Could Amazon Fire TV be used as a Cable TV Alternative?

Amazon Instant Video is not Enough

What Else Can Amazon Fire TV do?

Amazon Fire TV

The greatest weapon in a cord cutter’s arsenal is a video streaming device. For those of you that don’t know;  a video streaming device enables you access video streaming services like Amazon Prime, Netflix, Hulu, and HBO GO.

A Video Streaming box (media set-top box) should provide access to video content from every source available – including over-the-air broadcasting. It should offer a user friendly interface for easy searching and navigation, and it should prioritize content options based on price and video quality. Jumping from show to show or movie to  movie, should be as easy as changing Channels on a standard Cable TV remote control. Most importantly a set top box should take advantage of free broadcast TV, record it for you via a DVR, and should always route users towards the most cost effective way to enjoy the shows they love.

 

A Video Streaming box (media set-top box) should provide access to video content from every source available – including over-the-air broadcasting. It should offer a user friendly interface for easy searching and navigation, and it should prioritize content options based on price and video quality. Jumping from show to show or movie to  movie, should be as easy as changing channels on a standard Cable TV remote control. Most importantly a set top box should take advantage of free broadcast TV, record it for you via a DVR, and should always route users towards the most cost effective way to enjoy the shows they love.

In short a video streaming device should act as the foundation in which you build upon with streaming services and an OTA antenna. Let’s look at Amazon’s Fire TV video streamer and see how it matches up to these requirements.

Amazon released a new media set-top box called the Amazon Fire TV and a streaming stick called the Fire TV Stick. This video streaming box is an Internet-connected device that lets you watch video from services such as Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, Crackle and of course from Amazon Instant Video. The Amazon Fire also provides access to a handful of games as well. The Fire TV has less apps than Roku or Apple TV, with 180 apps in total, whereas Roku has some 1,200.

What’s Inside Amazon Fire TV Stick

The Amazon Fire TV Stick is Amazon’s answer to Google Chromecast and Roku Streaming stick. As previously mentioned, there is little difference between the Fire TV and the Fire TV Stick. Like the Roku streaming stick, Fire TV Stick more or less functions the same as its more powerful parent except that its features are just a little stripped down.

The user interface is essentially the same as well as the app selection. You will notice that moving through the interface is a lot slower; and that’s because Fire TV Stick does not have the impressive hardware Fire TV has. As a result, playing games on the Fire TV Stick is slower and you have a smaller selection.

To give you a better context of the difference in hardware between the Fire TV Stick and Fire TV, here is a side-by-side comparison of the two.

The Fire TV Stick lacks an optical audio output; so setting up your home theatre system will be more complicated than you like. The voice search option is also less reliable than its set-top counterpart.

All in all, the only reason you would want the Fire TV Stick over the Fire TV is because of price and size. That’s not to say that the Fire TV Stick is necessarily a bad product, but you definitely get what you pay for.

What’s Inside Amazon Fire TV

On the back of the device you  have an array of connection ports including: HDMI, optical audio output, Ethernet and a USB port. What dont have is a coaxial cable input (red flag). So right off the bat we know that the Amazon Fire does not support over-the-air broadcasting and is not a great Cable TV Alternative. Additionally the Amazon’s online FAQ reports that the USB port “currently does not support any accessories,”. Finally there is no plug-in jack for headphones, and the box does not come with an HDMI cable. On a more positive note, the Fire TV supports dual-band Wi-Fi and an offers a quad-core Qualcomm Krait 300 processor and 2GBs of RAM.

 

As for the software interface, Amazon did a great job. The box comes preconfigured with your Amazon account details, and the remote (blue-tooth) is automatically paired with the box. No hassle, no fuss, no confusion. When you turn on the device for the first time, there’s a guiding animation that goes step-by-step through how to setup the box, and what features are available.

 

What Amazon is most excited about is that the Fire TV allows people to search through content using their voice. You can search for a genre, actor, or movie by clicking a microphone button on the remote and speaking into it. But here is the problem: the voice search doesn’t work for third-party apps like Netflix, Hulu, and YouTube. So in turn, even if something is available via your Netflix account, the interface will instead push you towards becoming an Amazon  Prime member for $99 a year, or towards buying the movie or episode through Amazon’s Video content library. Now this trend does not just affect the voice controls. Once you start searching for content (regardless of the method), you’ll notice a trend: Amazon puts all of its content front and center all the time. Even when using the menu options Amazon content is always at the top of the list. And even the home screen is mainly Amazon-centric, with a large area promoting content recently added to Amazon Prime.

 

Amazon Fire TV Unboxing

 

 

How Much Does the Fire TV Cost?

At $99 the Amazon Fire TV now competes with more polished boxes like the Roku 3 (What is Roku). Then when you add the suggested $99-per-year Amazon Prime subscription and a $40 game controller you are now on the high end of what a typical video streaming box costs. In my opinion that is a lot to ask of #cordcutters, especially with Chromecast and the Roku Streaming Stick costing less than half that sticker price.

The Amazon Fire TV Stick, on the other hand, is much more affordable. At $39 the Fire TV Stick is cheaper than the Roku Streaming Stick and is only $3 more than Chromecast. For those seeking and affordable and compact streaming device, the Amazon Fire TV Stick is a good intermediate choice. It’s not as polished as the Roku Streaming Stick, but it’s cheaper and is a better streaming choice than the equally priced Chromecast.

