What initially started off as a simple dongle in the back of a TV is now a deep platform designed to put all your movies, TV shows and apps in one place. And this Amazon line has now evolved into a full family, with the latest Amazon Fire TV Stick offering 4K capabilities and joining the Fire TV Cube and standard Fire TV.
Read this: The best streaming sticks and boxes
It's all very straightforward to get set up and started with, but, like with any platform, it also takes a bit of time to master. That's where we come in. Instead of faffing around and experimenting with all the different areas of your Fire TV, read on below for our top tricks, tips and hacks.
Though the new Fire TV layout is pretty nifty, the auto-playing option can quickly become a burden on your sanity if you're the kind of person (who isn't?) that takes upwards of 15 minutes to select some nighttime viewing.
To disable auto-playing, head to Setting > Preferences > Featured Content and turn off the Allow Video Autoplay option. And while you're all up in the settings, why don't you de-select the auto-playing audio, as well. Feels better, doesn't it, this hesitating in peace thing?
Change the name
Just like Amazon's range of tablets and smart speakers, your Fire TV will automatically be assigned a name once you've got it all set up. However, if you have more than one, things can quickly get a little confusing.
Since the last thing you want is to ping paid-for apps to the wrong device, you can take some control back by renaming your Fire TV device. Head over to Amazon in your browser, and from there jump across to the Manage Your Content and Devices page. Click through to the Your Devices section, hit Edit and then begin renaming your Amazon army.
Kill the focused adverts
Unfortunately, you can't kill adverts altogether on Fire TV, but if you're uncomfortable with the idea of being tracked for advertising purposes, Amazon does include the option to turn this off.
You'll still get ads, but they'll instead be a little less tailored to your taste, with the algorithm no longer clocking your every move. To do this, here's the equation: Settings > Preferences > Advertising ID > turn Interest-based Ads off.
Add some parental controls
If you leave your Fire TV hooked up and in the reach of a youngling, there's a chance they could do something reckless like accidentally sticking on The Grand Tour when you're not around. However, you can help them avoid such irreversible mishaps by adding some parental controls.
If you don't want your kids watching R-rated or TV-MA bits from Amazon, head over to Settings > Preferences > Parental Controls and click on that. From here, you'll be asked to set up a PIN code that'll need to be entered to access certain material and make purchases. Adding these controls also bars the use of games, apps and photo viewing by unauthorised persons.
Read this: How to watch YouTube on Fire TV
Just be aware that this only covers off Amazon's own services. If you want to add restrictions to apps such as Netflix, you're going to have to do that separately.
Restart using the Remote
The Fire TV is a fairly sturdy device, but that doesn't mean you won't experience the odd hiccup. Naturally, the first bit of troubleshooting you should be performing is the classic off-on trick, but this is made unreasonably hard by the fact you'll have to get off your couch to do so.
Or, wait, do you? Using the power of the Fire TV Remote, you can reboot things without sacrificing the mould your body has formed into the couch. You also have two options: go to Settings > Device > Restart, or simply press and hold the Play and Select buttons simultaneously for roughly five seconds.
Re-pair the Remote
We haven't had any particular problems with our Five TV Remote, but pairing issues can, and probably will, occur at some stage. Thankfully, holding down the Home button for around ten seconds should usually re-pair it to your Fire TV. The same trick can also be used to pair new remotes or game controllers, providing they're compatible with the platform.
Use your phone as a Remote
Maybe you're just not willing to invest in the Remote, or perhaps you've simply lost it down the side of the couch ‚Äď either way, you can use your iOS or Android device to control the Fire TV.
You'll need to make sure your phone is on the same Wi-Fi network as your streamer, and on the same frequency, but this gives you every bit of control you would usually get from the Remote, plus the added benefit of that smartphone keyboard for typing things in and voice control (particularly handy for those who don't have Alexa built into their older Stick).
Once downloaded, your device should appear in the list, and you simply need to follow the on-screen sync instructions to pair the two.
Share your smaller screen
Handily, Fire TV supports Miracast, an app which allows you to show videos and the like across a couple of screens.
You'll have to be in possession of an Android device running Android OS 4.2 or later, a third-gen Kindle Fire HDX 7-inch, fourth-gen HDX 8.9 or fifth-gen Fire HD 8/HD 10, but if you do, head to Settings > Display and Sounds > Enable Display Mirroring and then head into your mobile settings and start Miracast. Alternatively, hold the Home button on the Remote and select Mirroring.
