By Dan Moren
February 20, 2015 6:00 AM PT
The Fire TV is now my go-to set-top box
Honestly, I didn’t think it would happen, but it has: the Amazon Fire TV has taken over my living room.
And I don’t mean in a creepy, mind control, conspiracy-theorish way—much to my own surprise. But over the last month or two, it’s proved itself useful in ways that my previous set-top box of choice, the Apple TV, has not.
I like the Apple TV, don’t get me wrong, but it’s just been sitting there stagnating for a while now. Its last remaining advantages—AirPlay and the iTunes Store—have lost some of their luster, thanks to the breadth of content available on the Fire TV.
But the kicker here is that the Fire TV actually works. My Apple TV has been plagued by poor performance and repeated crashes—sometimes right in the middle of a show. Every time that’s happened, it’s been faster to switch inputs to my Fire TV and resume the video there than it has been to wait for the Apple TV to finish its glacial restarting process.
The other major advantage of the Fire TV remains its access to Plex. I have a Mac mini that acts as a server and a media center, but in the latter capacity it’s become less and less useful as content options in other places, like Hulu, have expanded. There are still a few things I use Plex for, but it’s proven to be a pain to navigate my Mac mini with either my Harmony remote or my iPhone.
I long wanted there to be a Plex app for the Apple TV, and while a workaround does exist, the Fire TV makes it a lot easier, with a very nice Plex app that works smashingly. Which means that the Fire TV has, in essence, replaced two of the devices connected to my TV. 1
The Fire TV isn’t perfect. It won’t work with my Harmony universal remote, because its remote relies on Bluetooth instead of infrared, I often don’t love the user interface choices (the Hulu app seems particularly ugly, but that may not be Amazon’s fault), and I wish content from other services was integrated a little better. But it’s hard to argue with something that works, and most of the time the Fire TV works quite well.
Either way, though, there’s still a lot of room for improvement in the set-top box market, and Apple’s hopefully had the time to devote to turning out something truly great. In other words, the ball is in Apple’s court.
I don’t think that it will replace the Xbox 360, aka the dedicated Destiny-playing machine, anytime soon, however. ↩
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