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 and Amazon Fire Stick offer an unparalleled video streaming experience. Quickly becoming the hottest streaming box and stick on the market, you are hard pressed to even find them available at your local electronics store. Learn why in the below article. 

Fubo TV Amazon Fire TV

A few years ago, Amazon released a 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 via an internet connection, on your TV.

Definition of a Complete Cable TV Alternative

Before we start dissecting Amazon Fire TV and Stick, lets talk about what a cable TV alternative is, and or should be.

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 watch video streaming services like Amazon Prime, DirecTV Now, Sling TV, Netflix, Hulu, and HBO GO and of course from Amazon Instant Video on your TV.

A Video Streaming box (media set-top box) that aims to be a complete cable TV alternative, should provide:

  1. STREAMING SERVICES – Access to video content from sources as possible. The more options you have, the better chance you have at taking advantage of low prices and new content.
  2. USER INTERFACE – A user friendly interface for easy searching and navigation. Jumping from show to show or movie to  movie, should be as easy as changing channels on a standard Cable TV remote control.
  3. OTA INTEGRATION – Most importantly, and notably ignored by most, a set top box with this goal integrate broadcast TV into their interface and offer a way to record it via a DVR.

In short a you need a solution that can act as the foundation in which you build upon with streaming services and access to free broadcast television. Let’s look at Amazon’s Fire TV video streamer and see how it matches up to these requirements.


1. STREAMING SERVICES

Streaming App Support

You want it, Amazon has it. With an extensive library of apps you can do pretty much anything with this box.
  • Want to listen to music on your TV? They got it (Pandora, Amazon Music, Spotify and more…)
  • Want to watch movies and TV? Of course, yes they have everything available (DirecTV Now, Sling TV, Netflix, Hulu, Youtube etc..)
  • How about games? You like games? Because they have more than I can count.

Just to give you an idea of the shear number or Apps you can access, here is their “categories list”:

  • Books & Comics, Business, Communication, Customization, Education, Finance, Food & Drink, Games, Health & Fitness, Kids, Lifestyle, Local, Magazines, Medical, Movies & TV, Music & Audio, News, Novelty, Photo & Video, Productivity, Reference, Shopping, Social, Sports, Transportation, Travel, Utilities, Weather
With all these apps,  you are pretty much turning your TV into a large tablet or smart phone. Search the complete list of apps here.


2. USER INTERFACE

DirecTV Now (free trial) and Sling TV (free trial) have become the go to cable TV alternative for would be cord cutters. But what many find when they first sign up for a streaming service like this, is that streaming through a web browser can be choppy and does not provide a true HD experience.

When you call into customer service to figure out what is going on, what you quickly learn is that they recommend streaming through an app, as this method can provide a more reliable feed. And when asked what streaming devices provides the quickest and smoothest user interface, the answer is always “Amazon Fire TV”.

Amazon Fire Controller with Alexa

What Amazon is most excited about is that Alexa on  Fire TV and Stick 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.
“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
Now this trend does not just affect the voice controls. Once you start searching for content (regardless of the method), you’ll notice that Amazon puts all of its content front and center all the time. And even the home screen is mainly Amazon-centric, with a large area promoting content recently added to Amazon Prime. This is a bit annoying, but understandable if you put yourself in Amazon’s shoes.

Amazon Fire Stick

Amazon Fire Stick

The Amazon Fire TV Stick is Amazon’s answer to Google Chromecast and Roku Streaming stick.  The user interface is essentially the same as what is available on Fire TV, 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.

Amazon Fire TVAmazon Fire TV

The first thing you need to know about Fire TV, is that unlike the Fire Stick, it can stream 4K / UHD programming. This is a huge advantage if you are like me and want to buy technology that the times can grow into, vs buying technology that time is quickly forgetting.

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 but we do have an integration solution for this, so keep reading.
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. It also supports Blue Tooth. So if you want to watch TV with your Bluetooth headphones, you are good to go.
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.

3. OTA INTEGRATION

First of all OTA stands for over-the-air, and refers to using a TV antenna to access free broadcast television (ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX) in HD.

Now the goal here is to find a solution that allows you to stream your OTA signal into your Streaming Box and have it available right beside your favorite internet streaming options.

As mentioned previously, Amazon does not provide an out of the box solution for OTA integration, but there are a few options 3rd party options we can discuss.

  • Tablo ReviewTablo TV is an OTA DVR (overview article) that allows you to browse, record & stream live HDTV from your antenna to any device, including Amazon Fire TV.  If you have the Tablo OTA DVR, the free Tablo App lets you watch your favorite live and recorded broadcast TV shows in stunning HD. Check Amazon pricing on a Tablo box here
  • Mohu Airwave Wireless OTAMohu Airwave (overview article) is an OTA antenna that streams your broadcast signal directly to your streaming box. Just like with Tablo, you can use the Mohu app to access live OTA broadcasts.

How Much Does the Fire TV Cost?

At $90 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, but it is well worth it.

The Amazon Fire TV Stick, on the other hand, cost much less, at $39. The Fire TV Stick is less expensive 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 saw the exact same trend, and being the thought leader they are, they jump on the video streaming band wagon.


Amazon Fire Overview

All in all, I think Amazon Fire TV is one of the, if not the best streaming box available. You get 4k resolution, a voice controller with AI intelligence built in (Alexa), a clean fast user interface, and you can integrate OTA right into the device. What else you can you ask for?

Amazon Fire TV

Amazon Fire TV
90

Over All Rating

9/10

    Pros

    • User Interface
    • App Store
    • 4K Streaming
    • OTA Integration
    • Price

    Comments

    comments