One and a half years ago, we reviewed the Amazon Fire TV–a device that had A Lot of Problems, yet A Lot of Potential. Given the incremental nature of the hardware update, so too will this be an incremental review that will explore what's improved, what still needs improved, and what's new. It's recommended to take a gander at the first-generation Fire TV review to best contextualize things.
From the first moment, Amazon's consistency in the out of box experience is evident. Step for step equal to the previous Fire TV model, including (at time of review) the introduction video, there are zero surprises. The box-seal unzips, the appliance plugs into a television, hold the remote's Home Button, select a language, connect to Wi-Fi, log into an Amazon account–it's all a clinic in first-use experience.
With a new model also comes a new processor and graphics combo, purportedly 75% faster than the previous edition. During use, it's easy to believe. While the first edition bogs down a bit sometimes, the new solution breezes through menus and voice commands with minimal lag. This is a bit more exciting with voice commands being slightly expanded (and rebranded) as Alexa, a search that gives a few Siri-like options.
Also welcome in the new unit, stemming from an update that came halfway through the previous model's lifespan, is expandable memory. 8GB isn't a huge amount of memory when games come into the picture, and flash drives can be slow and don't mesh with the clean lines of the unit, so a MicroSD card slot is an exciting addition.
Other minor improvements are seen in the new unit's materials. Soft touch plastic is gone, replaced with a far more typical and far less fingerprint-magnetic standard plastic. The remote is a slight bit larger, lighter, and purportedly has a longer battery life due to Wi-Fi direct replacing bluetooth. A gaming controller (still a few days away, and will be reported on when it releases) has reportedly seen similar improvements.
In every single point of the unit Amazon can directly control, they've improved.
…Then you get into the app ecosystem. Compatibility between the first and second edition is still spotty, with several games not yet being updated for the new Fire TV until nearly a week post-release. Some major titles are still in limbo. Some apps still refer to a touchscreen or the voice remote, ignoring the controller. It's still a bit of a mess, but a big step above where the ecosystem started.
Is the Fire TV (2nd Generation) worth the upgrade? Maybe. Is it worth a buy for new users? Definitely. There have been some solid strides in the last 18 months, and the best streaming device currently available just got better.