Again, you'll have to be on the same network as your Fire TV, or using the same Amazon account, for this to work.
Delete your voice recordings
If you're using the above method to speak to your Fire TV, or simply the Remote itself, you should know that Amazon is storing everything you say. The company says this is to help use the information to make voice search more useful to you, but you don't have to be a part of this.
Essential reading: The best apps to download for your Fire TV
By heading to Amazon on your browser and jumping through to Account > Manage Your Content and Devices > Devices, you should see a tab that says Manage Voice Recordings. From here, you'll be able to see an option to delete them all.
Pair your headphones
It's 3am and you've snuck away from your partner to watch the next episode of Making A Murderer without them, but how do you go undetected with all that meddling sound primed to wake them up?
Well, never fear, you morally bankrupt TV show cheater. With the Fire TV, you have the wicked ability to pair your Bluetooth headphones and beam all the sound straight to your ears. Simply head to Settings and then to the Bluetooth section, with the two pairing just like they would on your phone.
Just, you know, don't blame us when said partner wakes up and catches you in the act, oblivious ‚Äď you did this to yourself.
Turn off navigations sounds
In a similar vein to auto-play on the Fire TV dashboard, the default navigation sounds can be a real ear-grater if you're taking some time flicking through the menus. Okay, okay, so the click on the Fire TV isn't actually that bad, but you do have the option to turn it off altogether by navigating to Settings > Display & Sounds > Audio and turning them off.
Get more info
Since it's impossible to get through any kind of viewing these days without checking with Google where you recognise the actor/actress from, Amazon Fire TV has taken some of the legwork out of the process with its X-Ray feature.
Since the company owns IMDb, it's managed to integrate info from the site into Amazon Video to help you quickly pull up player's profiles and filmography. To do this, press the up or down key on your Remote when watching and scroll through the cast and even receive a bit of trivia. Want to know the song playing in a certain scene? That's available here, too.
Amazon Fire TV: Alexa features
Naturally, Alexa plays a starring role on Amazon's Fire TV platform, and Amazon's devices even come with the Alexa Voice Remote, which has a dedicated button to start Alexa up.
That is, unless you have the Fire TV Cube, which builds its mic into the box. Like with the Echo devices, you can simply say "Alexa" to get the assistant listening. You can also link your existing Echo device to your Fire TV.
To do that, open up the Alexa companion app.
1. Go to the menu and select Music, Video & Books.
2. Select Fire TV.
3. Follow the instructions.
4. Click Link Devices.
What exactly can you do with Alexa on Fire TV though?
Alexa is your entertainment assistant on Fire TV. That means you can do things like open apps such as Netflix or search for movies based on genre or actor. Or you could ask it to search within an app, like, "Alexa, search for Ladybird on Netflix."
If you have a Fire TV-equipped TV set or the Fire TV Cube, you also get the added benefit of asking Alexa to turn your TV on or off, change the volume or change the input on the TV. If your cable service plays nice, you can also command what you watch on your cable or satellite box.
If you've got a Fire TV Recast, which lets you add in local broadcast channels to your Fire TV device, you can also use Alexa to record shows, control live TV and play back your recordings.
Naturally, you can also do everything else Alexa can do on other devices. That includes ordering popcorn, checking the weather, and asking for random facts or what have you.
Best Alexa Fire TV commands
"Alexa, watch Fire TV."
"Alexa, search for Ladybird on Prime Video."
"Alexa, what's the weather today?"
"Alexa, turn off the TV."
"Alexa, turn up the volume."
"Alexa, switch to input two."
"Alexa, show me movies with Tom Cruise."
"Alexa, show me comedies."
"Alexa, rewind 30 seconds."
"Alexa, fast forward 30 seconds."
"Alexa, go home."
"Alexa, play Fox Sports on cable."
Amazon Fire TV: Compatible services
Fire OS is Amazon's customized version of Android. While it allows Amazon to craft its own unique experience on its tablets and TV devices, it more importantly lets Amazon build out its very own app store.
In the case of Fire OS, that app store is used to deliver video apps and games. All the big names are here, from Netflix to Hulu to HBO to PlayStation Vue. After a long, annoying hiatus, even YouTube has finally returned - hallelujah. The spat between Google and Amazon on that front appears to be on hold, for time being.
