Amazon announces its over the air DVR – Fire TV Recast

Amazon announced a new member to its fire tv line up, the fire tv recast. Fire TV Recast fills a void where many companies struggle to capture which is enabling streaming and recording for over the air broadcast.

A lot of cord cutters, people cancelling their subscription to cable or satellite will find this extremely useful. Many streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu, HBO Go, Playstation Vue and even Amazon’s own Prime video lack the capability or service to stream live local channels. This product will enable this.

The idea is this. The fire tv recast will plug to an antenna which will receive over the air HD signals from your location. That feed will go into your fire tv recast which can be streamed through to your fire tv devices (stick, tv, cube and show). Here is the kicker, it can even stream to your fire tv app! This will mean you can watch local and national channels (ABC, CBS, NBC, CW, Fox and presumably other local over the air channels) anywhere you have an internet connection. It also has DVR capabilities so you can save and replay TV shows. As this is an Alexa enabled device, you can use voice control to issue commands to open the channel guide or to record a particular show. Did I hear Sunday Football NFL?

The only immediate negative feedback is the price. Compared with other fire tv devices, the starting price of $229 is a bit steep. At $229, you get 2 tuners with 500GB of storage which comes out to around 75 hours of recording. The more expensive option of $279, gives you 1 TB of memory which is around 150 hours of recording.

I wouldn’t be jumping on this at this price point but would be interested in the prices at Black Friday.

Fire TV Cube Arrival, Unboxing and Contents

Amazon announced the Fire TV Cube on June 7th that was released on June 21st. I ordered the Fire TV Cube on release day and it arrived yesterday and I had the chance to play with it. Fire TV Cube combines the features of Amazon Echo with Amazon TV. Previously, Amazon had their line of Fire TV from first to second generation Fire TV Stick to Fire TV which now has 4K support. Amazon also had their line of Echo devices ranging from 1st and 2nd generation Echo, Echo Dot, Echo dot Kids (new!), Echo Tap, Echo Show, Echo Look and Echo Plus.

Recent Fire TV and Fire TV Stick devices did integrate Alexa as part through the use of its remote but it you still required to press the button on the remote in order to

We had a hunch this was going to happen but now you can enjoy the functionality of hands free Alexa with services associated with Fire TV.

Arrival

I just so happened to be out with the family when the Fire TV Cube arrived. There has been an increase in package thiefs specifically targeting Amazon deliveries so I wanted to get home ASAP! I got the notification on my mobile app that the Fire TV Cube was delivered so I rushed home as quickly as I could. Once the package was delivered, Amazon’s workflow triggered 2 e-mails related to the Fire TV Cube.

 

 

 

 

First, was a quick start guide. It walked through on how to set up the device.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Unboxing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

First impression is how heavy the box was. I had an idea how small the fire tv cube was but it really weighed more than it looks. Perhaps I am used to handling the likes of fire tv stick, fire tv and amazon echos for too long!

The fire tv cube actually comes with a lot of accessories and the packaging seems like the gift that keeps giving. The fire tv cube package included the fire tv cube, a usb ethernet adapter, ac power adapter, an infrared (IR) extender and a fire tv voice controller. Note, HDMI cable is NOT included. You will need a decent length HDMI cable for placement.

In the welcome emails and on the sticker protecting the fire tv cube, it instructs you to place the fire tv cube properly. Upon the instructions:

  • Unobstructed and facing where you sit – I have it slightly obstructed by my TV as my console is not that wide and it works fine.
  • At least one foot away from speakers – This is to avoid interference with your voice command when soliciting the trigger word
  • Not in a closed cabinet – the fire tv cube cannot be placed behind a closed cabinet. A mesh type covering may be ok but the sound from fire tv cube will be ostructed.

Next, I will post the fire tv cube setup.

Worth to buy the all new 2017 Amazon Fire TV

Amazon recently announced the all new Amazon fire TV in 2017 and as of now it is available for purchase for $69.99. In the earlier days, the question to consumers were if these devices warrant a place in our homes. It started with Google’s Chromecast then Fire TV and Fire TV Stick. You can also look at devices such as the different iterations of Roku, Apple TV, and more.

At my household, we have all generations of Fire TV Stick and Google Chromecast. We never quite got into the more expensive Fire TV as it was pricier. Let’s take a look at the 2017 Fire TV (pendant) edition and see how it differs from the previous generation Fire TV.

