Skip to main content

Amazon Fire TV (2015) review

Amazon Fire TV
(Image: © Android Central)

The quick take

Amazon was one of the first to provide a set-top streaming box that boasted truly powerful hardware and a whole bundle of software and content providers. And all that at a compelling price point, too. The 2015 update has more competition than ever with the likes of the Android TV ecosystem growing and a brand new Apple TV on the horizon. But Amazon came out swinging once again with a solid product that's hard not to recommend to interested parties. It's priced to move, has 4K video support, Alexa in the U.S. as well as a bunch of adapted apps and games. Ecosystem still comes into play but the 2015 Fire TV is a top contender.

Buy the Amazon Fire TV from Amazon UK

The good

  • Low low price
  • Game controller is optional and doesn't affect the asking price
  • Voice remote is excellent
  • MicroSD card slot
  • Powerful internals

The bad

  • User interface could be simpler
  • No HDMI cable in the box
  • Alexa still limited to the U.S.

Still one of the best

Amazon Fire TV full review

For the 2015 update to the Fire TV, Amazon has upped the ante a fair bit and is making some bold claims. The spec sheet proudly boasts "75 percent more processing power" than the old model, a better gaming experience and more 1080p streams than ever before thanks to new codec support.

And then there's Alexa. Or there is if you're in the United States, at least.

As with all hardware spaces Amazon seems to find itself in at the present day, the media streamer and set-top box markets are busier than ever. With Android TV and Chromecast in one corner, Apple TVs imminent refresh in another, the likes of Roku always lurking and the more entertainment focused features on the new generation game consoles, does the Fire TV still earn its place in your set up?

All about Alexa and the Amazon Echo

Alexa is what makes the Amazon Echo such a special product. And now it's on the Fire TV in the U.S. If you've yet to come across either, check out our dedicated page for everything you need to know.

About this review

The review unit we're testing is a UK retail spec Fire TV provided by Amazon initially supplied with pre-release software. In the course of the review period we've been updated to version 5.0.2.2 which we're told is the latest retail release build.

Since this is a UK version, Alexa support is not available.

What's in the box?

  • Amazon Fire TV
  • Power adapter (1.4A output)
  • Voice remote

You'll note that you don't quite get everything you need to get up and running. There's no HDMI cable in the box so unless you have a spare you'll need to purchase one of those, too. Amazon will be happy to sell you one, as you'd imagine.

Getting the facts and figures straight

The specs

What exactly is inside that little black box that sits under your TV? Here's a breakdown of what's what.

CategorySpecification
Operating SystemFire OS 5 "Bellini"
ProcessorMediaTek Quad-Core up to 2 GHz. Dual-Core @ 2.0 GHz + Dual-Core @ 1.6 GHz.
GraphicsPower VR GX6250 600MHz (Max)
Output resolution2160p (4K) up to 30fps; 720p and 1080p up to 60fps
Storage8GB with microSD card support up to 128GB
RAM2GB
SoundSupport for Dolby Audio, 5.1 surround sound, 2-channel stereo and HDMI audio pass-through up to 7.1
ConnectivityDual-band, dual-antenna Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.1
PortsDC Jack, HDMI output, 10/100 Ethernet, microSD slot, USB 2.0
Dimensions115 mm x 115 mm x 17.8 mm
Supported formatsVideo: H.265, H.264, Audio: AAC-LC, AC3, eAC3 (Dolby Digital Plus), FLAC, MP3, PCM/Wave, Vorbis, Dolby Atmos (EC3_JOC), Photo: JPEG, PNG, GIF, BMP
Weight270 grams
ColorsBlack
OtherIncluded voice remote, optional Game Controller
Image 1 of 2

Amazon Fire TV

Image 2 of 2

Amazon Fire TV

The little black box

The Fire TV box

Amazon has adopted an "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" approach to the design of the latest Fire TV. In that it looks exactly the same as the old one. It's a small, square, black box. Unlike a phone or a tablet, that's all it really needs to be. Subtle, unobtrusive, just there to fade into the rest of your entertainment centre. Kind of the opposite of something like the NVIDIA Shield TV.

