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The Amazon Fire TV Is Kind of a Mess 96

redletterdave writes: "At the Fire TV unveiling, Amazon officials sounded like they perfectly understood how frustrating TV streaming devices are for their owners. Amazon focused on three main problems: Search is hard, especially for anything not on a bestseller list; streaming devices often provide slow or laggy performance; and TV set-top boxes tend to be closed ecosystems. The Fire TV is Amazon's attempt to solve these three problems—the key word here being 'attempt.' Perhaps Amazon's homegrown solution was a bit premature and its ambitions too lofty, because while Fire TV can do almost everything, little of it is done right." An example given by the review is how the touted Voice Search works — it doesn't interact at all with supported apps, instead bringing up Amazon search results. Thus, even if you have access to a movie for free through Netflix, using the Voice Search for that movie will only bring up Amazon's paid options.
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The Amazon Fire TV Is Kind of a Mess

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  • by grub ( 11606 )

    ... I shouldn't sell our two AppleTVs?
    • by Lumpy ( 12016 )

      Nope. unless they are AppleTV2's. then sell them for a profit and buy 2 apple TV3's and still have $90 left over.

      • I don't have mod points right now, but what Lumpy says is true. I'm selling the ones I have (2nd gen) before the 4th gen model comes out.

      • Nope. unless they are AppleTV2's. then sell them for a profit and buy 2 apple TV3's and still have $90 left over.

        Or sell them all and buy a Roku and have enough left over to pay your ISP for a several months.

        • My ISP costs more per month than an AppleTV if you include the bundled cable tv ... If you ignore TV, then my ISP costs about 2/3rd the cost of an AppleTV ...

          They are only $100, you aren't buying a Roku AND any ISP service fast enough to stream to it for a single month at $100

          • The poster above was talking about several AppleTVs.

          • I pay $30USD for Internet(50Mb) down from $45(24Mb, no special, Comcast) and I bought a Roku 3 for $50. The sticks are $49 on Amazon, so less than $100 is possible.
  • NOTABUG (Score:5, Funny)

    by idontgno ( 624372 ) on Friday April 04, 2014 @05:59PM (#46665353) Journal

    Thus, even if you have access to a movie for free through Netflix, using the Voice Search for that movie will only bring up Amazon's paid options.

    You make that sound like a bad thing.

    Jeff Bezos

    • by Adriax ( 746043 )

      First update will bring their newly patented One-Word checkout.
      Just say the same of a movie, song, or product and it will automatically search and purchase it for you. No annoying keyworld like "ok google" required, the feature is always on and always parsing your conversations for products to purchase for you.

      Second update brings predictive ordering. Fire TV will automatically purchase any and all products it thinks you may want, playing movies before you know you even want to watch.

    • From what I heard, Netflix didn't want to support it (or just hasn't had the time to implement it yet, that hasn't been clarified.)

      I'm thinking about getting one because I don't like having a PC plugged into a TV (PCs really are a pain in the ass to get working properly with a remote, not to mention being able to switch between applications with one as well.) I have a Roku 3, but the UI for Plex on it is just awful, and apparently Plex has no say in the matter (Roku gives developers a limited set of UI temp

  • So, yet another netflix streamer is ok, but I want something as good or better than the boxes box for local content. About 50% of my streaming media are things that I have locally on my network.

    If Fire TV supported file sharing protocols I'd be a buyer.

    • Just get an Android box running XBMC. You can get decent examples like the Matricom G-Box MX2 [] for $99.

      • by Jethro ( 14165 )

        Or a Raspberry PI with one of the XBMC distros for well under $50 including all the accessories you'll need. I have one of those set up as an entertainment center for my treadmill.

        The living room has a mini PC with Ubuntu and an old version of MythTV. I'd love to switch to XBMC (or a current version of Myth) but customising the remote buttons with XBMC is an insane pain, and the music player in the new MythTV (and XBMC) are horrific.

        • The RPi has a seriously compromised Ethernet implementation along with other design flaws and is known to be sluggish running XBMC.