4K Ultra HD and HDR (high dynamic range) support

The biggest difference between the original Fire TV and 2017 Fire TV is 4K Ultra HD at 60fps and HDR support. The previous iteration of Fire TV only supported 4K at 30fps but the smaller Fire TV has the capability to stream at 60fps and support HDR-10. So if you bought a TV that supports HDR, then you can enjoy full HDR content. Below are the best bang for the buck HDR TV’s in the market as this article is being written.

One thing that is often overlooked is that Amazon Prime has a number of 4K content in their library. Back when 1080p HD became mainstream, I recall buying a TV that supported 1080P HDTV. However, not a lot of subscription TV had full 1080P but was limited to 1080i. The only way for me to get 1080P was through Blu-Ray DVD or PS3 games. It is different with 4K. You can find numerous content through Netflix, Amazon Prime, and even Youtube for 4K content. HDR is a bit more limited but available through the same streaming services.

Below is the list of TV shows and movies that is available in HDR according to Amazon:

TV (full seasons): Bosch Seasons 1 and 2 (second season also available in Dolby Vision, Mad Dogs Season 1, Man in the High Castle Season 1, Mozart in the Jungle Seasons 1 and 2, Red Oaks Season 1, Transparent Seasons 1 and 2
TV (pilot episodes): Good Girls Revolt, Highston, One Mississippi, Patriot, The Interestings, The Last Tycoon, Z: The Beginning of Everything
Movie: CHI-RAQ
Documentary: Coral Reef Adventure, Dolphins, The Living Sea, Van Gogh: A Brush with Genius

Size:

If you have a sleek TV console or you mount your TV on the wall, you will appreciate the small form factor of the 2017 Fire TV. You no longer need to find real estate to place your Fire TV but can hang it on your HDMI port similar to the Fire TV Stick.

Performance and other upgrades:

Below are other upgrades. Processor and graphics processor has been upgraded as well as the bluetooth.

What is missing?

Sadly, the new Fire TV removed the ethernet port and the microSD slot. In order to connect it to wired Internet, you will need to purchase a separate ethernet adapter. The missing microSD slot is a bummer for those who want to increase the storage capacity for offline viewing.

OS6

The new Fire TV offers an updated version of Amazon’s GUI. There are quite a number of 1 – 2 star reviews complaining about this interface as it contains ads and not as smooth. The good thing is that Amazon can improve on the OS with updates.

Conclusion

If you have 2015 Fire TV, our recomendation is to hold off. There are just too many kinks that doesn’t quite convince us to recommend it. If you have a Fire TV Stick and want to move to 4K, then it is worth the upgrade.

Below is a full comparison chart of technical specs.

