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Amazon Fire TV 4K (2017) Review: Big smarts, tiny box

The Good

  • 4K HDR support
  • Simple interface
  • Alexa integration

The Bad

  • Limited connectivity
4.5

Amazon’s latest Fire TV box can stream video at an impressive 4K Ultra HD resolution, at up to 60 frames-per-second, while also supporting HDR visuals. In other words, get ready to binge on gorgeous-looking telly from the likes of Prime Video.

A lot of TVs these days come with built-in smart features, such as the ability to download apps and watch content over the internet via the likes of BBC iPlayer. However, not all smart TVs allow for Ultra HD video streaming, while the selection of apps may be – to put it almost politely – a bit crap.

Which is where the Fire TV comes in.

We’re now on the third generation of Fire TV, Amazon’s feature-packed and pleasingly compact box which connects to your telly and adds some serious smarts. The previous model, launched at the end of 2015, added full support for 4K video from a selection of streaming services. Great news if you have an Ultra HD television, as the resulting visuals are seriously crisp. You can install thousands of apps, covering everything from music and movie streaming to news, sports and even games.

Now in 2017, we have the all-new Fire TV, with 4K Ultra HD and Alexa Voice Remote. As you can probably tell from that title, you can once again enjoy gorgeous 4K shows and movies, although this time around there’s also support for HDR content. Likewise, Amazon’s Alexa assistant is built into the new Fire and can be accessed via the remote control’s built-in mic.

Here’s what we think of the new 2017 edition of the Fire TV, after plenty of testing – i.e. not moving from the sofa for a few days.

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All-new Amazon Fire TV 2017 review: Design

Looks-wise, the new Fire TV hasn’t changed too much over the previous model. This dinky streamer is still a square black box, although this time around it’s more compact and will happily dangle down behind your TV. In fact the short HDMI cable means that’s basically your only option, which isn’t the neatest solution and yet keeps the device out of sight.

This could however cause issues if your TV is wall-mounted and your cables are tidied away inside of the wall.

Ports are of course very limited. You can only get Ethernet support using an optional adapter, while the micro USB port is used simply for charging purposes. If you want full connectivity, check out another streamer such as the Nvidia Shield TV.

All-new Amazon Fire TV 2017 review: Setup and interface

Plug the all-new Fire TV into a spare HDMI port and then connect it to the mains via the bundled cable and plug, and you’re ready to set it up.

Thankfully the setup process is simple and straightforward. Just enter your WiFi password, plug in your Amazon account details (or set up a new account) and let the box update, and you’re then presented with a quick video showing off the main Fire features. You’re even prompted to download some of the more popular apps and setup parental controls, to get you started.

Check out our Amazon Fire TV setup guide for more info and cool things to try out, and you can see the full setup process in our unboxing video below.

In that video you can also see Amazon’s Fire OS interface in action. This is simply laid out, offering hubs for accessing your video content, apps and so on, by heading to the top of the screen and scrolling along. Everything is clearly presented and highly visual; no bland text-heavy menus here.

Of course, you’re going to get more out of the Fire TV if you’re a Prime subscriber. The video section, for instance, is tailored around Prime Video content – although you can also access Netflix and rival services, or buy and rent content from Amazon without Prime membership.

All-new Amazon Fire TV 2017 review: Apps and features

One quick and easy way to expand the all-new Fire TV’s functionality is to find and download some new apps. Amazon’s app store offers a selection of thousands these days, although there’s a fair amount of rubbish on there bulking it up.

Luckily we’ve rounded up our favourite Fire TV apps and games, so you know which ones to download straight away. However, we prefer the selection on Android TV devices.

One of the biggest reasons to upgrade to this 2017 version of the Fire TV is that HDR support. If you have a decent Ultra HD television with HDR10, you can expect some gorgeous visuals when streaming Amazon’s Originals. Not to mention Netflix’s own original output.

It’s good to see a return for Amazon’s parental controls too. These allow you to set a PIN code, to protect your younger house dwellers from accessing any mature content that would possibly scar them for life. Not to mention prevents unauthorised purchases online from your bundles of joy.

Check out our Amazon Fire TV tips and tricks guide to see more on what you can do with this streaming box, and a deeper dive into the software.

Last but far from least, you have Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant on-board to help out with everything you need. She can be called into action simply by holding the mic button on your Fire remote and speaking your mind. The mic seems perfectly good at picking up your commands, even in a noisy environment, while Alexa is surprisingly versatile at understanding what you actually need.

Of course, Alexa has already come to previous-gen Fire devices, so her presence alone is no need to upgrade.

We’ve compiled a massive guide showing what Alexa is capable of, so go check out our Alexa tips and tricks to see more on her smarts. We certainly approve of her pizza ordering abilities, when bingeing on Prime Video. You can also use the Fire TV to control your smart home goodies, or simply browse the web for info.

All-new Amazon Fire TV 2017 review: Performance

Some of the older Fire devices, in particular the Fire TV Stick, often showed signs of slowdown. The basic processors and meagre memory meant fast zipping around the interface simply wasn’t possible, and quite often the lag could get annoying.

Thankfully the Amlogic quad-core processor seems to handle Amazon’s Fire TV OS capably. Backed by 2GB of RAM, this simple chipset makes for smooth running throughout, something the previous MediaTek struggled with. Apps also open without much delay and run well, as do the latest games on Amazon’s apps store.

All-new Amazon Fire TV 2017 review: Verdict

For just £70 here in the UK, the new Fire TV with 4K HDR support offers stunning value for money. You can stream great-looking video from the usual services such as Netflix as well as Amazon’s own Prime Video, while full Alexa support gives it an edge over rivals. Only a few minor points such as the lack of connectivity options detract from an otherwise lovable device.

If your budget is a little tighter, or you don’t have a 4K TV, check out the Fire TV Streaming Stick instead.

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