Although smaller and lighter than its predecessor, this version of the Fire TV is LESS portable than the previous version and this is why: It has a built-in HDMI cord that is only 3.75” long. Whereas the old version had a full HDMI cord and could be unplugged and moved without having to access the back of the TV, this item cannot. If you do not have any open HDMI ports on the front or side of your TV, you will need to access the back of your television to plug this in, where it will act as a dongle and probably remain until you throw the TV out. No idea how this placement will affect the ability to use the remote, although, the remote works most of the time with my Fire Stick, which has the same set up.
It connects via HDMI cable (attached, but you might need an extension HDMI cable) and plugs into a wall power outlet. You CANNOT plug the cord into a USB port on the TV. It will tell you that the device detects an insufficient power source. So, you need an actual electrical plug. The old version came with its own special cord and didn’t use a universal microUSB like the Fire Stick does. This version DOES use a micro USB cable, so if you move it or lose it, it isn’t the end of the world.
The remote is identical to the last version: 6″ long, 1.5″ wide, 1/2″ thick and weighs 2.5 oz. If you were someone who HATED how the battery door on the remote opened, then bad news – this one is exactly the same. I never had that problem, but it was a common complaint in previous reviews. Although the remotes are identical, they are not interchangeable. They are assigned to each box specifically and you have to go into the menu to change them. Not sure how that can even be done without first having the remote, though.
DIMENSIONS, PORTABILITY, AND DESIGN
As for the device itself, it is much smaller than the old Fire TV.
The old one was 10 oz, 4.5″ wide, 4.5″ long, and 5/8″ thick.
The new one is about 3 oz, 2.5” wide, 2.5” long, and 5/8” thick.
The cord is 5 feet long, which is fine. But, the electric plug portion of the cord is long. This can’t easily be plugged into any plug that has an item in front of it that sits flush with the wall. If you don’t want to ruin the cord, you will need AT LEAST 3 inches of space between the wall and any other object.
CONNECTION AND SET UP
It connects quickly and easily to your Prime account because Amazon sends it to you already setup with the information. So, if you are buying it as a gift, you should specify that while you are checking out. However, during the set up process it does give you the option to change the account associated with the device. The problem is that your account is preloaded (if you don’t specify it is a gift) and it doesn’t require a password during set up. You can set up Amazon FreeTime and a pin on it, though, so you don’t have to worry about your kids making unauthorized purchases, overusing it, or accessing questionable material.
During the setup it automatically updates the software and then asks you if you want to download any of their most popular apps. Oddly, Netflix is not listed as one of those apps, so when you are finished with the setup, just push the voice button and say “Netflix. It will take you directly to the download screen.
Please note: SOME apps have free content and others require a PAID subscription. Yet others require you to log into your cable provider’s account before being able to view the “free” content. So, if you are cord-cutting, there aren’t as many truly free options as you might first think.
AUDIO AND VIDEO
As for HD quality, it does provide a good image. I have a Samsung 6500 series 4K UHD LED TV, the curved version. The HD content is amazing. Also, it does process tasks faster than my Fire Stick, both of which are connected to Verizon Fios via Wifi. My Vizio 38” soundbar (with subwoofer and satellite speakers) just stopped working this week after only 1.5 years of normal use and no damage, so I can’t test the surround sound. I also don’t recommend the Vizio soundbar. It sounded great, but it should still be working and it isn’t. The previous Fire TV box was shipped without the ability to use surround sound in any of the apps (like Netflix). I’m going to assume Amazon wouldn’t make that same mistake twice.
However, the best part is definitely Alexa and the voice activated remote. You can say things like, “Alexa, show me comedic movies.” It will take you to a list of comedies. You can access anything on the box, such as games and apps, but it is also a virtual search engine. You can ask, “What is the overnight weather forecast for San Diego, CA?”
It is fast, it is responsive, and best of all it is accurate. Accuracy is an issue with most of these voice operated items. There is a learning curve, but Alexa rarely gets mixed up or confused once she figures you out. There is definitely a period of time when it’s almost like talking to an elderly patient who isn’t weaing their hearing aid. “You think I’m too hairy?!” “No. I said to play Katy Perry!” That kind of thing. But, Alexa is a quick learner.
Once the initial awkward dating period is over and you get to know each other better, Alexa is great with Prime Music. Say, “Alexa, play Walk like an Egyptian,” and she will. Prime music has no commercials, and you can listen to specific songs or even entire albums with a quick verbal command. Sometimes, Alexa is smarter than you are. I said, “Alexa, play the pop radio station.” She responded with, “Playing the Top Pop Prime Station,” and put it on. And maybe she knows that secretly you really don’t like Katy Perry that much. Prime music also scrolls the words on the screen as the song plays.
Another cool thing is that it can connect to bluetooth items. So, let’s say that you like to have peace and quiet when you sleep, but your boyfriend likes to fall asleep with the TV on. He can put on a pair of bluetooth ear buds and let you sleep. You can also project sound to bluetooth speakers, if you wanted to.
You can finally share items from devices other than a Kindle. By saving your media to your Amazon cloud account, you can easily transfer and view them on your TV.
Additionally, Alexa now has skills which enable you to ask her to do tasks involving your smart home devices. For instance, you can ask her to adjust your thermostat, or turn lights on or off. The skills have to be enabled in the Alexa app on your phone first.
Lastly, the Fire TV can now sync with your other Alexa-enabled devices. In the Alexa app on your phone, go to the Music, Videos, and Books tab. Then click on FireTV. Then click on Manage Devices. That will allow you to link whichever devices you choose. This IS compatible with the Tap, even though the Tap is the one Echo device that does not support multi-room music playing. So now, without even having the remote, I can say to the tap in my living room, “Alexa, play the Man in the High Castle” and the Fire TV will start playing it on my television.