Amazon Fire TV 2015 2017
Size 4.5″ x 4.5″ x 0.7″ (115 mm x 115 mm x 17.8 mm) 2.6” x 2.6” x 0.6” (65.0 mm x 65.0 mm x 15.0 mm)
Weight 9.5 oz. (270 g) 3.1 oz (87.1 g)
Processor MediaTek Quad-core up to 2 Ghz Amlogic Quad-core 1.5 GHz | ARM 4xCA53
Dual-core @ 2.0 GHz + Dual-core @ 1.6 GHz
GPU Power VR GX6250 Mali450 MP3
Storage 8 GB internal 8 GB internal
Memory 2 GB 2 GB
Wi-Fi Connectivity Dual-band, dual-antenna Wi-Fi (MIMO) for faster streaming and fewer dropped connections than standard Wi-Fi. Supports 802.11a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi networks. Dual-band, dual-antenna Wi-Fi (MIMO) for faster streaming and fewer dropped connections than standard Wi-Fi. Supports 802.11a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi networks.
Bluetooth Bluetooth 4.1 + LE, with support for HID, and SPP profiles Bluetooth 4.2 + LE
Voice Support Yes, with Alexa Voice Remote (included) or free Fire TV Remote App (available for download on Fire, Android, and iOS) Yes, with Alexa Voice Remote (included) or free Fire TV Remote App (available for download on Fire, Android, and iOS)
Game Controller Support Yes, optimized for Amazon Fire TV Game Controller and most games are compatible with other Bluetooth controllers
Cloud Storage Free cloud storage for all Amazon content Free cloud storage for all Amazon content
Ports DC Jack, HDMI output, 10/100 Ethernet, microSD slot, USB 2.0 HDMI output, micro USB for power or optional Amazon Ethernet Adapter (no included Ethernet port or micro SD slot)
Audio Support Dolby Audio, 5.1 surround sound, 2ch stereo, and HDMI audio pass through up to 7.1 Dolby Atmos compatibility, Dolby Digital Plus, and Dolby Digital
Content Formats Supported Video: H.265, H.264, Audio: AAC-LC, AC3, eAC3 (Dolby Digital Plus), FLAC, MP3, PCM/Wave, Vorbis, Dolby Atmos (EC3_JOC), Photo: JPEG, PNG, GIF, BMP Video: HDR-10. H.265, H.264, Audio: AAC-LC, AC3, eAC3 (Dolby Digital Plus), FLAC, MP3, PCM/Wave, Vorbis, Dolby Atmos (EC3_JOC), Photo: JPEG, PNG, GIF, BMP
Output Resolution Supported 2160p up to 30fps; 720p and 1080p up to 60fps 2160p, 1080p, and 720p up to 60 fps
System Requirements Compatible high-definition or ultra high-definition television with available HDMI input, Internet connection, a power outlet High-definition television with available HDMI input, Internet connection via Wi-Fi, a power outlet.
TV Compatibility TV must support minimum HDCP requirements for protected content playback. Learn more. Compatible with (1) 4K ultra high-definition TVs with HDMI capable of 2160p at 24/25/30/50/60 Hz and HDCP 2.2, including popular models from LG, Samsung, Sony, Sharp, Toshiba, Vizio, and others or (2) high-definition TVs with HDMI capable of 1080p or 720p at 50/60 Hz, including popular HDCP-compatible models from Hitachi, JVC, LG, Mitsubishi, NEC, Panasonic, Philips, Pioneer, Samsung, Sharp, Sony, Toshiba, Vizio, Westinghouse, and others. TV must support minimum HDCP requirements for protected content playback. Compatible with (1) 4K ultra high-definition TVs with HDMI capable of 2160p at 24/25/30/50/60 Hz and HDCP 2.2, including popular models from LG, Samsung, Sony, Sharp, Toshiba, Vizio, and others or (2) high-definition TVs with HDMI capable of 1080p or 720p at 50/60 Hz, including popular HDCP-compatible models from Hitachi, JVC, LG, Mitsubishi, NEC, Panasonic, Philips, Pioneer, Samsung, Sharp, Sony, Toshiba, Vizio, Westinghouse, and others. Learn more.
Warranty and Service 1-year Limited Warranty and service included. Optional 2-year and 3-year Extended Warranty available for U.S. customers sold separately. Use of Fire TV is subject to the terms found here. 1-Year Limited Warranty and service included. Optional 2-Year and 3-Year Extended Warranty available for U.S. customers sold separately. Use of Fire TV is subject to the terms found here.
Regional Support Certain services may not be available outside the U.S. Certain services may not be available outside the U.S.
Accessibility Features VoiceView screen reader enables access to the vast majority of Fire TV features for users who are blind or visually impaired. Watch videos and TV shows with closed captioning displayed. Captions are not available for all content. Learn more. VoiceView screen reader enables access to the vast majority of Fire TV features for users who are blind or visually impaired. Screen magnifier enables viewers to zoom in and out, and pan around the screen. Watch videos and TV shows with closed captioning displayed. Captions are not available for all content. Learn more.

The Element 4K TV Amazon Fire TV Edition is out!

Amazon released the Element 4K TV Fire TV edition which kind a raised eye brows. An Amazon Fire TV that is a TV? It can be a fun play on words but why would Amazon do this for what reason? The Element Ultra HD smart 4K TV integrates Amazon’s Alexa features with Prime and can be integrated with over-the-air HD content all in one homescreen. You do not need a separate Amazon Fire TV to utilize the Fire TV features as it is all built it. The 43″ is currently selling for $449.99.

Some more features:

Resolution: 3840 x 2160 (4K UHD)
Refresh rate: 120Hz / 60Hz (for 4K UHD)
Processor: Quad-core T1-938
GPU: ARM Mali Multi-core 3D GPU3GB
Memory: 3 GB
Storage: 16GB internal
Ports: HDMI x 4 (HDMI 2.0 with HDCP 2.2), Component/Composite x 1, Optical SPDIF x 1, TV/DTV x 1, USB 2.0 x 1, USB 3.0 x 1, Ethernet x 1 (10/100/1000Mbp), VGA x 1, Headphone x 1, RCA Input x 1
Wi-Fi: Dual-band, dual-antenna Wi-Fi (MIMO). Supports 802.11a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi networks.
Bluetooth: Bluetooth 4.1 + LE, with support for HFP and A2DP for private listening via Bluetooth headphones, HID, and SPP
Streaming resolution: 2160p, 1080p, and 720p up to 60fps
HDR: No

Comparison Chart:

The remote will have a voice button so you can press to talk to Alexa similar to your 2nd gen Fire TV remote.