          • by Jethro ( 14165 )

            Works perfectly for me... granted, I tend to only use it for one Simpsons episode at a time, but I have streamed full 2+ hour 1080p movies with DTS sound on the thing, and have used it for a few days when my regular media center was down. It's never been more sluggish than any other XBMC implementation I've tried...

    • by slaker ( 53818 )

      This review read like an Apple user looking for things to whine about. I don't recall seeing anywhere in the verbiage of press over the last two days any promise from Amazon that it would be some universal media-seeking device.

      That being said, like any respectable media streamer these days, it DOES support Plex access, which should be your go-to tool for local content access. If it's on the same LAN with a client, you can also connect to it via DLNA and thereby use it with pretty much set top box smart enou

    • by Lumpy ( 12016 )

      Get 2 boxes. 1 for netflix and Hulu plus, and an XBMC for local content. all existing players are utter crap compared to an XBMC box. Or better yet, upgrade that bluray player with something that has the NEtflix and Hulu apps on it if you have tech ADHD and cant stand having more than one device.

    • by fermion ( 181285 )
      There is no good streaming option, and really there is no paid digital video ownership option that is reasonable. If you buy a video, and Apple or Amazon, or whoever, does not want to support the streaming anymore, you no longer are able to use the bits that you own. Most boxes that you put on your tv are either tied to a vendor so options are limited or are not so options are limited.

      Honestly a box that can hook up to the cable, steam all common formats from a personal external hard disk, and can steam

      • A TiVo might be about as close as you're going to get... for now. One of the models with an ATSC tuner anyway (the 2 tuner Premiere or the 4 tuner Roamio). It requires pyTiVo on another machine to stream your own videos to it, and lacks Amazon Prime streaming. It does have Netflix, Pandora, Hulu, and can record whatever show you want. If your cable company does pull the plug the shows you recorded still work (you just can't record new ones obviously). I just wish they weren't so damned expensive ($550
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 04, 2014 @06:09PM (#46665413)

    "Thus, even if you have access to a movie for free through Netflix, using the Voice Search for that movie will only bring up Amazon's paid options."

    This isn't exactly accurate. I got my Fire TV yesterday and the voice search showed results from Hulu as well. I believe the problem with Netflix is that it's not a Fire TV specific app and is just using their standard Android app (which is evident by the login prompts and keyboard being inconsistent from the rest of the Fire TV login prompts). If the individual app supports it, the Fire TV voice search will show you results from that app as well. It's the same way with the Roku search, it shows results from some apps but not from all.

    • And this is why I still browse reading comments with a 0 score - most informative post here, and invalidates a pretty big claim the article is making.

  • Can I Stream It? (Score:5, Informative)

    by almitydave ( 2452422 ) on Friday April 04, 2014 @06:10PM (#46665417)

    Can I Sream.It [] is a must-have smartphone app (or website). Anyone who makes one of these streaming boxes should just license a version that searches the catalogs of whatever services you've installed on the box. That alone would make all of these boxes tremendously more useful - it's really the missing key to this puzzle. That and more content, although a lot of progress has been made on this front - compare with Netflix's initial pitiful streaming selections.

    I know Roku supports centralized search [] for some of their "channels" (apps).

  • And see it for what it is, an attempt to turn the Internet into a television.

    • by nobuddy ( 952985 )

      you say that like it is a bad thing. Making all these entertainment options easy to use on the TV is an improvement in my book. Fuck cable, tiered plans, and everything that goes with it.

      • If you knew anything about bandwidth usage, you'd understand why using the Internet for television they way that its being done is absolutely fucking retarded and unsustainable without increasing bandwidth to every home by a considerable amount.

  • ...hilariously biased article. This guy obviously prefers AppleTV. Does Apple plan to have a cross-vendor search function for streaming? I doubt it. I was in for one on the FireTV because I like the hardware and audio output options. I'm tired of vendors pushing HDMI audio at me.
    • Does Apple plan to have a cross-vendor search function for streaming?

