Amazon Fire TV: A Consumer Review

I recently purchased a Fire TV and have been surprised by the lack of information out there. After a few days experience with the device, here’s my two cents.

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Why did I buy it?

  • I’m a cord cutter and I love set top boxes.
  • I’m a gamer who enjoys alternative ways of gaming. I was hoping for another option for gaming before bed other than my iPad.
  • I’m a developer and interested in this new platform for my own games.

Why do I know what I’m talking about?

  • I’m experienced with set top boxes. I have a Roku 3 downstairs and a Roku 2 in my bedroom that the Fire TV will replace -if it’s good enough. I have tinkered with a friend’s Apple TV as well.
  • I’m a gamer and developer. I currently play mostly on Steam, iPhone and iPad. I have a PS3 and Wii. I haven’t invested in the new consoles because there’s too few options for me that I can’t get on Steam or functionality I can’t get through my current devices.

I have to admit, I’m a little biased. I want to like the Fire TV. I want it to be a success because it could kindle (no pun intended) a gaming set top box industry, giving me more places to play and more places to develop.

I typically avoid reviews because I don’t want them to sully my enjoyment of new experiences. I only looked into information after I had paid for the device. Mostly, I found “ho-hum” reviews and sentiments. Very few of those sources however seem to have a credible background in gaming.

What you need to know about Fire TV

  • The voice feature only helps you find Amazon content. This was a disappointment. The Roku has a search feature that allows you to search for content across all its apps. The functionality of the voice recognition is great so I hope they will consider changing this in the future. As it stands, I probably won’t use it.
  • The response time is good. You know that laggy feeling you get on some devices-like it’s a second behind you. It’s so aggravating and some people can’t even articulate that this is why the experience is lackluster. Well, on Fire TV, it’s good. it’s snappier than the Roku 3. The games run very well. One of my favorites-Hill Climb Racing, worked as well as the iOS version. The controls were not delayed. The sound effects were not delayed. All the 2D games I played worked great and ran smoothly. I definitely want to make a game for this system! I played three of the available 3D games. Riptide 2 – worked well with remote or controller. The game is pretty good. Asphalt 8 – The reviews are true, this is a great game with lots of options, tracks, cars, customization and still accessible to anyone. It makes you feel like a great driver, the wrecks are spectacular and rewarding, it’s fun! Sev Zero – I was very impressed by this game too. It’s actually a tower defense game, not a shooter, but you can teleport anywhere on the map to help your defenses fight in third person. IThis part of the game is like a shooter. You unlock cool guns with alt fire but I found no cover system in the game (yet?) and the AI is on par with a tower defense game, not a shooter. Still, I had a lot of fun, the framerate and control is the best it’s ever been for a set top box. The game has easy to learn controls and works in real time. You can zoom in and out of the map quickly to relocate your character, upgrade turrets, etc. The presentation is nice too.
  • The remote is good. It’s heavy and feels like a chunk of metal in your hand. The button layout is great and its simple. I was intuitively using it in a fe minutes without thinking about it. There are games that just use the remote. You can even filter out games that require the controller when searching for games. The buttons on the remote feel firm and clicky. They work just fine for gaming if you are playing casual games.
  • The controller is good. It doesn’t feel cheap, the buttons and sticks are solid. It is nearly the same layout as an Xbox controller but because of slightly different dimensions, takes a few seconds to get used to.
  • The UI is ok. I am used to the Roku grid style layout and prefer it despite the fact that it limits the accessibility to a large number of apps. On Roku, you tend to use 3 or 4 apps 90% of the time, so it’s not an issue. Here, since there are games that you actually want to play, there is a need to get to and search lots of content-its current UI is not the perfect solution-but it works.
  • Hulu Plus works great, as good as the Roku 2 I had in bedroom before it. Netflix is not as good as the Roku 3 version, but better than the Roku 2 version in that it has continuous play. Hopefully Netflix will refresh this soon. Of course finding Amazon content is easier than it is on the Roku Amazon apps.

Because the games are actually good for the first time in set top box history, I am sticking with the Fire TV and retiring the Roku 2. If you’re on the fence, need a set top box and especially if gaming is a factor in your decision, get it. It’s a great value.

If you already have a Roku 3 and you are not interested in the gaming aspects. You’re probably fine with what you have.

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