google Play.
You will need the Amazon Fire Game Controller to get the most out of it, which will set you back an extra £35. That pushes the price up to £114 for both devices, which is getting expensive.
There are plenty of time wasters to choose from, and arcade classics like Double Dragon are much better on the big screen. Our advice? Try them out first before shelling out for the controller.
We had no hiccups during our test time. Picture quality is very good, and there’s an optical out if you want to hook up a soundbar.
The control works like a dream, and because it uses Bluetooth, you can stash the box out of sight. Not that you’d want to.
It’s also one of the most intuitive set-top boxes around. The only thing missing from the menu is the ability to customise it.
If you have Amazon Prime Instant Video, this is a must. Thanks to its wealth of content, other services will seem like a bonus. You probably won’t even miss the likes of 4oD and ITV Player.
For everyone else it’s still a classy and very usable device. No one set-top box offers all the available services, so you have to compromise somewhere. If you’re on a tight budget, the Now TV Box is still unbeatable value at £10. But if you can stretch a little higher, Amazon’s option is well worth a look.