      No, they have search in each section.

      But they also don't take you out of an app like Netflix if you search for something and show it to you in iTunes. That only happens if you are in the iTunes section.

      • ....which would be a legitimate complaint, the Netflix search function were broken. But it's not. This guy is complaining that the Amazon voice search app doesn't give Netflix results. That's like complaining that Google search doesn't return Bing results.
        • If I'm in Netflix, no way should activating search take me to of the app. That is nuts.

          It should at worst take me to the search page within Netflix, even if voice did not work to fill in what I was searching for.

          • Without having seen it yet, I'm going to hazard a guess that the voice search button is tied to an app that has no integration to installable apps. Just like Android's magnifying glass button only brings up one search app. It's a VOICE SEARCH button. It connects to an app. Amazon's app. Amazon's device. I'm tired of this. If you want to hate on Amazon, fine. But you can't tell me it's not just another brand of the same stuff. Apple pulls the same kinds of tricks all day long. I wanted that optical
            • But such a thing could know wham an app it is not integrated with is open, and issue an alert that it does not work in that app. Searching and having it open Amazon while in Netflix is counter-intuitive, and literally the least likely thing I want to do.

              • You said: "But such a thing could know wham an app it is not integrated with is open, and issue an alert that it does not work in that app." What, you want to compare running apps, or even the foreground app, against a list of Amazon Fire-specific apps? The overhead would be a terrible waste. Then you said searching Amazon is "literally the least likely thing I want to do." Two strikes there. One, you reveal yourself to have no use whatsoever for Amazon's library, which means you are likely to be so inv
    • by msauve ( 701917 )
      I take it you've never searched for something on Amazon. Worst search engine EVAR. Results will include completely random items. Sort by price and you'll get results ordered pretty much randomly (maybe the moving average increases somewhat).
      • Well, I plugged the thing in this morning for the first time, pushed the voice button, said "Little Bear", and two seconds later my son was watching Little Bear. Half an hour later, my wife pushed the button and said "Cooking Shows", and she got a list of cooking shows. She watched one. Streaming quality was great. I don't know you're basing your expectations on or comparing against. The voice search seems to work fine. I wouldn't dream of trying to sort by price. What for? This box's main function
  • XBMC (Score:5, Informative)

    by JeffElkins ( 977243 ) on Friday April 04, 2014 @06:16PM (#46665445)

    XBMC's Gotham release already runs on this device and XDA members are sideloading apps already. It's early days for the FireTV, but it looks promising. [] []

    • ROCKIN' GOOD NEWS, Jeff! That is exciting. I was going to leave mine in the box till tomorrow, but now I'm way to stoked to let it sit. I've been wanting a tiny XMBC box for cheap for a while. I passed on Ouya because I didn't have confidence, and Raspberry Pi because of the DIY time commitment I couldn't afford. It was the hardware specs that really sold me this box, and XBMC was in the back of my mind when I pulled the trigger.
    • I'm just running XBMC on a raspberry pi, less expensive and it just works with my TV's remote. Plays my 1080p videos just fine. Until x265 becomes supported in XBMC, I should be fine. Will the Fire TV have enough processing power for x265, and does it support HDMI-CEC?
      • Isn't it true that library scraping and image retrieval is super slow for XBMC on the Raspberry Pi? That's what I've heard. Everyone I know who's tried XBMC on the Pi is a non-library user. For me, half of the enjoyment of XBMC is the browsing the collection artwork. I'd love to hear that the library works great on Raspberry Pi. Anybody know?
  • There have been dozens of attempts at a "set top box" like device that aggregates all of the major online streaming service. They are all abysmal failures. Did anyone expect Amazon's shot at it to be any different?

