Amazon Fire TV Update Closes Gap On Roku

Folks routinely ask for streaming box recommendations. And, for a few years, I took the position that Roku and Fire TV were largely equivalent and indicated the decision should come down to content and app preferences. Need Kodi? Amazon is the answer. YouTube? Roku. Etc. However, the math changed last fall when Roku refreshed its lineup with smartly integrated volume-control capabilities. For many with streamlined configurations, a Harmony is unnecessary or overly complex (with additional clutter) — whereas simply adding some CEC and IR control to an expensive streamer may be exactly what the doctor ordered for increased efficiency. Well, today, Amazon ups the ante with similar from the $50 4K Amazon Fire TV Stick… and then some.

From AFTVNews:

The addition of power, volume, and mute buttons would have been enough to match, and even exceed, the basic universal remote capabilities of the Apple TV and Roku’s remotes, but Amazon has taken their new remote to another level. The new Alexa voice remote includes all the same equipment control capabilities found on the Fire TV Cube, built directly into the remote.

This means you’ll be able to say “Turn on the TV” into the remote’s microphone and the dual IR blasters built into the remote will turn on your TV, AV receiver, and/or soundbar, as well as set everything to the correct input. If you have a cable box, you’ll be able to say “Tune to HBO” and your home theater equipment will switch inputs to your cable box and change the box to the requested channel.

BONUS: The remote will also be sold as a $30 accessory that can be paired with prior Fire TV models. But, sadly, not my first gen box … and no Fire TV televisions. Yet?

10 thoughts on “Amazon Fire TV Update Closes Gap On Roku”

  1. Roku’s presentation is way more simplistic (with that large ad unit), but I still prefer it. This new remote has my attention tho…

  2. Just spent $90 on two remotes. Here me out. Have two cubes, one in the master bedroom, one in the family room. Love it. But sometimes you just want to change volume without speaking. So we have Sideclicks for them. But they’re ugly and bulky compared to the remote. So I was all about to pay $60 for two of the new remotes (it’s especially critical in the bedroom, where you don’t want to say something to Alexa while laying RIGHT NEXT to a sleeping person. But then I realized that for $30 more using the “TWOPACK” code I could get two new sticks, which comes with the new remotes.

    So there you go. The Cubes which I bought at the promo $80 price get the new remotes. Two older sticks will get upgraded to the newer stick (with the old remote), and in my own roundabout way I’m happy. I think.

  3. So basically you’re saying don’t buy either of them because Android TV already does all of that and more (curated content, native Chrome/Googlecast, universal search not biased by Prime content, and Assistant/Home integration/voice commands)?

  4. I would love to know if that remote would work with the Shield TV. The button functions, I would not expect Alexa commands to work on the Shield.

  5. I’ll be picking one of these up to replace the FireTV 4k pendant I got last year. Although I’ll wait to see if they have a great deal in November like last year.

    Although I guess it depends if it will work with my TCL, 6 Series, Dolby Vision TV. I see the FireTV 4K stick has three Dolby Vision profiles. It has Profile 5( the low latency version) which my TV does not work with. So hopefully it works with the other two profiles. SInce I really want to upgrade to increase my options for DV playback.

    Currently the TCL Roku TV has DV from the internal apps. Then my ATV 4K does(which sucks for the Amazon app). And then my Philips DV player I use for only DV discs has DV from Netflix.

    So I would prefer to use the FireTV 4K stick for Amazon DV/HDR10 content since I like their interface for Amazon content better than the TCL ROku TV and the ATV 4K.

  6. Dave, I’m not a fan of Fire TV’s UI either, although at least they are *trying* to be more content-oriented rather than just a dumb grid of apps like Roku. (Apple TV’s TV app does a very good job of a near-universal content-oriented UI.) I know that they’re close to unveiling a redesigned Prime Video app and seeing as the home screen UI for the Fire TV is similar to that of the Prime Video app on other platforms, I wonder if we’ll also see a redesigned Fire TV UI.

    Alex, the new Android TV UI looks nice and maybe it could actually gain some users if Google would put out a successor to the Chromecast Ultra that, instead of just being a casting receptor, ran full-blown Android TV (while also doing HDR10 and Dolby Vision, like the Chromecast Ultra already does) with a universal voice remote like the new Fire TV remote. Oh, and kept the price at $69. But with the aging $150+ Nvidia Shield TV as the closest thing to a “hero” device for Android TV, it’s going nowhere fast among US retail buyers.

