Amazon Fire TV Brings Streaming Content to Television

April 9, 2014

Amazon Fire TVA friend of mine sent me a message a few days ago with a tech question. It seems all my friends know I’m the go to person for geeky questions. In this case she wanted to know how to connect her laptop to her television to watch Netflix.

There is no single answer to this question, rather there are multiple answers. I personally don’t have a Netflix subscription, but I do have other online content that I occasionally watch via my laptop. If the laptop has an HDMI port, one of the simplest and least expensive ways to connect the two is to use an HDMI cable.

I use an HDMI cable to connect my laptop to the television on the few occasions I’m watching online content. This might be a total of half a dozen times a year at most. It isn’t elegant, but it is inexpensive and easy for me.

A second option is to have a “smart” television with built-in apps for streaming services. The television I watch most often has these apps, but they don’t support the content I stream those few times a year so I haven’t used the feature much. If I were a Netflix subscriber, it probably would be a good option for me.

The third option is to have some sort of a box that connects to the Internet directly and makes streaming content available to your television. In essence, the box is the “smart” part of the television and costs a lot less than a new television. Ideally the box also provides the ability to update itself occasionally to add new apps for additional services and features. Boxes such as Roku and Apple TV have been around for a few years. Last week Amazon entered the market with Fire TV and it is a good choice for many users.

First and foremost, none of these boxes is perfect. Each has its pros and cons. Amazon Fire TV stacks up very well against the competition and it would be my choice if I were in the market for such a device. I’m not, but it was what I suggested for my friend.

The box itself is very small as you can see in the picture above right. It is 4.5 inches square and less than an inch thick weighing a little over half a pound. You can connect it via WiFi or plug in an Ethernet cable directly. Obviously it needs a good Internet connection if it is going to stream content.

If you already are an Amazon Prime subscriber, you can watch all of the content Amazon supplies to you. Yes, it supports watching Netflix content if you have a Netflix subscription. Those are the two biggest names on the list of supported steaming services, but there are many more so check the full list to see if your favorites are there.

One of the other differentiating features is the ability to play some games via Amazon Fire TV. I’m not a gamer so I can’t really say if it will have worthy games to play. They certainly won’t compare in quality to those on a Playstation or Xbox. Yet it is a nice additional feature.

Amazon claims it is extremely easy to set up and some of it comes preconfigured in the box. In their ads, they emphasize how you are able to speak search commands so that it is very easy to find what you want to watch.

You’ll still need an HDMI cable to connect Amazon Fire TV to your television (it isn’t included). But having a little box sitting next to your television with some mostly hidden cabling is a lot more elegant solution than stringing a cable from your laptop to the television. It works for the few times I need it, but it looks pretty ugly having the cable running across the room. If you are a big fan of watching (or listening to) streaming content, I’d say the Amazon Fire TV could be $99 well spent!

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