The top is matte and embossed with the Amazon logo, the sides are shiny and the corners are pointy. You're not going to be picking it up, of course, but it's worth highlighting if the Fire TV will ever be remotely in reach of children.

There is one change on the outside for this years model, likely a welcome one to most. Round the back there's now a microSD card slot where last year there was optical audio. With only 8GB of internal storage and Amazon's boasts of gaming potential, you're going to need a card to store more than a couple of big games at any one time.

Amazon did away with optical audio and implemented a microSD card slot

The implementation of the microSD card is faultless. Once it's in, that's it, everything will start saving to it automatically. If you downloaded any apps before inserting the card you can move them across in the settings menu with ease.

The base is a slightly soft touch affair so the box won't skid around your entertainment center, and that about wraps it up. It's a pretty uninspiring black, square box. Just as before.

But also just as before, all of the important stuff is inside.

This years model switches to a Mediatek CPU combined with a dedicated PowerVR GPU. Despite the move from Qualcomm silicon, Amazon is boasting some serious performance improvements over last year's Fire TV. And that was no slouch, either. But here's the thing. I'm not sure I could say that you can feel the performance difference in regular use.

If you're moving up from a Fire TV Stick then it's 100 percent noticeable. You may also get a hint while playing games. But ultimately as a content streaming machine it's a case of "gets the job done well." The UI feels smooth, apps are quick to load and the voice search is stupidly fast.

The bottom line is that the hardware is another winner from Amazon. It may lack the outright horsepower of something like the Shield TV, but it also costs half as much. And it'll run rings around the Apple TV, no doubt.

Image 1 of 5

Amazon Fire TV

Image 2 of 5

Amazon Fire TV

Image 3 of 5

Amazon Fire TV

Image 4 of 5

Amazon Fire TV

Image 5 of 5

Amazon Fire TV

Nothin' new here

Fire TV Software

Here's the deal. If you've ever touched a Fire TV or Fire TV Stick before, you're not going to see anything new here. Bar some minor fettling, the Fire TV interface looks the same as it does on the existing devices.

That's to say it's still fairly busy. There's a lot going on on the screen and you're not looking at something with the simplistic elegance of Apple's tvOS or Google's Android TV. If ever there was doubt over the Fire TVs primary objective you're reminded as soon as you turn it on. Content. Front and center.

On one hand that's not a bad thing. It's not difficult at all to see a bunch of recommended apps, games, tv shows and movies. But it can also look overwhelming to see it all just, well, there. You've got the list of content sections down the left hand side that could easily be icons. Like on competing platforms.

Seeing all your content just, there, can be overwhelming

I'm not saying it's bad, because it's not. It's simple to navigate and get to where you want to be and it's a piece of cake to find something to watch. I just think it could be a little more refined, simplistic in appearance. Leave you feeling less like everything has just been thrown at you. But there's no mistaking where your music, video, photos, apps and games all live.

On a technical level it still runs a version of Fire OS which means it's still based on Android. Which means you get apps and games, some of which are playable with the optional game controller (more on that later.)

One of the niftier features for content consumption is X-Ray, Amazon's tool for telling you more about the people that are on your screen. It doesn't seem to be all encompassing, with some old BBC shows drawing a blank, but for the most part it's good. A simple tap up on the remote brings up a quick overlay, doing so again takes you to a more detailed page.

Image 1 of 2

Fire TV Voice Remote

Image 2 of 2

Amazon Fire TV

Fast and Furious 6

Fire TV Voice remote

The early TV advertising in the UK for the first generation Fire TV centered around the voice remote, with a variety of people using a variety of voices to ask it to watch Fast and Furious 6. It was pretty ridiculous as far as TV spots go, but, it did show off a pretty central feature.

The voice remote makes a return for the updated model and it's stupendous. The physical remote control itself is nicely done if unremarkable. You've got the Android-esque back, home and menu buttons above media controls all sitting beneath the circular navigation key. The back button on our review unit gets a little sticky every so often but otherwise it's a pretty regular, run of the mill remote.

