Amazon's newest Alexa-enabled device brings its voice assistant straight into your living room. The Amazon Fire TV Edition from Element was rolled out just before Prime Day, and with a starting price of $449 for a 43-inch set, it was one of the more popular items.
But just how good is it in everyday use? To answer that, we interviewed Evan Schapiro, executive producer for Purch Studios (the video and photo division of Tom's Guide's parent company, Purch), who purchased the 55-inch Element model. Now that he's been using the Fire TV Edition for a few weeks, here are his pros and cons.
Why he chose Amazon
Schapiro was replacing a 10-year-old 46-inch Samsung TV that had been hanging above his fireplace. "It wasn't 4K, it was not a smart TV and all the color had gone out," he said. "What attracted me [to the Amazon TV] was the price. I got it on Prime Day for $399 — it now costs $649 — and it was too good of a deal to pass up. I knew nothing about Element, but for the price, how bad could it be?”
Setting up the TV
"[The TV] got here on Thursday as expected, [with] no damage," he said. "There was no issue mounting it to the wall. I would say the entire setup was maybe a half-hour," most of which was spent removing the old TV and putting up the new one.
Schapiro liked the TV's simple design, but the little-known company's logo, located in the middle of the lower bezel, was pretty prominent. "What the hell is Element?" he said.
Like its Kindle and Fire tablets, Amazon pre-configures its Fire TV with the customer’s Amazon account. "When I turned on the TV, it said my name," he said. "I was taken aback by that. It knew who I was. So that was cool."
Schapiro thought the remote was easy to use but disliked that he had to hold the microphone button to use Alexa. Because the remote is so small, though, "it gets stuck in our couch cushions,” he said.
He added, “I like the fact that it's pretty minimal. You have Prime Video, Music and Netflix buttons, which get you where you need to go quicker."
"I've never had a smart TV before, so it's been novel to just scroll through these apps," Schapiro said. "I've started watching The Man In the High Castle on Amazon, and my daughter can't stop watching Netflix."
His 7-year-old daughter quickly picked up on how to use Amazon's voice assistant, but because they're a Mac-centric house, "sometimes she calls it Siri; sometimes she calls it Alexa," Schapiro said.
His family uses Alexa mainly to look up movies. "We say, 'Show me Disney movies,' and the latest, Moana, comes up," he said. "We've used it to play music from Amazon music, too," he said, adding that he liked that the TV also shows lyrics on-screen.
Schapiro said his family's use of cable for content has decreased dramatically since purchasing a smart TV. "We have not, for the most part, switched over to Verizon Fios," he said. "We have been playing Amazon Prime content and Netflix every day, and I don't feel like I'm missing anything in terms of fun shows that my kids and I like. My entertainment fix is satisfied. The TV is a really easy way to access that content."
"This," he added, "is what I wanted [the rumored] Apple TV to be."
Picture quality and interface
Ironically, despite getting a 4K set, Schapiro chose not to upgrade his Netflix subscription to get 4K streaming. "but I'd be curious how big a difference is it," he said.
Overall, though, he liked the picture quality. "I think it's sharp; it looks good," he said. "Is it amazing? I don't know. Is it sufficient? Absolutely."
Schapiro found the interface clean and easy to use.
"It reminds me of my third-generation Apple TV," he said. However, he would like it to be more customizable. "For the most part, it's just a number of tiles," he said. "I wish I could make a row of my games, or row of my channels," rather than just show all of the content that's available, he added. However, Schapiro admitted that he's still exploring all of the TV's features.
Schapiro has been pleased with Amazon's TV and the integration with Alexa, but the discounted price of the Amazon TV — $399 on Prime Day, versus its regular price of $649 — was the main attraction for him.
"I had been eyeing a 60-inch LG at Best Buy that was on sale for $649 on Prime Day," he said. "Due to the LG brand name and the slightly larger size, I probably would have went with that.My daughter would have missed Alexa, but we would never have known how fun,cool and easy that integration was. But at $399, this was too good a deal to pass up."
Credit: Evan Schapiro/Tom's Guide
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Michael A. Prospero is the U.S. Editor-in-Chief for Tom’s Guide. He oversees all evergreen content and oversees the Homes, Smart Home, and Fitness/Wearables categories for the site. In his spare time, he also tests out the latest drones, electric scooters, and smart home gadgets, such as video doorbells. Before his tenure at Tom's Guide, he was the Reviews Editor for Laptop Magazine, a reporter at Fast Company, the Times of Trenton, and, many eons back, an intern at George magazine. He received his undergraduate degree from Boston College, where he worked on the campus newspaper The Heights, and then attended the Columbia University school of Journalism. When he’s not testing out the latest running watch, electric scooter, or skiing or training for a marathon, he’s probably using the latest sous vide machine, smoker, or pizza oven, to the delight — or chagrin — of his family.