For now: How to use YouTube on Fire TV
If there's one big service that's notably absent, it's iTunes, which has a vast library of 4K Dolby Vision and Atmos-supported content. The best part? Apple upgrades you to 4K, Vision and Atmos for free. However, with Apple now killing iTunes anyway, it's announced it will bring its revamped Apple TV app to Fire TV later this year, letting users buy and rent TV shows and movies from Apple.
Vudu is another big video store that doesn't have a presence on Fire TV. This is a shame as Vudu has support for HDR 10 and Dolby Atmos, which would give Fire TV a good amount of 4K entertainment with Atmos support. While Vudu isn't available on Apple TV either, it is available on Roku. In fact, Roku has an advantage on Fire TV in that it's a universal platform that doesn't have a dog in the streaming fight, as Google, Apple and Amazon do. It can simply open up and let anyone in its app store - as it does.
Another neat feature of Fire OS is search. When you search for a movie, it'll show you all the available services that are showing it. If a movie is available for rental on Amazon or free on Netflix, it'll always default to the free option first. Handy.
The biggest new service to Fire TV is local broadcast channels. When you buy the $229.99 Fire TV Recast (don't forget to buy an HD antenna tuner too) you can add in broadcast channels to your Fire TV. This lets you watch live TV from ABC, FOX, CBS, NBC, The CW and local public access channels right on your streaming stick in a new DVR menu.
That DVR menu will also pull in your channel guide from PlayStation Vue, if you're a PlayStation Vue subscriber. The Recast allows you to record either 75 or 150 hours worth of TV shows and movies from those local broadcast channels (depending on whether you get the 500GB or 1TB Recast). You can access those recordings on your Echo Show, iPhone, Android phone, Fire TV device or Fire Tablet.
Additionally, Amazon is partnering up with several TV manufacturers to build Fire TV right into TV sets. This is something Roku has done successfully with TCL on the Roku TV line, but Amazon is opting for a more blanket approach, starting with Toshiba, and with JVC in the UK.
Fire TV: 4K, HDR and Dolby Atmos
Sure, smarts are important in the world of streaming boxes, but what's also important is the geeky audio visual stuff. You know, the stuff that impacts how you actually watch and hear all those entertainment options.
4K support means outputting resolution of up to 2160p, though the Fire TV will also output at both 1080p and 720p should you not have a 4K TV yet. It also supports 4K at up to 60 frames per second, allowing for some super smooth viewing as the faster the frame rate, the smoother the image you're seeing. One caveat here: Most movies and TV shows are shot at 24 frames per second. Still, this is good for the odd YouTube video or GoPro footage should you want to watch it.
It's very important to know that only the Fire TV, Fire TV Cube and Fire TV Stick 4K support 4K. The Fire TV Stick does not support 4K, instead offering a max of 1080p.
HDR stands for high-dynamic range. It's a feature of modern TVs that pumps up the color to make what you're looking at more vivid and bright. Once you see it in action, it's difficult to go back to non-HDR content.
Unfortunately, there are two competing standards in the world of HDR. Dolby's Vision and HDR 10. HDR 10 is a free universal standard, so practically everyone support it, but the problem is that it's inferior to Dolby Vision.
Dolby Vision uses dynamic HDR, customizes the colors and temperature of the picture based on the scene. HDR 10, on the other hand, keeps the same colors and temperature throughout your TV show or movie. There is also HDR 10 Plus, which fixes HDR 10's static HDR, but it's a piece of Samsung tech that will have a hard time becoming as prevalent as HDR 10 or Vision.
Thus far, the only Fire TV device that supports Dolby Vision is the Fire TV Stick 4K. It also supports HDR 10 and HDR 10+, so you'll have all your HDR standards covered. As for Dolby Atmos, an audio format that can deliver pin-sharp sound around you, some Fire TV devices support it - but, Fire OS doesn't yet provide much content that actually supports Dolby Atmos (not even on Amazon Prime).
Amazon's Fire TVs don't yet offer universal support for some of the most beloved standards in the world of A/V heads, but that seems to be changing with newer models, like the Fire Stick 4K. The biggest competition here is the Apple TV 4K, but Amazon is catching up nicely.