  7. NashGuy,
    I would love a Google Android TV device, though it seems Google is leveraging license deals with TV and cable box manufacturers to put Android TV in those devices instead. Until they get in the box game, the Mi Box sold at Walmart does a decent job for half the price of a Shield. I also have a Fire TV stick for travel, but it sits on the shelf at home because the Mi Box has superior features, even for Prime content.

  8. Have to disagree about needing Roku if one wants YouTube, at least for the Fire TV line. Just a matter of days after the YouTube app was taken away by YouTube from Fire TV’s, Amazon set things up to EASILY launch to YouTube using either its own Silk browser or my Firefox browser to access YouTube, and I have to say I have noticed NO DIFFERENCE in the YouTube app experience previously on Fire TV compared to the YouTube via Firefox or Silk. One can even sign-in to a specific YouTube account, etc. Further,, on the Home Screen, the option to load YouTube appears as if it were the app, so all I have to do is just select the “option” or “virtual app” and everything loads just as the app used to, and it is as if one is using the app. Outside of the FireTV line, such as Amazon Show, I do not know if Amazon has implemented something like on the FireTV for YouTube access, but I would say YouTube has not been an issue regarding FireTV for quite a long time.

  9. Amazon connected devices keep on improving, catching up, or even beats others to the punch. Lack of volume control for connected devices is a VERY BIG irritant to me, so I’m glad to see more devices providing such control.

    Also, Amazon’s Recast 4 tuner model for full price $279 (DVR functions by purchasing a modestly priced HDD) seems to me to be the better solution compared to the new TiVo Bolt Vox OTA for $249 + All In Plan for another $249, which is really $500, for all you need (except your own OTA antenna) to DVR local channels, but with TiVo’s inferior OTA tuners since Series 4 to the present Bolt–and with the same 4 tuner count as the Recast at $279. Amazon’s solutions is almost half the price and a bit more for DVR via HDD with NO additional fees ever, while TiVo offers $6.99 or annual at $69.99 forever, or until you buy All-In Plan, but get no credit toward the cost of AIP for any of the monthly or annual fees paid before hand. While TiVo is an excellent DVR, it’s the PRICING that kills the TiVo Bolt Vox OTA.

    I agree that Roku’s home screen is easier on the eyes and is more simply designed compared to Amazon’s Home screen that can take some getting used to, but, with Amazon Fire TV’s advantages over Roku, I have gotten used to it, and others can get used to it, too. The Home screen design is really a non-issue for me as Amazon easily wins more points with what I need and use it for compared to the limitations of even the best Roku product, and Amazon FireTV is still blazing fast to this day (I always have gotten FULL FireTV devices–NEVER the inferior Stick devices). I have no use or desire for all those COUNTLESS Roku JUNK apps with JUNK content; I have more than enough content with Netflix, Hulu, Amazon alone, but I then have to add my satellite content, and local channels content, and it can take me weeks, months or in some cases a year to playback some DVR’d content.

    I also have to say, in response to a post, that for a very long time–coming on 2 years, Amazon is truly AGNOSTIC when finding things to watch via search and even in recommendations and even on the Home screen promoting some exclusive streaming show–NOT on Amazon. Shows on Netflix, CBS All Access, and even the premium add-ons are prolifically in prominent display. True, when the FireTV fist came out, the voice search would only work for Amazon titles, but that was a LONG TIME AGO. My voice and type search for shows and movies I am looking for routinely pop-up and display and will offer Netflix, Hulu, CBS All Access or other streaming options, without seeming to “favor” it is also on Amazon.

    I think Amazon knows that for the FireTV experience to be accepted, they have to be AGNOSTIC, or else . . . What makes the FireTV my choice is not only its technical superiority or it being the ONLY connected device that has Slingbox app (Roku’s is NOT an APP and not as easy to connect and start watching) or the recently retired TiVo app (let’s hope it returns in some form soon, given a new TiVo app seems to be in Beta), access to YouTube not being an issue, but because it is NOT all about Amazon content; it hasn’t been for a very long time.

    I was a Roku loyalist and fanboy because there was NOTHING like it–at the time. But a few years ago, I was won over by Amazon FireTV (FULL versions devices–not the cheap Sticks). If Amazon keeps it up, the financial disadvantage of having to code beyond iOS and Android (FireTV is based on Android) will put Roku in a very bad place, and there are already apps for iOS and Android, but not for Roku (there never was a TiVo app for Roku). Making it worse for Roku is that people already have a relationship with Amazon and those customers can leverage their Prime account privileges they are already paying for, and then add the voice commands via Echo, Show, or whatever Amazon voice command device, and it all fits together. I’m glad there is the Roku competition, but Amazon continuing its innovation or even just follow-up makes it the winner in the long run, and volume control is just the latest.

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