Amazon Fire TV 4K (2017)
Following my review of the GooBang Doo ABOX A1 Plus, I wasn’t entirely happy with the performance for my particular needs. It is a decent device for the money, I am just a bit fussy about things, I wasn’t overly keen on the user interface, the remote didn’t work very well in Netflix, and I would get artefacts playing network files in Kodi. There is also the issue with 4K DRM from streaming services, which isn’t a huge issue for me, but something I would like for future proofing.
So, going back to researching options and using the excellent Kodi.Tv thread, I whittled my choices down.
There isn’t a perfect option out there; nearly all devices have some form of limitation. For example, if you want a device that is HDR10 capable of auto frame rate switching & dynamic range matching you are limited to:
NVIDIA Shield and Intel hardware currently have broken Auto dynamic range matching. The Apple TV 4K appears to have the most all-round compatibility, but it is restricted to MrMC for Kodi, and I would prefer to use SPMC or native Kodi.
I came to 4 options finally:
I love my Shield, and this would have been the first choice, but now I have missed the Christmas sales it is £179.99 which is well out of my budget for this set-up. The MINIX options are viable, but 4K Netflix compatibility seems to be questionable. In reality, this left me with the new Amazon 4K which is priced the most competitively at £69.99.
I have done my best to avoid the new Amazon 4K as it really bothers me that they have left of the ethernet port, something I think is essential for most 4K setups. It feels like a sneaky attempt to force you into buying their £13.99 ethernet adaptor.
While the new 4K Fire TV may appear to be a cut down version of the older model, it does offer some improvements. Its predecessor supported 4K video at 30 frames-per-second, the new model takes that to 60fps and adds support for both HDR10 and Dolby Atmos. It also comes with the latest Alexa voice control remote.
In comparison to the current Fire Stick, the 4K model claims to be 40 percent more powerful and has a 1.5GHz quad-core processor, 2GB of RAM and 8GB of internal storage.
Set up of the Fire TV 4K, and all Fire TV devices is straightforward as Amazon kindly do part of the job for you, shipping it with your Amazon account attached. Netflix and all the usual streaming apps are available and easy to set up.
Kodi is a little more complicated, you can use MrMC, or you can enable developer mode, and ADB then connects to your FireTV with ADBFire. From here you can push the Kodi APK to the fire. Make sure you choose the 32bit build, as the 64bit won’t work, which caught me out.
If you use a shared library like me, you will then need to push your advancedsettings.xml to the userdata folder. I find this easier via ADBFire than trying to use a file explorer in other Android options.
The overall interface of the Fire TV is far nicer than that of the cheap Chinese Android boxes, but it is heavily Amazon focussed, which some people don’t like. Access to Amazon Prime video is seamless, and once you have all your apps set up, browsing to them is quite straightforward. They all load quickly and are responsive.
The bundled remote is a joy to sue compared to Chinese versions too, it is Bluetooth so no need to point it right at the device, and there is no issues in apps, things just work. The remote also has Alexa built in allowing you to search for shows and apps. It works, and it works well, but to be honest, I find it easier just to browse things with the remote the old-fashioned way.
The voice controls do works for other Alexa enabled devices from light bulbs to thermostats. If you own an Amazon Echo speaker and have lost the remote, you can control the Fire TV 4K using the Echo instead.
As this is a device built by a company as large as Amazon specifically for 4K, it is no surprise that all media playback worked flawlessly. I never had any issues with artefacts, Netflix loaded up at full resolution quickly, and 4K content worked great.
I have only used it in wireless mode so far, and I have had no buffering issues at all, especially with large local files. However, this won’t be the case for everyone, I connected to a 5Ghz network on a Netgear Nighthawk R7000 router which is in the same room as the Fire TV, so there is plenty of bandwidth available to stream data.
It comes as no shock that this is a great device, I already own the old Fire TV 4K and use it daily. In my opinion, it offers the best balance regarding price, performance and access to 4K content. It is half the price of other competing devices from brand names.
There are quite a few negatives about it though, all of which I can personally live with, others may not.
- The Amazon eco-system is somewhat polarising. Amazon heavily pushes their own content, which includes their paid content. You can install your own apps, but it is not as app friendly as regular Android
- Due to the Amazon integration, Amazon Prime feels like a necessity with this device.
- The omission of an ethernet port really irks me, but factoring in the cost of the adaptor still makes it cheaper than the Shield, MINIX and Apple.
- While it performs without any issues, the specification is much less than the Shield
- No Dolby Vision
You can buy the new Amazon 4K Fire TV from Amazon for £69.99.
Amazon Fire TV 4K (2017)