Why Did Amazon Build a Set Top Box

Forrester Research found that 12% United States residents have an Internet-connected television. Of those, 70% have actually connected those televisions to the Internet. So what does this mean? 30% of the people who have an Internet-connected television, are not utilizing the internet to watch video content. “We definitely feel that all of those separate devices are kind of an interim step until these kinds of Internet-connected features become standard in either the television or your DVR or your Blu-Ray player or game console,” said Jim Nail, an analyst at Forrester.

What I take from this is that the public needs to be educated on what is available. Cable and Dish TV costs are astronomical, and consumers need to wake up and realize over-the-air broadcasting is Free and comes in HD. On top of that, the internet is full of budget friendly content. I think Amazon is seeing the exact same trend, and they want to jump on the video streaming band wagon as well. But as I stated previously, they are missing the boat by not providing over the air DVR capabilities, and by not gearing the tool to save us money vs spend more unnecessarily.

Like other Amazon hardware (Kindle Fire TV), this box is best used for consuming Amazon content, does not value your budget, and makes no attempt at providing cost effective options for video consumption.

 

“In reality, the Fire TV is a small, flat, matte black Trojan horse intended to sell you even more Amazon goods than you already buy. I prefer streaming that is content-neutral, or that at least allows me to find the best deal. This is not that box.”  Molly Wood – New York Times

 

As always, comments are welcome and encouraged. Cheers!

p.s. If you really enjoyed this post, please consider helping me out and spreading the word below! Thanks!

Comments

comments

11 thoughts on “Could Amazon Fire TV be used as a Cable TV Alternative?”

  1. Can you update. Also I have talked to a guy that says he can unlock the fire box. How does that work.

  2. Yes please do post an update. I would love to learn more, as well would my readers. For starters can you provide a quick overview of how you specifically use the SPMC app to your advantage?

  3. If you side load SPMC the possibilities increase exponentially. I have not found an Android box yet with TV tuning and recording out of the box. The FTV is the most streamlined box out there for now. I’ll try to post an update if time permits showing this boxes true capabilities without rooting.

  4. All great questions and comments. Only thing is I know that millions of Americans have access to OTA. As long as you dont live in a very rural area, it is definitely worth looking into. As for why the blockade… only answer I got is Greed.

  5. Comments about what is available "over the air" are seldom relevant. Most of us have no such service available. At issue is governmental controls and surcharges. We can phone almost anywhere in the world at a very low price. We do not have to listen to commercials as part of a phone call. I wish to "pay" for a connection to domestic German TV, say Hamburg's basic channels. Technically that is no more difficult than dialing a Hamburg friend's international prefixed number. Why to blockade?

  6. I am an Amazon prime member, and am very impressed with the content they have recently released (with all the HBO content especially), but like you said, this box just does not provide anything new, and is too Amazon centric.

  7. I tried Amazon Fire TV and I agree that it is just too Amazon-centered. It just seems like another tool to sell their product, with none of the ambition of other great set-top boxes. The most confusing part is that Amazon Instant Video is available on basically all other streaming devices so it doesn’t make sense for them to create their own box and compete with themselves like this.

  8. Hey Stephan – Thanks for reaching out. I absolutely agree with you. Its really going to be interesting to see where the industry goes over the next few years. New Cable TV Alternatives are popping up every day. And with DVR functionality becoming the norm, I am also seeing peoples viewing behavior change. No longer are we willing adjust to Cable TV's scheduled programing. We want what we want, when we want it, and on the device that best fits our circumstance.

  9. As a matter of fact, the industry standard of gridded-out television shows to time slots is looking on reaching an end point. Cable industries should be worried about a waning monopoly as publishers look to additional sources such as Hulu, amazon, YouTube, etc.

    While cable companies have a costly monthly bill and chop 10 minutes out of every half hour of television for commercials, YouTube is offering channels with unhindered time lengths that are accessible to anyone at anytime without the need of a DVR. To me this provides a much better viewing experience. This may not contain major produces such as fox but I certainly enjoy an episode of TableTop, and not to mention all of Fox's content is available, whether they like it or not, on torrent and since FireTV has an excellent PLEX client this is actually a more preferred method of watching these shows, in my opinion. That said I wouldn't go downloading movies or shows produced from subscription based services such as HBO or SHOWTIME. Stick to items published over local television stations that you would normally be able to get over HD antenna, which I might add is the majority of what anyone watches ever.

    I hear that Amazon is apparently trying to work out a deal with HBO to hopefully provide this as a subscription option to people on the Fire/FireTV, with no need for a cable subscription. I really hope this goes through. Summing up, Cable is expensive, the shows are too short to allow for commercials and also rely on a DVR to record and watch television on your schedule instead of the broadcasted time, and now Comcast is charging extra for local TV channels, really? seriously!? FireTV has everything you need, honestly! A FireTV and fast internet is all you need to ditch cable, trust me I've done it, I did it with the ROKU 2XS and the FireTV is just better. I use PLEX media server to maintain my series of Big Bang Theory and COSMOS, I used PLEX even when I had cable, several years ago. It gave me more options with what I watched and it allowed me to go back and watch an entire series over again from start to finish, like TopGear UK, unlike just the recent episodes being available like what cable provides. Cable is a dirty word to me, and also, kind of old… Eww.

    Fuax

Leave a Reply