The voice remote is stupendous

The voice search is where it really shines. It's fast. Really, really fast. You're told to hold the voice button on the remote, wait for the sound, then speak. You can ignore that, just hold the button and talk immediately. Within a flash you've got a suggestion on screen as to what it thinks you said, and so far, it's not been wrong once.

If you use Prime Video (and let's face it, why wouldn't you if you're buying one of these) it makes getting a TV show or movie up on screen ridiculously fast. Doesn't matter where you are, just press, speak, select, watch. Amazon did good here. Really good.

Amazon Fire TV controller

Play time

The (optional) game controller

As with the previous generation Fire TV, Amazon is once again offering a game controller. It's an optional extra that costs £39.99/$49.99 meaning it doesn't bump up the price of owning a Fire TV if you don't really want one. I'm perfectly OK with that.

It's not the world's finest example of a game controller, but it doesn't need to be. It has seen a redesign since the gen 1 model, retaining a similar overall form factor but sprucing up in a few areas. It's also only compatible with the new Fire TV, so first-gen owners need not apply.

Sadly at the time of writing this review the game controller wasn't available from Amazon UK, so we've been unable to test it. We're told they'll be available on November 6 so we'll update the review when we have one.

Amazon Fire TV

What do you want to play?

Gaming on the Fire TV

With a dedicated GPU and a decent amount of horsepower from the CPU, the Fire TV on paper should perform admirably when you do want to kick back and play a game or two. In theory, performance should be on par with a mid-to-high tier Android smartphone.

Again, this is where Amazon isn't going toe-to-toe directly with the Shield TV. NVIDIA has made something there that has claims at being a console more than a mere set-top box with extras. But Amazon did a great job with the first Fire TV and it's business as usual here.

You can play games at up to 1080p resolution and 60fps which to give it its dues is something console games strive for. High resolution and silky smooth frame rates. The issue with the Fire TV is, it seems, getting developers to build out the games for the TV.

There are some great games in the Amazon Appstore for the Fire TV. Riptide GP2, Beach Buggy Racing, some of the old Square Enix titles, Sonic the Hedgehog, the new Minecraft Story Mode, GTA and more. But I still don't think Amazon has done enough to get the catalog built out to the best it can. Many of the games are just mobile versions blown up on your TV. Using Beach Buggy Racing as an example, it looks way better on the Xbox One than it does on the Fire TV. And that's because it's been reworked for the console/TV environment.

Amazon Fire TV 4K

FYI

A few quick hits

  • This review can't end without at least mentioning 4K. After all, it's one of the headline features. But I don't have a 4K TV and I don't know anyone that does. Or even a 4K computer monitor. There's a good chance that 12 months from now that will change, but 4K still isn't something widespread.
  • Part of that is the lack of content. But at least Amazon is trying.
  • Speaking of content, it's very expensive to buy 4K versions of some of the movies available on Amazon. The review guide hints that there are or will be some options in Prime Instant Video, but I didn't find any yet.
  • Outside of the U.S. Alexa still doesn't exist. This stuff is hard, but it would have been nice if the new Fire TV was to accompany the big launch outside of the States.
  • Prime Video as a service is getting pretty strong. There's an ever growing collection of original shows (soon to be joined by the old Top Gear crew) and plenty of movies to choose from. Coupled with offline watching on Android devices. If you travel at all, that's a big tick in a box over Netflix.
  • Randomly our review unit will just shut down completely with only a pull and reconnect of the power supply bringing it back to life. Could be isolated, but still something to highlight.
  • If you own an Amazon Fire Tablet you've got second screen and remote control capabilities built in. If not, there's a handy remote app to download from Google Play here.

Amazon Fire TV

Wrapping it up

Amazon Fire TV (2015) The bottom line

It's another home run from Amazon with the Fire TV. When the retail giant is producing products of this caliber its hard to believe it got it so very wrong with a smartphone.

If you want an inexpensive yet powerful set-top box, this has to be up at the top of the list. It's smooth, speedy experience while providing a sleek, if uninspiring physical form that will blend seamlessly into any entertainment center.

