One good thing about being in Amazon’s system is that the Fire TV has a feature the company calls Advanced Streaming and Prediction (ASAP). It’s a caching technology that learns what you’re likely to watch, then lets you load Amazon’s Instant Videos, well, instantly. According to Amazon, the longer you use the Fire TV, the more accurate ASAP becomes. This solves the problem of long loading times that plague other boxes like Apple TV. You can’t ASAP turn it off, but you can clear the cache in app settings if, for example, you want to free up some internal storage space when starting a new series of shows.
Another neat thing you can do is mirror your Kindle Fire HDX tablet screen to the Fire TV and use it as a second screen. That allows you to get details of what you’re watching from IMDB, control video playback, and start where you left off on the Fire TV on your tablet.
It allows you to stream your photos to it as well, something Apple TV users have been able to do for years. However, your content must be stored on Amazon’s Cloud Drive (5 GB of storage is provided with an Amazon account and extra space is available to purchase as required). Just go to the Photos section and you’ll see everything that’s been saved to Cloud Drive on your TV. You can also go into settings and set your photos as your screensaver.
As for the display, the 1080p picture is clear and crisp, with all the default settings intact. Of course, if you want to make adjustments to sound or video quality, that can be done in System Settings. There aren’t a lot of adjustments you can make, though. You can set the resolution to 1080p or 720p at 60 or 50 Hz and you can also calibrate the display so it scales to the size of your screen.
The main differences among the competing boxes is the Fire TV is faster, practically eliminates loading times thanks to ASAP, includes voice search, and has better gaming options. If these features appeal to you, I would say go for it and pick up the Fire TV. If you already entrenched in the Apple universe, an Apple TV may be more attractive, and if you’re just looking for something basic on the cheaper end, a Roku will probably be just fine, but the Fire TV is an impressive piece of kit that makes it a serious contender for your hard-earned cash.