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Amazon Fire TV Review: What Bang do Cord-Cutters Get for Their Buck?

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Does Amazon Fire TV Replace Cable?

Amazon Fire TV and Amazon Fire Stick offer an unparalleled video streaming experience and are often used by those getting rid of cable. Quickly becoming the hottest streaming box and stick on the market, many have a lot of questions about Amazon’s streaming devices — such as, does Amazon Fire replace cable? Get answers below!

The Amazon Fire TV Recast and the Fire TV Stick are two of the most impressive streaming players on the market today. These video streaming players are Internet-connected devices that let you watch video from services via an internet connection, on your TV.

Definition of a Complete Cable TV Alternative

Before we start dissecting Amazon Fire TV Recast and Stick, let’s talk about what a cable TV alternative is, and or should be.

The greatest weapon in a cord cutter’s arsenal is a video streaming device. For those of you that don’t know;  a video streaming device enables you to watch video streaming services like Amazon Prime, Sling TV, Netflix, Hulu, and HBO Max on your TV. Think of a streaming device as the replacement for your cable box.

A Video Streaming box (media set-top box) that aims to be a complete cable TV alternative, should provide:

  1. STREAMING SERVICES – Access to video content from sources as possible. The more options you have, the better chance you have of taking advantage of low prices and new content.
  2. USER INTERFACE – A user-friendly interface for easy searching and navigation. Jumping from show to show or movie to movie, should be as easy as changing channels on a standard Cable TV remote control.
  3. OTA INTEGRATION – Most importantly, and notably ignored by most, a set-top box with this goal integrate broadcast TV into their interface and offer a way to record it via a DVR.

In short, you need a solution that can act as the foundation in which you build upon with streaming services and access to free broadcast television. Let’s look at Amazon’s Fire TV video streamer and see how it matches up to these requirements.

1. Streaming Services

Streaming App Support

You want it, Amazon has it. With an extensive library of thousands of apps, you can stream pretty much anything on your Amazon Fire TV.

  • Want to listen to music on your TV? They got it (Pandora, Amazon Music, Spotify and more…)
  • Want to watch movies and TV? Of course, yes they have everything available (DIRECTV STREAM, Sling TV, Netflix, Hulu, Youtube etc..)
  • How about games? Do you like games? Because they have more than I can count.

Just to give you an idea of the sheer number of Apps you can access, here is their “categories list”:

  • Books & Comics, Business, Communication, Customization, Education, Finance, Food & Drink, Games, Health & Fitness, Kids, Lifestyle, Local, Magazines, Medical, Movies & TV, Music & Audio, News, Novelty, Photo & Video, Productivity, Reference, Shopping, Social, Sports, Transportation, Travel, Utilities, Weather

With all these apps,  you are pretty much turning your TV into a large tablet or smartphone.

2. User Interface

Sling TV (free trial) and other similar services have become the go-to cable TV alternatives for would-be cord-cutters. But what many find when they first sign up for a streaming service like this, is that streaming through a web browser can be choppy and does not provide a true HD experience.

When you call into customer service to figure out what is going on, what you quickly learn is that they recommend streaming through an app, as this method can provide a more reliable feed. And when asked what streaming devices provide the quickest and smoothest user interface, the answer is always “Amazon Fire TV”.

Amazon Fire Controller with Alexa

What Amazon is most excited about is that Alexa on  Fire TV and Stick allows people to search for content using their voice. You can search for a genre, actor, or movie by clicking a microphone button on the remote and speaking into it.

But here is the problem: the voice search doesn’t work for third-party apps like Netflix, Hulu, and YouTube. So in turn, even if something is available via your Netflix account, the interface will instead push you towards becoming an Amazon  Prime member for $119 a year, or towards buying the movie or episode through Amazon’s Video content library.

“In reality, the Fire TV is a small, flat, matte black Trojan horse intended to sell you, even more, Amazon goods than you already buy. I prefer streaming that is content-neutral, or that at least allows me to find the best deal. This is not that box.”

Molly Wood – New York Times

Now, this trend does not just affect the voice controls. Once you start searching for content (regardless of the method), you’ll notice that Amazon puts all of its content front and center all the time. And even the home screen is mainly Amazon-centric, with a large area promoting content recently added to Amazon Prime. This is a bit annoying, but understandable if you put yourself in Amazon’s shoes.