It's also clear Amazon is thinking about the product. Optical audio out is OK, and some folks will lament its loss. But for the majority the lack of internal storage is a bigger deal. Adding a microSD card slot while keeping the onboard storage (and the price) down is a winner. Especially when using the microSD card is as simple as it is here. To coin a phrase, it just works.

Should you buy the Fire TV? Yes. (Or maybe the Fire TV Stick)

While Android TV is still in its infancy and we're left still with the first generation of hardware offerings, Amazon is already onto its second. Shield TV aside, the Fire TV is the best connected TV experience you're going to get with something running Android right now. The hardware is more than up to the task and it's got the big services covered off with a bunch of the smaller, even local ones too.

But more importantly it's a great option for someone who couldn't care less what their streaming box is running. If content is all you want then the latest Fire TV will do you well for potentially a few years to come.

There's a lot here for £79/$99.

There is also another way. If you're not interested in the horsepower on offer here, perhaps don't care about gaming and just want an inexpensive streaming device. There's the Amazon Fire TV Stick. At £34.99/$39.99 or £10/$10 more with the voice remote, you've got the same basic experience just without the internal oomph, 4K video and the microSD slot. It's a little slower, but it might be the one to go for.

37 Comments
  • I didn't know about this. Posted from my Nexus 6/Nexus 7 2013/Surface Pro 3
  • The Amazon box is interesting. I've been using a roku stick and OTA antenna to do the cord cutting thing. Roku has a treasure of public and hidden channels and there are some true gems in both. Particularly I like acorn TV and the ability to get prime video plus Google play movies and the rather fun channels that focus on old movies really makes the roku an entertainment system. Do you feel the Amazon ecosystem is as rich and varied as the roku? Posted via the Android Central App
  • With a bit of tinkering you can add Kodi and do a whole lot on these. I did it to my fireTV stick and use it daily. Its an awesome device for the money.
  • Except Llama does not work with the AFTV 4K :(
  • Was looking to side-load Kodi onto this, but sorta new to all of that... does that mean it can't be done with this device?
  • No it just means you have to use a different app like Firestarter to launch Kodi, which launches it in a different way via the Home button. Horses for courses but I prefer Llama. :(
  • Gotcha, thanks!
  • This, I did not know. So, a bit of minor hassle. But still, it's got to be the best TV device out there for $100.
  • Nope the original AFTV is best one for less than $100. Try & find a recon or 2nd hand one.
  • Agreed. Got one of the Fire TV Sticks for $19 when they first came out. I loved it right away, but once I got around installing Kodi on it, it became indispensable. One of the better purchases I've made in recent memory, and I wouldn't hesitate paying the full price. -- RCA Voyager
  • Yup people have no idea the potential. You can stream anything just by adding Kodi. why spend an arm an a leg for Apple TV or Roku plus costly subscriptions . Amazon is king right now.
  • I picked one up on Tuesday.... It is AWESOME! Has 802.11ac. And other goodies. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Does anyone know if Alexa works without the TV? I want this for the kitchen and it would be nice to be able to use this feature like Echo. Just talk or does the TV have to be on to use this feature? Sounds like you have to press a button here to use it?
  • Correct, you have to press a button and the functionality of Alexa is more limited than on the Echo.
  • Thx. Does this work without the TV being on? Is there a speaker on the firetv? I am thinking not
  • I've got both the original Fire TV & the new Fire TV 4k. Currently the original runs rings around the new 4K Fire TV and the main reason for this is the incredibly buggy software that the 4K Fire TV ships with. Put simply FireOS 5 is awful, I know a new update has just been released but apparently this doesn't fix all the issues (reboots, lockup, app's not working etc). To top this off the wi-fi remote is nowhere near as responsive as the older bluetooth remote & regularly locks up. To add insult to injury the box does not feel any faster than the old one. Such a shame as I had really high hopes for the AFTV 4K and it would appear the Amazon have ruined it.