As of now, you cannot buy this particular remote for the Element Fire TV edition by itself.

It will have other streaming apps such as Netflix, HBO, Hulu, and others what you would expect on your Fire TV stick. This is a great way to get Fire TV feature if you were looking for a TV. You can get the Element Fire TV edition and not have to buy a separate Fire TV.

How to watch Super Bowl on my Fire TV

Super Bowl weekend is here and the talk of town is where you will watch the game. Super Bowl will be broadcast by Fox channel. You can check our your local Fox affiliate through this chart from Wikipedia. This is for over the air channels you get from your antenna. If you use premium TV service such as cable or satellite, you should check your digital TV guide or your provider’s website. There may be more than one channel for Standard Definition (SD) and High Definition (HD). Some may even have a different channel for Ultra High Definition (UHK or 4K).

If you don’t have access to Fox through antenna or don’t have premium TV service, then you can stream via the Internet with your Fire TV. First, you download the Fox Sports Go app from the Amazon App store. You can also do this via your computer and have it auto install to your Fire TV.

 

Difference between Fire TV Stick and Chromecast Ultra

chromecast-ultra-1Google announced their latest streaming device, the Chromecast Ultra. Chromecast Ultra is the next step to Chromecast where you can simply plug the device into the HDMI port and cast content from the Internet. While the Fire TV Stick is a good competitor to Chromecast, Chromecast has a slight edge in terms of featured content. A lot of apps support Chromecast and even some TV’s have Google’s Casting built in such as Vizio‘s Smartcast. With Chromecast, you can cast content from Youtube and from a Chrome browser. Neat!

What Chromecast distinguished itself apart from the Fire TV Stick is the capability to stream in 4K Ultra HD / HDR. For Amazon, only the Fire TV has this capability.

Amazon’s Fire TV and Fire TV Stick’s advantage is its access to Prime videos and its library. Amazon also has more 4K content as well as exclusive content. Google Play is lacking in this area.

Both have mirroring capabilities from their respective phones but Google may have a slight edge over the ease of use.

At this event, Google also announced Google Home which has its AI, Google Assistant, which will seamlessly integrate information from various Google apps from calendar, maps, traffic, and location to give you information such as news and weather. Although Amazon’s Alexa is amazing, it doesn’t compare to the integrated offering that Google can offer. This is when the Fire phone’s failure is coming to bite Amazon.

Chromecast Ultra Amazon Fire TV Stick – Gen 2 Amazon Fire TV – 2nd Gen
Launched Nov. 2016 Sep-16 Dec. 2015
Price $69 $39.99 $99.99
HD Type All up to 4K, Ultra HD, HDR Up to 1080p – 60hz up to 2160p 4K – 30Hz
Chip CPU Marvell Armada 1500 Mni Plus Mediatek 8127D
Quad-core ARM 1.3Ghz
MediaTek 8173C
Quad-core ARM Cortex A72 (2x2Ghz, 2×1.6Ghz)
RAM 512mb 1GB 2GB
Storage 256mb 8GB 8GB
Connectivity HDMI, Wifi, Ethernet (adopter) Bluetooth 4.1, Micro USB, HDMI, WiFi Bluetooth 4.1, Micro USB, HDMI, WiFi, Ethernet, Dolby
Dimension 52x52x13.5mm 86x30x12.6mm 115x115x17.8mm
Weight 40g 32g 270g
Remote No Yes Yes

Local Channels on Fire TV

basic tv networksCan you get local channels such as CBS, NBC, ABC, FOX, CW (CBS+Warner Bros.), or Telemundo? These are channels that are widely available by using an over the air antenna for free. In some areas, these channels are not available unless you have a high power over the air antenna. This poses a problem for say people who live in apartments where installing a high power antenna on the roof is not possible. The only means to get access to these channels are through paid subscription services such as cable, fiber, or satellite TV. Cable cutters would love to swap out these paid services and stream.

I tried installing a few apps from the Amazon App store from Fire TV. It was a mixed bag of what is available vs what isn’t available. One thing that was consistent was that no apps provided live content for free. If the app from a major TV network offered live content on Fire TV, it was for people with paid subscription. As for what is available, you have a mixed bag. For example, the NBC app offered dateline episodes for free but America Ninja Warrior and America’s Got Talent required a sign in from a paid subscription.

