Fire TV Generation 2 (with Alexa)…first impressions
I have been using the brand new
First things first: playback has been flawless! I can really see the difference between this one and the gen 1 Fire TV (as well as the Fire TV Stick…we’ve been using both).
On the gen 1, Hulu Plus would have some “hiccups” on some shows.
With this one, none of that…it looked great.
It also allowed me to fit the playback to the screen: I don’t remember the first gen letting me do that, but I think that also helped.
Additionally, it seems sharper and brighter: that’s on the same TV, with the same HDMI cable.
Generally, switching between things has been faster: for example, going back to the homescreen from within an app takes less time.
The voice search also works well. Once I had logged into the Hulu Plus app, it was able to find shows within that app. The only negative was that it didn’t know which episodes I had already watched, but that’s not surprising.
For example, I was able to hold down the voice button on the remote, and say, “My Favorite Martian”. I recently watched episode one of the 1960s sitcom on Hulu Plus. It easily found it, and showed me all of the available episodes. I could
- Watch Now with Hulu Plus
- Buy the episode
- Buy the season
- Add to Watchlist
Using the Alexa Voice Service on it was also an enhanced experience, compared to using it on my
What was better about it?
What appeared on the screen.
You see, things which normally appear in the Alexa app when I talk to my Echo, appeared immediately on the screen.
It worked well for questions and Wikipedia.
It showed me my Shopping List.
It easily (and quickly) played an audio book from Audible. That’s going to work well with my (again, easily) paired Bluetooth headphones. I use an inexpensive brand, which I do like:
It is worth noting that, while it did show me a title card while it was playing, the Audible book did not show up in my “Recents”.
Title cards also showed when a Prime Music playlist was playing. It didn’t show lyrics, which I thought it might.
Update: it could tell me my calendar events, although it did not textually display them on the screen (I thought it might). I tried stopping something running on the TV (“Play CNN on Tunein”, which gets me the live audio of CNN) by talking to the Echo…that did not work.
It was not able to control my home automation, and told me so. I also couldn’t set an alarm. Reordering? Not supported on Fire TV.
The one funny thing was when I said, “Alexa, what’s the weather?”
The Echo is next to me. First, the Echo answered the question…and then the TV answered the same question. :) At least they took turns…
I quickly figured out not to say “Alexa” before I asked the TV a question…that solved the problem.
I also tested the Alexa Skills (basically, third party apps).
Those did work!
I tested April Hamilton’s Bingo game, Cat Facts, and Famous Quotes…those all behaved as they would on the Echo.
When I played Word Master, I was able to play.
Now, I did have to hold down the microphone button on the voice remote each time, so that’s not anywhere near as convenient as the Echo’s near magical ability to hear a normal-toned voice from across the room.
That means there are certainly still reasons to own an Echo…but you can enjoy the Alexa Voice Service on a Fire TV.
Update: one thing I really meant to mention! I ended up calling Amazon Support for one thing, and it was really frustrating. I could not get the back off the remote to put in the batteries!
Now, I’m pretty techie…and it’s particularly tough on me when it’s a hardware issue…which this technically is.
I have at least average strength in my fingers…and there was no way I could get it off. My Significant Other also tried…and we even both tried together!
The poor rep had to listen to me for several minutes, while we made sure I was trying to do it the right way (I was).
Eventually, after asking the rep, I used a precision screwdriver (one with a tiny flathead blade…you might use one like it to fix a pair of glasses.
The rep tried to tell me it was so that the batteries wouldn’t fall out if you dropped…seems a somewhat unlikely reason to me…
It was worth the $99 for the upgrade to me. The improved performance was important, but so was the apparently improved voice search and Alexa.
Do you have other questions about the Fire TV gen 2? Do you have your own experiences to share? Feel free to let me and my readers know by commenting on this post.
For more information on the Echo and Alexa, see The Measured Circle’s Echo Central.
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