  • So I realize this review is primarily for the esteemed citizens across the pond, I'm hoping some established cord-cutters stateside can assist us trying to remove the teet. First question - is Fire TV special? I understand that (not schilling) the Roku platform has outsold all other streaming platforms combined? 2) Is Dish's Sling TV available via Fire? Posted via the Android Central App
  • Sling is available on the device. I own a Firestick and use Sling on it daily. It performs as well on the Firestick over wifi as Sling does on my hardwired Xbox One. Plex is also available and works wonderfully as well.
  • I'll stick with my Nvidia Shield TV Console!!! Posted via the Android Central App
  • Aren't there TONS of QA issues Amazonis facing? seems worth mentioning... http://investorplace.com/2015/10/amazon-fire-tv-problem-amzn/#.VjJbZ7erTcs
    http://nypost.com/2015/10/07/customers-say-amazons-new-fire-tv-is-a-glit...
  • We review the products in front of us. A review based on other sites reporting isn't a review. Posted via the Android Central App
  • understand
  • True, but it's still worth mentioning that many of us users are encountering significant issues! Even if you didn't encounter them in your limited time with the device.
  • The only technical issue I've had is in this review. Posted via the Android Central App
  • I hope the FireTV Stick has improved since the original. The original was horrible. Not only did it constantly stutter, it made all kinds of nasty noises when it stuttered.
  • "Not only did it constantly stutter, it made all kinds of nasty noises when it stuttered." This is completely bigoted against those afflicted with stuttering. /s
  • I have both the original Fire Stick and the Fire TV... I've had no problem with either... my Fire Stick has always played just as smooth as the Fire TV, and my PS3, no stuttering at all and no noises. I have the Fire TV connected via Ethernet cable and the Fire Stick is obviously connect over wireless. The only difference between the two is the Fire TV loads apps a few ms faster than the Fire Stick. Maybe you had a bad Stick. I do also have 100Mbs internet service and can handle several streams at full HD without any problems so if you have slow internet service maybe the Fire Stick doesn't handle that as well.
  • I may have had a bad stick, but then so did others. It was a common complaint in Amazon reviews. Or... I only had 20Mbs Internet at the time, so maybe that was the problem. As I'm sure you know, when you get 20Mbs on speed test, that doesn't mean you get 20Mbs when you're streaming.
  • "bellini" these names.... Smh.... Idk, why can't it be just numbers. Distinction you'll say. I'd said it's corny Posted via the Android Central App
  • i love my first gen Fire TV. It is my go to streaming box, and I have a Chromecast, multiple Rokus, and a TiVo
  • But will it root??? Posted via the Android Central App
  • So the only reason to buy the new box is to support 4K video, but the reviewer doesn't have a 4K TV, and for some reason doesn't think it'll catch on very soon. Awesome... Posted via the Android Central App
  • One word Kodi. That pretty much beats any streaming box out of the water. I love my amazon Fire TV
  • Agreed Posted via the Android Central App
  • I think they should offer a controller-less Fire TV for those upgrading and already have a controller.
    The Mediatek concerns me. I bought a Fire HD10 thinking to upgrade my years old HDX, but the HD10 is a horrible device that lags just using the keyboard. I was going to upgrade to the HD10 and give my HDX to my wife who was still rocking the original HD7. Not liking the HD10 I let her try it, she hated it too. The HD10 is so bad its not even an upgrade from the original Fire HD. I ended up buying another HDX for $100.
  • Yeah, no. The specs listed are wrong. FireTv can only do 2160i, not 2160p full uhd. Amazon also fails to mention time and again that the hdmi port is still ver 1.4 which also cannot handle a full ultrahd stream. So you get compression of all signal and that really shows in the high dynamic range areas of the picture.
  • The Amazon Fire TV is my favorite streaming device so far! I find it to be much better with than the Roku. The new 4k HD is fantastic to use, that is if you have the internet to handle it lol. At first I was a bit skeptical about the price however, I actually read a personal review about The Amazon Fire TV and it seemed like the person had a great time using it. The article was very helpful to me -- if you want to check it out yourself you can read it here http://www.quikrev.com/amazon-fire-tv/