  • (Score:5, Funny)

    by esperto ( 3521901 ) on Friday April 04, 2014 @06:17PM (#46665455)
    I think the worst fail is that no one, not a single intern, tried to enter on a browser before deciding on the name. It will be great people trying to show grandma firetv set up box and end up on PORN set up box with "My wife caught me assf*cking her mother 6" as the first title.
  • yes, mess for sure.

    no usb port. no way to play truly local content. and you have to transcode, it seems, to meet the player's profiles. the player should play EVERY format, but this one does not. in this day and age, to release a player that has limits seems pretty braindead to me.

    I'd like a fast fanless media player to replace my fan-based pc but not until I can 100% replace it and play everything IT did.

    amazon: you lose again. I know, you want to leverage this for Prime movies. that's just not enoug

    • by slaker ( 53818 )

      A Pivos Xios running Linux firmware with XBMC might be a decent fit. It can't keep up well at high bit rates, but the one I have can and and does play 1080p content including AC3 and DTS.

    • by adisakp ( 705706 ) on Friday April 04, 2014 @06:58PM (#46665745) Journal
      There is support for Plex. I have the Amazon Fire TV and I bought the Plex App for it. It's $0.99 (or 99 Coins) on sale from $4.99 for an introductory period. This works with your PC Plex server or a Drobo or Synology box running Plex server apps.

      Also, there is a USB Port. I've got a keyboard hooked up to it right now.
      • plex? I don't know much about yet (yet).

        why would I need yet another service? I have smb and nfs for disk sharing. the media files play on VLC and so they don't need to be messed with; they are fine media files.

        why should I have to BUY or configure a damned thing more?

        seriously. I have a NAS that exports files (that's all it does and all I ever want it to do; its a small tiny nas box with no HP to recode and recoding is NOT a fileserver's job!).

        I simply want a media player that is fanless, plays everyth

    • the player should play EVERY format, but this one does not.

      Including obscure FMV formats of CD-based game consoles? Besides, a lot of these formats are patented, and Amazon isn't allowed to include them in its box.

      • easy to get around. you have supported (by amazon) formats and you have 'plugins' that users write to support, uhm, things amazon would get slapped down for, for supporting.

        that way you have freedom.

        if you insist, make the drm path not go thru the user plugins. fine.

        but allow user plugins.

        no user extension, no buy from me. I already went thru the popcorn hour (2 of them) years ago and got tired of the lack of user extensibility (in any true sense, since the decoder was hardware based and NOT open).

    • yes, mess for sure.

      no usb port. no way to play truly local content. and you have to transcode, it seems, to meet the player's profiles. the player should play EVERY format, but this one does not. in this day and age, to release a player that has limits seems pretty braindead to me.

      Luckily, none of that's true.

      Plex is working w/o transcoding, XBMC is working with minor glitches, The USB port works with a keyboard and mouse, and with 3rd-party wired controllers (no USB storage yet), and all video formats se

    • There is a USB port!! There's just no use for it now. I'm sure Amazon has something in mind, but just hasn't released it yet.

      If Amazon doesn't have an app soon, some third-party developer will jump on it.
  • by SuperKendall ( 25149 ) on Friday April 04, 2014 @06:21PM (#46665489)

    I was wondering if the Amazon voice search was just for their stuff... I figured that would be the case.

    However, I thought that Roku (which I don't have) did exactly that - I seem to remember read they had a cross-channel search of some kind (though I would guess it had some limitations). Does anyone know if that's the case?

    • However, I thought that Roku (which I don't have) did exactly that - I seem to remember read they had a cross-channel search of some kind (though I would guess it had some limitations). Does anyone know if that's the case?

      Roku does have a cross channel search - but it appears there are some channels which it doesn't search or don't allow themselves to be searched. Crunchyroll is one such. Amazon is another.

  • It was sad for me to see that Google TV failed hard, many just blamed it on the manufacturers that never updated the devices and didn't go forward, but the truth is that Google failed with that with bad communication too.

    Maybe it was too much to have a bulky remote-keyboard for the TV that make people afraid... I don't know. But Google TV was very good, it is like a standardized and tested Android TV stick, when you can run apps, chrome, etc.

