Amazon is quite serious about its India foray. While it is scaling up its e-commerce operations in India, the company is equally focused on India’s growing OTT segment with its Amazon Prime Video service. Already, international players like Netflix have joined the segment, and so are competing the Indian players like Hotstar. To further bolster its ecosystem of content, Amazon has launched its Fire TV dongle in India. Priced at Rs 3,999, the device competes with Google’s Chromecast.
It’s worth pointing out here that Google’s Chromecast has been in the Indian for quite some time and perhaps been the go-to device for screen-casting or streaming multimedia on your smartphone to your TV. The dongle could make your dumb HD TV smarter, as you might have been told in the advertisement. The segment found a new round of interest when Airtel introduced a set-top-box that could let you watch content from Netflix and YouTube while also accessing the traditional TV channels. ALSO READ: Airtel Internet TV will make your TV smarter, but should you upgrade right away?
While I am yet to check out how the Airtel Internet TV works, I have used Google Chromecast for several years. I have also managed to spend some time with Amazon Fire TV dongle. Here are my first impressions of the device in which I have attempted to address questions like the difference between Amazon’s dongle and Google Chromecast, is it better than Chromecast and should you buy one.
What’s in the box
The box includes the dongle, Fire TV voice remote, USB cable (for power), power adaptor, HDMI extender cable and two AAA batteries. Along with that you get a manual booklet to guide you for the set up.
How to set up
To begin with, you need to have an HD TV that has HDMI port. Normally, most of the HD TVs have the HDMI port. But do check how many of them are there. On lower-end HD TVs, there’s only one port, which might already be in use. In our use case, we had our TataSky set-top-box already connected with the TV. So, I had to remove the set-top-box connection in order to connect the Fire TV dongle.
The second thing you need to have a Wi-Fi connection. Amazon recommends speeds above 4Mbps. I’d recommend having the setup on your home broadband connection.
Now that you have the first two important things in place, here’s what you need to do. Connect one end of the USB cable to your Amazon Fire TV stick and the other end to the power adapter. Plug your Fire TV stick into the HDMI port on your TV and then switch on the power adaptor, which is connected to the nearby electrical socket. Turn on the TV and select ‘input’ as the HDMI.
Once you have set up, you will be required to sign in with your Amazon Prime account. Or you can simply create one from there. Meanwhile, insert the batteries in the remote, and follow the instructions on the screen to get started with the voice-controlled remote. The process of setting up the Amazon Fire TV is very similar to the Google Chromecast’s, just that you are not locked to Amazon Prime account to get started.
Features and experience
After having logged in, the home screen welcomes you with a wide range of content within Amazon Prime Video. While you can watch movies and TV shows, you can also download apps like Hotstar, Voot, Eros Now, Gaana, YouTube and Netflix among others. There’s also games like Flappy Bird and use the remote as the controller. According to Amazon, users can get access to 3,000 apps.
Do remember that the device comes with 8GB of onboard storage and no expandable storage, so at some point, you might have to go on a spring cleaning to make some space on the device. In case, you are wondering how was the gaming experience, well it was pretty good. Though I suck at Flappy Bird-like games.
There are a few things about the Amazon Fire TV that really impressed me. One of the top things has to be the fluid UI and easy navigation. The remote does come really handy when switching from one app to another. Another thing is the voice controlled remote that gets my accent and even searched for Bollywood classics like Andaz Apna Apna. By the way, there’s a Fire TV stick remote app on Google Play store that mimics the remote control and lets you control the UI through your smartphone.
The data monitoring feature is a nifty addition for those who really like to keep an eye on how much of their bandwidth is wasted on what things. I am yet to spend more time with the device to actually make most of this feature. Though at my home, I have the 16Mbps 80GB broadband plan, and most of it is spent on streaming multimedia, so I think I won’t have to worry much.
There’s also a mirror casting option though it depends on Miracast technology that I think is not widely available on all HD TVs in India.
Even though I have spent very brief time, the first thing that I notice is that there’s no switch off button within the app. Here’s what Amazon says on its help page, “You can turn your device off by unplugging the USB cable from the power source, or disconnecting your Fire TV Stick from your TV..
“However, you don’t need to turn Fire TV Stick off when you’re done using it. The device is designed to conserve energy by automatically going into sleep mode after 30 minutes. While in sleep mode, it continues to receive important software updates. To exit sleep mode, just press any button on your Fire TV remote.”
Another important feature that I missed was the ability of quickly adjust volume levels. If you are a Chromecast user, you will know you can increase/decrease the audio levels from your phone. However, in the case of Amazon Fire TV stick, I had to use the remote to adjust the audio. Since I haven’t extensively used the device, I’d like to call it a cons as yet. Wait for our final review to find out more details.
How is Amazon Fire TV stick different from Google Chromecast? Is It better?
Both Amazon Fire TV dongle and Google Chromecast can mirror content from your smartphone. But Chromecast’s mirroring works on any TV, Amazon Fire TV is limited to Miracast, which isn’t mainstream feature. Another thing is that Chromecast’s purpose is to facilitate watching content from your phone to a bigger screen, and doesn’t let you download apps on the dongle or something like that. To point out, even Netflix, Saavn and Hotstar support Chromecast whereas Amazon Prime Video lacks Chromecast support. I think Google Chromecast’s universality makes it special. ALSO READ: Google Chromecast Audio, new Chromecast: Hands-on and first impressions
Amazon Prime stick, on the other hand, brings a wide range of content within the device. It has popular apps like Netflix and Hotstar. With additional bonus like free 100 GB high-speed data from Airtel broadband/Airtel 4G Home Wi-Fi, the Amazon Fire stick is an interesting deal.
That said, Amazon Fire TV stick comes at a time when Airtel and other DTH operators are launching smarter set-top-box that also solve the purpose of watching OTT content on TV. For roughly Rs 5,000, Airtel’s Internet TV gets all these tasks done. Interestingly, Airtel is working to get the Amazon Prime Video on its platform as well, which will make the need of buying a separate Amazon Fire TV redundant.