A possible alternative would be to pay for Sling TV. With Sling TV, you get a handful of popular TV networks for $20/month.

Looks like it is not possible to truly cut the cord if your residence is outside the TV signal area.

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Turn your TV into a Digital Sign – App

I will explain how you can turn your TV into a digital sign using just an app and Fire TV stick. This is great when you want to turn your TV into a sign for a restaurant menu signage, instruction or floor plan, directory of an office building, daily schedule of the day at a hotel banquet all, funeral home, pictures at a dental office and more. Here is what you need.

The app is free for the first 30 days. After, you can sign up for an annual unlimited subscription of SignageCreator. With this subscription, there are over 1000+ templates which you can use to create your sign. Signagecreator have two pricing plans. Standard license is for $100/template for just one use. Unlimited usage is for $30/month.

If you want to make it vertical, you can change the setting on the TV and use the app and set it up the way you want.

digital sign app

Best Prime Day Deals!

Amazon’s Prime day is here and here are the best deals so far.

This is my favorite:

Amazon Echo (the lowest this has ever been!)
Regular: $179.99 but Prime Day Deal $129.99 which is 50% off!
If you have the Amazon Rewards card, you can also bring it down to $99 by using  applying the discount code VISA30.


Amazon Fire TV
Regular Price: $99.99 but with Prime Day deal $69.99 which is 30% off

 

Fire TV Stick with voice remote
Regular: $49.99 but with Prime Day Deal $34.99

Fire TV Stick without voice remote -> Regular
REgular: $39.99 but with Prime Day deal $24.99

Bonus:

Samsung UN55KU6600 Curved 55-Inch 4K Ultra HD Smart LED TV (2016 Model)
Regular: $1,247.99 but Prime Day Deal $649.99 which is 48% off

Trigger Alexa with Fire TV remote

fire tv remote alexaIn May, Amazon enable Alexa on its Fire TV remote. This allowed Fire TV owners to use Alexa as you had an Amazon Echo. If you already have an Echo, then this would not be foreign to you.

Movies / TV
With Alexa, you can trigger it to control a movie. You can ask Alexa to play a movie, TV show. It will also search from your active add-on subscriptions as well as third party apps. You can also use it to trigger a certain app.

Examples:
Play the movie [title]
Start playing the TV show [title]
Launch the app [title]
Open the [title] app

Music
You can also trigger music you have on your Prime Music library to simply listen to one of the Prime stations. You can rate a song by saying you like it or do not like the song. This will help Alexa rate the type of song it chooses for you. You can completely skip songs or rewind but cannot fast forward or rewind or change volume. Bummer. This is possible with Echo.

Audible and eBooks
Through Alexa, you can use your Fire TV to read eligible Kindle books in your library. You can even see the title and book cover on your TV. Neat!

News Flash Briefing
One great feature I love with Alexa is that you can ask her to read you the news flash. Go into the Alexa app and select your news source. You can select national, international, local news, sports, and weather source / location. All you say is “Alexa, What’s my news flash?” or “Alexa, Whats my flash briefing?” and it will read a 5-10 min briefing of the latest news from what you selected. I use it when I sit down and enjoy my breakfast. You can also set up your commute location and it’ll give you the congestion condition!

Shopping
No surprise to anyone, you can use Alexa to buy things on Amazon. It is a bit clumsy as you need to know the exact item you are interested in buying in order to buy through Alexa. If you ask Alexa to buy something, it will select the top result for that category and display the item. It is a bit easier to re-order something if it is something you have purchased in the past such as detergent, razor blades, diapers for example.

Weather / Traffic
Asking Alexa for the weather is also another one of my favorites. My kids use this almost every day to determine if they can wear shorts for the day! I don’t use the traffic much as I don’t commute to an office 🙂

Q&A / Jokes
This is kind of an easter egg hunt. You can ask “Alexa, how are you doing today?” or “Alexa, good morning” and she will read back a quote or a comment.

Wikipedia
Alexa also has access to a database of facts. You can ask how far you are to say New York city, ask for conversion such as cooking, time zone, and more. You can ask celebrities or athlete’s age!

Lists (To do / Shopping)
Alexa can aggregate shopping list and to do list. You can use it as a personal assistant to remind you to do something and check it on your Fire TV or on your app later. You can also have Alexa read out your shopping or to do list using your remote.

There are much much more features which you can do with sports scores, movie info, local search, and some features which are voice only where nothing will display on your Fire TV. For all features, check out:

https://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html?nodeId=201859020