    ChromeCast is good, but misses all the functionality of havi
    • by slaker ( 53818 )

      Chromecast doesn't do enough to add value. The only thing it really brings to the table is the novel control scheme. Yes, it's a cheap streamer that I can control with a $75 tablet or retired smartphone, but I'll bet I can find a price-competitive BluRay player that can do both those things and still play discs AND use a proper ethernet connection. []

    • by rtb61 ( 674572 )

      There is a way, quite simple really. You buy a big screen dumb display and attach a Linux PC. Of course big screen displays with a whole lot less technology than a smart TV are some how more expensive than a smart TV, perhaps because they are trying to keep out an open market. The Linux PC of course will do everything you need it to do, flexibility of course creates a catch 22 , the more it can do the more complex the controls become. Of course do anything at all like adding a camera and voice capability a

    • I tried out chromecast last week as a friend who worked at Google gave me one. The trouble is that it has no UI whatsoever, you have to do everything via another device. This is possibly ok if you really like using your phone or tablet to double as a remote control, but it's extremely clumsy. At least the app I tried doesn't require me to enter my PIN to unlock the phone before I can pause the video, but you still have to turn on the phone, be extremely careful with where and how you touch to control thi

  • I subscribe to Netflix and Amazon Prime and use both for streaming, and Amazon Prime is awful compared to Netflix. It's no wonder that they screwed up their set top box. There's no easy way that's immediately apparent to me on how to search for things that are available for free on Amazon streaming off their website. I've used their app built into Vizio TVs and that sucks too, as searching is again a pain in the ass. They don't even have a standalone app for Windows 8 like Netflix does - it all has to be do

    • Really? Amazon streaming works wonderful here.....

      Tried netflix, couldn't find any real advantage of it over amazon and we already had a prime membership for our regular amazon orders so reason to pay for netflix....eventually replaced cable TV with an amazon kindle fire hd 10.7" and season passes to shows on amazon that we now own and can download to the tablet or stream as desired.

      The firetv appliance seems to be nothing more than Amazon trying to find a way to shift programs at will between the tablet a

  • Netflix was not included in the search because Netflix asked not to be. This was made in an official statement by Amazon.

    I own one, and this is the best thing since sliced bread. It is so incredibly fast your head spins - every other device I have tried is so slow and wonky - the power of this machine is incredible. I unhooked my AppleTV and stuck it on eBay because thankfully none of my content is iTunes and stuck forever in Apple's walled garden.

    The only caveat is that at launch (a whole two days ago

    • Is there a astroturfing version of Poe's Law []?

      Once you have seen a Fire in action, you will be blown away.

      Once you see the astroturfing for the Fire in action, you will be blown farther away.

  • by adisakp ( 705706 ) on Friday April 04, 2014 @06:52PM (#46665707) Journal
    My Amazon Fire TV arrived today. Initial impressions:

    The box is a lot bigger than Apple TV and includes an external power brick (unlike AppleTV). The physical look and feel of the device and remove are very premium.

    The controller is big and uncomfortable. D-PAD is very poorly positioned. This is worse than the Pre-S XBox Controller. It feels like the NVidia Shield a bit but that at least has an entire computer (roughly as powerful as the Fire TV) inside the controller. Seriously, I think they hired the Atari Jaguar controller design team here

    First impression is that the UI is not as polished or pretty as the Apple TV but it seems usable. Voice Search is fairly fast but not nearly as "instant" as the commercials and videos online make it seem. Also, the results are only for Amazon Instant Video, Amazon App Store (and supposedly Hulu but I haven't seen any of those).

    HBO GO is not on it yet. I installed Flixster to access my Ultraviolet Collection. Unfortunately, Flixster will not play any of my movies in HD and highly compressed 480 SD resolution is a mess on my 65" TV.

    And my Fire TV remote seems to lose "pairing" a lot. I sometimes have to use the game controller to go to settings and then to Add Remote and it will find it again.
    • by adisakp ( 705706 )
      FWIW, I also own two Apple TV's, an Atom-based HDMI-out net top, a Chromecast, and now the Amazon Fire TV. I think the software needs a little work. They need to figure out the pairing issue with the remote. The game controlled needs a serious redesign though. It's painful. Or hopefully they will support third party controllers.

