When we first reviewed Amazon's Fire TV and Fire TV Stick, both had plenty of features that make them viable contenders in the streaming device market. Last month, Amazon launched significant updates that bring new features to both Fire TV devices. So let's take a look.
Expand Fire TV storage space
Amazon's Fire TV set-top box has a lot of power under the hood, which makes it a viable gaming machine for casual gamers. But you’ll likely find that the included 8 GB of internal storage is simply not enough space. Previously the USB port on the back of the device was locked down and couldn't be used for storage devices, but thanks to the recent updates, additional storage space can easily be added via a USB flash drive. Note that this update is for the Fire TV box only.
For best performance, Amazon recommends using a USB 3.0 flash drive that's 128 GB or smaller, and external hard drives are not supported. When you plug in your flash drive, depending on the type, you might see a message that you need to let Fire TV format it to FAT32, as shown in the screenshot below.
It only takes a couple of seconds to format the drive, and when it's done, go to Settings > About > Storage and you should see the extra external space listed.
Now you can move games and apps between the USB flash storage and the internal storage of the Fire TV. To do that, go to Settings > Applications > Manage Installed Applications. Then select the game or app you want to move from the internal storage to the flash drive and choose Move to USB Storage. This menu section also lets you manage your apps in other ways, such as uninstalling apps or moving them back to the Fire TV's internal storage.
Connect Bluetooth headphones
This feature, which is also only available for the Fire TV set-top box, allows you to keep enjoying content after everyone has gone to bed. To pair your Bluetooth headphones, go to Settings > Controllers and Bluetooth Devices > Other Bluetooth Devices. Power on your headphones, put them in pairing mode and wait for the Fire TV to detect them. Once pairing is complete, audio from the movies, music, or other content will be routed to your headphones instead of the TV.
Curated Prime Music playlists
If you're an Amazon Prime member, you can now subscribe to curated playlists that are based on your mood, type of activity you're doing, artists and genres, or a music decade. This feature is available for the Fire TV and Fire TV Stick.
New control options
Another improvement is a new shortcut menu that lets you put your Fire TV to sleep, enable display mirroring or access settings. Just press and hold the home button on the remote for the onscreen menu shown below to pop up. This feature works on the Fire TV box and the Fire TV Stick.
This update also includes a couple other extras. The Fire Stick is a perfect choice for travel, and it now will be compatible with Wi-Fi authentication systems. This will force the device to see the special sign in web page that you commonly see in hotels and even colleges. It also hides your PIN number when entering it on the screen. If you have parental controls enabled, this will help keep your kids from stealing a look at it and get into things they shouldn't.
One thing I would like to see with the storage expansion feature, is an option to install apps from the store directly to the flash drive. Perhaps a dialog asking where you want to install the app (internal or external storage), or a setting to always install new apps to flash storage would be nice. But that's nitpicking, and being able to expand the storage space of the box is a much needed improvement.
Also, if you're new to the device, make sure to read our article on how to get started with Fire TV.