Amazon Fire Stick

The Amazon Fire TV Stick is Amazon’s answer to Google Chromecast and Roku Streaming Stick.  The user interface is essentially the same as what is available on Fire TV, as well as the app selection. You will notice that moving through the interface is a lot slower, and that’s because Fire TV Stick does not have the impressive hardware Fire TV has. As a result, playing games on the Fire TV Stick is slower and you have a smaller selection.

The Fire TV Stick lacks an optical audio output, so setting up your home theatre system will be more complicated than you like. The voice search option is also less reliable than its set-top counterpart.

All in all, the only reason you would want the Fire TV Stick over the Fire TV is price and size. That’s not to say that the Fire TV Stick is necessarily a bad product, but you definitely get what you pay for.

Amazon Fire TV Recast

The first thing you need to know about Fire TV Recast is it can stream 4K / UHD programming. This is a huge advantage if you are like me and want to buy technology that the times can grow into, vs buying technology that time is quickly forgetting. The Amazon Fire Stick doesn’t support over-the-air broadcasting but the new Amazon Fire TV Recast box does connect with your antenna and have DVR capabilities allowing you to record anything you can pick up with your antenna. And of course, the Recast has all the streaming apps you need to, like Netflix, Hulu, and more.

The Fire TV supports dual-band Wi-Fi and offers a quad-core Qualcomm Krait 300 processor and 2GBs of RAM. It also supports Blue Tooth. So if you want to watch TV with your Bluetooth headphones, you are good to go.

As for the software interface, Amazon did a great job. The box comes preconfigured with your Amazon account details, and the remote (blue-tooth) is automatically paired with the box. No hassle, no fuss, no confusion. When you turn on the device for the first time, there’s a guiding animation that goes step-by-step through how to set up the box, and what features are available.

3. OTA Integration

First of all, OTA stands for over-the-air and refers to using a TV antenna to access free broadcast television (ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX) in HD.

Now the goal here is to find a solution that allows you to stream your OTA signal into your Streaming Box and have it available right beside your favorite internet streaming options.

If integrating over-the-air channels into your streaming device so you can watch everything in one place and even record shows that broadcast over the air, you should check out the new Amazon Fire TV Recast. It’s an over-the-air DVR and streaming player rolled into one.

If you’re someone who doesn’t care as much about over-the-air content and just wants a device to stream Netflix and the like, the Fire TV Stick is more than enough and much cheaper than the Recast.

How Much Does the Fire TV Cost?

The Amazon Fire TV Recast is among the most robust streaming players on the market with its DVR capabilities, and it costs in the $150 to $200 range.

The Amazon Fire TV Stick, on the other hand, cost much less, at $39. The Fire TV Stick is less expensive than the Roku Streaming Stick and is only $3 more than Chromecast. For those seeking an affordable and compact streaming device, the Amazon Fire TV Stick is a good choice. It now supports 4K streaming and offers everything you need to stream your favorite apps on your TV.

Why Did Amazon Build a Set-Top Box?

Forrester Research found that 12% of United States residents have an Internet-connected television. Of those, 70% have actually connected those televisions to the Internet. So what does this mean? 30% of the people who have an Internet-connected television are not utilizing the internet to watch video content.

“We definitely feel that all of those separate devices are kind of an interim step until these kinds of Internet-connected features become standard in either the television or your DVR or your Blu-Ray player or game console.”

Jim Nail, Analyst at Forrester

What I take from this is that the public needs to be educated on what is available. Cable and Dish TV costs are astronomical, and consumers need to wake up and realize over-the-air broadcasting is Free and comes in HD. On top of that, the internet is full of budget-friendly content. I think Amazon saw the exact same trend, and being the thought leader they are, they jump on the video streaming bandwagon.

Amazon Fire Overview

All in all, I think Amazon Fire TV is one of the, if not the best streaming box available. You get 4k resolution, a voice controller with AI intelligence built in (Alexa), a clean fast user interface, and you can integrate OTA right into the device. What else can you ask for?

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Frank Moraes
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11 replies on “Amazon Fire TV Review: What Bang do Cord-Cutters Get for Their Buck?

