The Fire TV is about more than just a device. It, the Kindle, Fire tablets and Fire phone are intended to draw you into the Amazon ecosystem and away from Google. With that in mind, the Fire TV is a bit different.
Yes, it runs Android – this is Android Magazine after all – and it’s built on AOSP, the Open Source core that underpins all Android devices, but instead of having the Google services available – Play Store, Play Music, Play Movies & TV etc. – it instead runs Amazon’s ‘Mojito’ version of FireOS, which adds Amazon Appstore, Amazon MP3, Amazon Instant Video and a number of other Amazon services.
The net result is that when you fire up the Fire TV, it doesn’t feel like an Android device. That’s not necessarily a bad thing – Android traditionally doesn’t run very well on TVs, although whether this will change with the release of Android TV and the Nexus Player remains to be seen.
The Fire TV hardware is extremely well made and the out of box experience is second to none. The device comes pre-configured to your Amazon account so after inputting your wireless details (or connecting to an Ethernet connection), you are up and running. Dual-band, dual-antenna WiFi means you should get a good connection in the most inhospitable of living rooms, something that is traditionally a weakness on other media devices such as the Chromecast. The high spec nature of the Fire TV isn’t limited to the WiFi – it has a fast processor, plenty of RAM and high quality graphics and audio chips. This is important as Amazon see you using the Fire TV not only for video and music playback, but also for gaming and apps too. We would have preferred to see more than 8GB of storage on board for this reason.
Although the Fire TV is Amazon-centric, that doesn’t mean you are locked out of other services. The Appstore has a host of alternative options – Netflix, Plex, Spotify Connect… you can get to most things you could need, as long as they are not Google services.
Navigating the system is straightforward and made even easier by the inclusion of voice search, which uses a microphone built in to the remote. It works surprisingly for launching all types of content on the Fire TV. Text input is a little painful as is often the case with a simple remote, but if you are using apps that require a lot of input then a Bluetooth keyboard can be paired with the device. In general use of the device always feels silky smooth and runs the most demanding of apps and games with ease.
For more reviews on Android hardware, make sure to pick up the new issue of Android Magazine.