Amazon Fire vs Apple TV 2016 Edition

An Honest Comparison of Amazon Fire TV Box vs Apple TV 4th Gen

Backstory:

I recently purchased both the Amazon Fire TV Box and the 4th Gen Apple TV in my effort to “cut the cord”.  My cable bill with Xfinity is out of control and I am quite fed up with paying $230 bucks a month for their triple play bundle.  Considering the atrocious amount that they are charging me, I am not even using the damn phone anymore because all I am getting are telemarketers.  The only reason I am keeping it is because it’s a cool number, and it does give me free international calling to China. Oh, the vanity. But before I go into details of this comparison, I just want to declare that I am not a super technical person, nor is this comparison scientifically accurate or well-researched in any way. I am your everyday, lazy but semi-informed user. I know what an HDMI cord look like and where to plug it into devices, but if you ask me to explain to you what’s the difference hyperthreading and logical cores, well, then you’re SOL.

But if you’re asking if getting both the Amazon and Apple boxes helped my transition – the answer is, no. Not yet anyway, because I still have my cable.  I haven’t cut the cord entirely because I realize I can’t rely just on Netflix.  For $8, Netflix is king.  It beats Hulu’s $12 premium ad- free cost per month of TV-centric programming, and it is double of Amazon’s streaming vault (which comes in at about $99 a year).  Sling TV is the only thing I am also considering next because it has some of the basic channels I actually watch TV for, and that’s $20 bucks a month. Amazon Prime Video costs but one of the reasons why I am still keeping cable is because I still can’t quite figure out the perfect formula for coping with serial endurance cable television viewing dependencies.  Maybe I just need to pick a few content provider and stick with it.

My View Habits:

My TV viewing habits are all over the place. Sometimes I go on for weeks without turning the TV on, and there are days where I just lay in front of the TV like a vegetable for 5 hours straight watching the Secret History of ____.

Where to Buy

Amazon Fire Box – buy it directly from Amazon, it’s $100 shipped not including taxes.

Apple TV – Apple.com. If it’s back in stock, RadioShack (they’re still around!?)
Believe it or not – they are, and for the longest time, their Black Friday deal on the 32GB model was only $120 shipped. Now I think it jumped back up to about $150 which is same as everywhere else.

First Impressions

Both are impressive with their packaging. It’s how oddly well done the Amazon charger was – it was very sleek. The Amazon Fire TV box, however, is nice and black, but also very sharp corners so just be careful with that. In terms of Apple TV, it’s a lot thicker than the Amazon TV box. Simple elegant sleek black Apple packaging.

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The Remote

Amazon failed so hard with their remote that I can’t even. Think 1993 Panasonic TV Remote but smaller.  Apple nailed their 4th generation remote. The control is easy, seamless, no batteries required, well made, and it’s motion/distance sensing thing is fantastic.  Just the feel of your hand alone is a huge difference. Amazon’s comes with batteries, but the Apple remote charges on a lighting cable.   I feel like I was going to get a carpal tunnel putting in my login info with the Amazon remote. It’s bad folks. Fire your hardware people, Amazon. Might not look much different in my crappy photos below, but when you’re using it, it is a world of difference.

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The Biggest Problem

A lot of these streaming boxes boasts that you can watch all these channels and yadiyadi look at all the cool streams you can have access to! But they all require one thing: subscription to existing service providers. Meaning – I can’t watch NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship on TBS because it’s something I would have to log in through Time Warner Cable or Xfinity. So the whole point of cutting the cord with these as replacement TV boxes is moot. The user interface for both systems was good, but Apple wins by a close margin. It was a much more intuitive, easier to learn experience. The fact that my iCloud photo stream shows up when I turn it on gives me an odd sense of familiarity and elicits an”oh would you look at that” reaction. Not that Amazon’s was terribad, but Apple just knows what they’re doing into making things simple and easy-to-use, and as someone who makes a living making UIs and thinking about UX for software design, that’s no easy feat to accomplish in such a polished degree.

The Good, Bad, and Ugly

Even with the KODI plugin, jailbreaking the Amazon Fire Box to watch streams is still something that’s incomparable to paid tv subscription in terms of quality and speed. Duh. I know you can’t compare free to paid subscriptions.  These plugin streams are so crappy, that you might as well torrent it.  Especially when 5/6 of the movies I tried to stream on KODI didn’t work, and when it did, it died halfway through the stream almost every single time and the Amazon Fire TV Box restarted on it’s own.  Oh did I mention it crashes quite a bit? The picture on the stream was also pretty crappy. I know the box says 4K capability but I am not seeing it with my cable connection via wifi. Maybe I’ll have to run a cat5 cable  in order for it to work, but who’s got time to run that ugly wire through the house? Ain’t nobody got time fo dat.  I didn’t even try KODI with the Apple TV because I was so disappointed with it on the Amazon Fire TV. But at least the 1080p looks good, and the picture looks significantly better than Amazon Fire TV Box on the exact same wifi connection on the same app.  Weird.

The Final Verdict

Without spending more money on any additional subscription services other than Netflix, out of the box, Apple wins hands down on design, user experience, and solid software/hardware performance. It loads faster, more smoothly, and it’s just an easier thing to use at the end of the day. Amazon wins at the price point, but Apple’s remote is so much better, that alone deserves it’s own award. Get the Apple TV if you want a good user experience. If you want to save money, get a Chrome stick. Or better yet, buy an older generation Apple TV. I heard great things about Roku 2. But I think I am done with streaming boxes for now.

So will I ever cut the cord? I am not sure, but I sure as hell am trying.

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