Amazon's Fire TV stick line has made it easier (and more affordable) than ever to turn an ageing TV into a portal for all the smart TV content you could hope for.
But it'd always been lacking 4K and HDR content – until now that is, with the 2017 refresh making the Fire TV stick an all-singing, all dancing 4K TV HDR streamer.
Previous Amazon Fire TV devices have been an incredibly popular way of streaming content to people’s TVs thanks to their plug-and-play simplicity, as well as broad support for various channels and media platforms. While the competing Google Chromecast denies its users access to the Amazon Prime Video service, the Amazon Fire TV is far more generous with allowing access to competing services.
The Amazon Fire TV (2017) comes in a completely redesigned body that’s compact enough to hide behind your TV, ditching the bulkier designs of previous models. This makes the Amazon Fire TV (2017) a discrete box of media tricks that can sit unobtrusively in your home while it entertains the family.
[Update: Need a device that can stream video AND act as the centre of your smart home? Do you live in the US? If so, you might want to check out the all-new $119 Amazon Fire TV Cube that has Alexa built in. Not only can it stream the latest TV shows and movies from Amazon's video streaming service, but it can answer requests and interact with all of your IoT devices, too. It's available starting on June 21. Read all about the Amazon Fire TV Cube.]
Price and release date
- Available from October 25, 2017
- Price £69.99/$69.99/around AU$90
- Cheaper than the Chromecast Ultra
The Amazon Fire TV (2017) goes on sale on October 25, 2017, for a retail price of £69.99/$69.99. While the Amazon Prime Video service is now available in Australia, and Amazon Fire TV can be used there, it’s not sold directly from Amazon, but will cost roughly AU$90.
This is over twice the price of the latest version of the Google Chromecast, which costs £30/$30/AU$55, although the Chromecast does not come with a remote control, cannot access Amazon Prime Video and does not support 4K or HDR. This is the device you should maybe consider if you only have a 1080p TV, and don’t subscribe to Amazon Prime Video.
The new Chromecast Ultra is more comparable feature-wise, though it still does not include a remote or access to Amazon Prime content. It does support 4K and HDR though, and costs £69/$69/around AU$90, which makes the Amazon Fire TV (2017) price seem much more reasonable.
In fact, due to the cheaper price, similar compact design, 4K and HDR support and additional services and remote control – not to mention an easy-to-navigate user interface – the Amazon Fire TV (2017) does an incredibly good job of challenging the Google Chromecast Ultra to justify its price tag. Looking at the devices side-by-side, it’s not much of a competition, with the Amazon Fire TV (2017) handily beating the Chromecast Ultra.
- Smaller design
- Easy to install
- Simple remote
The design of the Amazon Fire TV (2017) is what really sets it apart from the earlier model. It’s been redesigned as a dongle that plugs directly into your TV’s HDMI port, and hangs from it.
The previous version was a bit of a chunky black box that you’d need to place near the TV. While it wasn’t exactly an eye sore, the new version can be tucked away completely, so you wouldn’t really know it was there.
Unlike the Fire TV Stick, Amazon’s smaller (and less feature-rich) dongle, the Amazon Fire TV (2017) requires a separate power connection, which does mean you’ll have an additional cable hanging from your TV. Unfortunate, but not the end of the world, and understandable considering the power required to display 4K HDR content.
At 65.0 mm x 65.0 mm x 15.0 mm, the compact design of the Amazon Fire TV (2017) is subtle enough that it doesn’t stick out, even if it is on the display. Weighing just 87.1g also means it can hang from a HDMI port without putting pressure on the physical port. The attached HDMI connector is a flat, bendable, wire that gives you a bit more flexibility when plugging the Fire TV into a TV, especially one that's pushed back against a wall.
The 802.11ac Wi-Fi antennae is contained inside the body, so there’s no ugly protrusions, and as long as you have a decent dual-band router with wireless AC support, that should be good enough for streaming 4K and HDR content. If you have a weak wireless signal, or an older router, you can buy an additional Ethernet adaptor for a wired connection.
The design of the included remote control hasn’t changed, but to be honest it didn’t really need to, as it has an elegantly simple design that lets you scroll through the interface with ease – something that the Chromecast doesn’t offer.
You can also use a free app to use your phone as a remote, or use Alexa voice commands to control playback. This is a big plus for anyone who has welcomed Amazon’s virtual assistant via the Amazon Echo range of smart speakers.
Overall we were very impressed with the new design of the Amazon Fire TV (2017), rivalling the Chromecast in the petite size and looks department, while offering more power and features.
Amazon has done a great job shrinking the size of the Amazon Fire TV (2017) without sacrificing power or features, and they should be commended for it.
The interface is clear and easy to use, and thanks to the boosted hardware inside the Fire TV (2017), it feels smooth when in use as well.
Everything is laid out clearly, and having a user interface marks it above the Chromecast, which needs you to launch apps from your phone.
The interface works in a similar way to the Apple TV, which is much more expensive. The Amazon Fire TV (2017) offers content from a range of services in a clear and attractive manner.