Amazon Fire TV is not a Complete Cable TV Alternative

Amazon Instant Video is not Enough

What Else Can Amazon Fire TV do?

Amazon Fire TV

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 your ultimate Cable TV Alternative.Lets 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. 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, where as Roku has some 1,200.


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 effect 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.


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!

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  • Wilbur

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

  • KilltheCableBill

    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?


    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.

  • KilltheCableBill

    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.

  • Craig Whitney

    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.