      The Plex App on Fire TV is $0.99 and I bought it as well with some of the free Amazon "Coins" that I got from buying the Amazon Controller. I'll update some info when I get
    • by adisakp ( 705706 )
      Also, there is a USB Port. I've got a keyboard hooked up to it right now. However, not all the apps support input with the keyboard and some are clunky. I was hoping to avoid using the remote / controller for passwords and usernames during setup. It worked for a number of things. However, not all apps support the tab key to switch between fields or the enter key (it acts like the select button rather than a completions). The Amazon Video PIN entry also doesn't recognize numbers on the keyboard so you
    • by adisakp ( 705706 )
      Also, I think the Flixster in SD is a "permissions" thing. Hopefully that's an easy software fix to get HD because otherwise, my Ultraviolet Collection is unusable on the Fire TV.
    • by adisakp ( 705706 ) on Friday April 04, 2014 @07:17PM (#46665851) Journal
      One other silly note... I can't find an "off" button or a menu item to turn it off other than unplugging the device. And plugging back in turns it back on. It has a 16W power brick so there might be some continual background power drain if this thing is plugged in. Also, for some reason, the AC adapter made sparks at the plug both times I tried plugging it in. I was a little scared that I might have burnt it out but it seems to work fine.
  • by Maltheus ( 248271 ) on Friday April 04, 2014 @08:53PM (#46666509)

    I was very disappointed that Voice Search didn't include Netflix, especially as I had returned a Roku 3, precisely for this "cross-search" feature.

    That being said, I never used Amazon Prime Video much because every interface for it is so abysmal. And FireTV finally gets the Prime interface right. For instance, they now finally tell me where I left off in an episode, and which one is next. Now I can finally start using Prime for more than just shipping. And they seem to have a lot that Netflix doesn't.

    I hestiate to call it a mess, because it works just as good as the Roku for me, and seems better at buffering Netflix (I can rewind a bit, without it having to rebuffer). I'm hoping it will improve over time, to do a fraction of what they claimed it would, but until Roku 4 comes out, this is the best streamer out there right now.

    • After playing with this a bit more tonight on a projector, I'm noticing a lot more issues with it, when it comes to getting the Netflix stream up to full quality. Sometimes, it's as good as anything else, but much of the time, it looks like an interlaced DVD. On the flip side, the Roku 3 apparently auto-plays shows that aren't even on your watch list (despite having a much nicer interface), and I don't think I could live with that. It's bad enough when they jump to the next episode of a show I'm watching, w

  • Thus, even if you have access to a movie for free through Netflix, using the Voice Search for that movie will only bring up Amazon's paid options.

    This is also the problem with the Xbox One, it only searches the MS store and none of your apps like Netflix or Hulu. It also can't search your DVR to suggest shows/movies you have already recorded.

  • The UI for something like this should be content first. It should be a discovery app, not a list of silo apps. Give us Search, Browsing, and most importantly Recommendations for ALL content with one viewer app. The stupid silo apps provide NO VALUE to the user. They provide nothing more than clumsy crapware attempts by the content people to barricade you in to their content. They force you to watch ads to get non-PPV content so why leave the Cable box+DVR when cord-cutting and online streaming puts you back
  • Try voice searching for House of Cards. It comes up. Voice search may not fully support other apps on the device due to their meta data not being available to Amazon's cloud, but it doesn't ignore them either: []
  • They want you to buy from Amazon. All my iThings are the same way -- Siri is great for interacting with the built-in Apple apps and services, but if I want to listen to something from Spotify, all it can do is launch the app. The AppleTV, the Chromecast, and the Roku are no better, each of them live in their own little universe. The XBONE and PS4 are the same way, too. It's the future kid, get used to it.

They are called computers simply because computation is the only significant job that has so far been given to them.