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amazon fire tv with remote september 2017

This is the third generation of Amazon's Fire TV streaming box. The original device debuted back in 2014, making Amazon an old hand in the streaming business.

While the Fire TV has always been a strong proposition, nowadays the competition is fiercer than ever. Amazon will have to see off the Apple TV 4K, Roku Streaming Stick+ and Google Chromecast Ultra in order to win a place under your TV.

Can it do so? Let's find out.

Design

amazon fire tv september 2017

Previous Fire TVs have looked almost identical, but with the third generation, that's all change. Gone is the box form factor, in favour of a dongle form instead. Basically, like the Google Chromecast Ultra, the Fire TV dangles from your TV's HDMI socket, and hence doesn't take up any space below your TV.

It also means it stays around the back of the telly, out of sight.

Once you've plugged it into the power socket via the micro-USB slot (using the supplied USB mains adapter), you can pretty much forget about it. Which is how it should be.

Features

amazon fire tv front september 2017

The flagship feature is 4K. This packs four times as many pixels as high definition, making for a sharper picture. All of the above streaming boxes also have it, so Amazon isn't alone here.

The new Fire TV also has HDR, which stands for high dynamic range. This technology was originally found in photography. It makes for a greater difference between the light and dark parts of the picture, with more gradual steps in between. The result? The image has more depth, which makes it more lifelike.

The Fire TV offers a healthy selection of apps, including arch rival Netflix and Amazon Prime Video (of course). It also has all of the terrestrial UK TV catch-up apps – BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, All 4 and My5 – which is better than the new Apple TV 4K (the last three are missing from Apple's streaming box).

There's also no Now TV.

You can also stream music via Amazon Music and Spotify. But there's no Tidal or Apple Music.

Usability

amazon fire tv living room 2 september 2017

Setting it up is a doddle. Fire it up (pardon the pun), and it shows you how to download apps. There's even a video tutorial to get you up and running.

And once you are, the Fire flies along. The interface is responsive, and thanks to the image-heavy layout, easy to navigate.

Of course, the content put front and centre is heavily skewed towards Amazon Prime Video. But that's to be expected.

Amazon has collected all the 4K content available in a '4K Ultra HD TV' section, and similarly with all the HDR content.

Alexa also comes as standard. This is Amazon's voice-activated personal assistant – think Apple's Siri, or Microsoft's Cortana. You can control Alexa direct from the remote, so you can search for a show, search the web, or bring up a weather forecast, just by asking. It works very well, and is a real alternative to pushing buttons.

You can also control your Fire TV through an Amazon Echo speaker, just by using Alexa. Though if you own both devices, you are well and truly in the Amazon ecosystem.

Value for money and verdict

amazon fire tv living room september 2017

The Fire TV costs £70, which is the same as the Google Chromecast Ultra, and a tenner less than the Roku Streaming Stick+. It's a lot cheaper than the Apple TV 4K, which will set you back £179.

Before you buy, it's worth checking out your TV's capabilities. If your telly is relatively new, chances are it can do most of what the Fire TV does. But if you don't like your smart TV's user interface, and it's 4K- and HDR-compatible, the Fire TV is definitely worth a look.

Don't have 4K? You might consider the Fire TV Stick instead. Like the Fire TV, it's a dongle that plugs into your TV's HDMI socket. It just doesn't have 4K or HDR technologies.

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