I see that there have been no recent comment while the article is shown as update in September of 2022. We have been using the recast for many years now. In the past few weeks scheduling has become very wonky. Scheduled programs are being skip. Future programs do not show as scheduled. I suspect a few possibilities. One is that my unit is acting up and may need a factory default (hours of lost content and time to rebuild). At the top of my suspicions is that perhaps the supplier of the content schedule has changed parameters and the recast box is not picking the programs up from the downloaded schedule. Has anyone seen anything like this? Thanks

I have two Fire TV units and I haven’t noticed anything. But others may have?

If you side load SPMC the possibilities increase exponentially. I have not found an Android box yet with TV tuning and recording out of the box. The FTV is the most streamlined box out there for now. I’ll try to post an update if time permits showing this boxes true capabilities without rooting.

Yes please do post an update. I would love to learn more, as well would my readers. For starters can you provide a quick overview of how you specifically use the SPMC app to your advantage?

Can you update. Also I have talked to a guy that says he can unlock the fire box. How does that work.

All great questions and comments. Only thing is I know that millions of Americans have access to OTA. As long as you dont live in a very rural area, it is definitely worth looking into. As for why the blockade… only answer I got is Greed.

Comments about what is available "over the air" are seldom relevant. Most of us have no such service available. At issue is governmental controls and surcharges. We can phone almost anywhere in the world at a very low price. We do not have to listen to commercials as part of a phone call. I wish to "pay" for a connection to domestic German TV, say Hamburg's basic channels. Technically that is no more difficult than dialing a Hamburg friend's international prefixed number. Why to blockade?

I tried Amazon Fire TV and I agree that it is just too Amazon-centered. It just seems like another tool to sell their product, with none of the ambition of other great set-top boxes. The most confusing part is that Amazon Instant Video is available on basically all other streaming devices so it doesn’t make sense for them to create their own box and compete with themselves like this.

I am an Amazon prime member, and am very impressed with the content they have recently released (with all the HBO content especially), but like you said, this box just does not provide anything new, and is too Amazon centric.

Hey Stephan – Thanks for reaching out. I absolutely agree with you. Its really going to be interesting to see where the industry goes over the next few years. New Cable TV Alternatives are popping up every day. And with DVR functionality becoming the norm, I am also seeing peoples viewing behavior change. No longer are we willing adjust to Cable TV's scheduled programing. We want what we want, when we want it, and on the device that best fits our circumstance.

As a matter of fact, the industry standard of gridded-out television shows to time slots is looking on reaching an end point. Cable industries should be worried about a waning monopoly as publishers look to additional sources such as Hulu, amazon, YouTube, etc.

While cable companies have a costly monthly bill and chop 10 minutes out of every half hour of television for commercials, YouTube is offering channels with unhindered time lengths that are accessible to anyone at anytime without the need of a DVR. To me this provides a much better viewing experience. This may not contain major produces such as fox but I certainly enjoy an episode of TableTop, and not to mention all of Fox's content is available, whether they like it or not, on torrent and since FireTV has an excellent PLEX client this is actually a more preferred method of watching these shows, in my opinion. That said I wouldn't go downloading movies or shows produced from subscription based services such as HBO or SHOWTIME. Stick to items published over local television stations that you would normally be able to get over HD antenna, which I might add is the majority of what anyone watches ever.

I hear that Amazon is apparently trying to work out a deal with HBO to hopefully provide this as a subscription option to people on the Fire/FireTV, with no need for a cable subscription. I really hope this goes through. Summing up, Cable is expensive, the shows are too short to allow for commercials and also rely on a DVR to record and watch television on your schedule instead of the broadcasted time, and now Comcast is charging extra for local TV channels, really? seriously!? FireTV has everything you need, honestly! A FireTV and fast internet is all you need to ditch cable, trust me I've done it, I did it with the ROKU 2XS and the FireTV is just better. I use PLEX media server to maintain my series of Big Bang Theory and COSMOS, I used PLEX even when I had cable, several years ago. It gave me more options with what I watched and it allowed me to go back and watch an entire series over again from start to finish, like TopGear UK, unlike just the recent episodes being available like what cable provides. Cable is a dirty word to me, and also, kind of old… Eww.


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