Amazon recently released its streaming set-top box, Fire TV, that competes with Apple TV and Roku. Using it is straight-forward for basic tasks, but there are other features you can use to get more from the experience. Here's a look at some Fire TV features that aren't immediately apparent.
Use a kindle Fire HDX for a second screen experienceIf you have a Kindle Fire HD or HDX, you can use it for a second screen experience. What that means is, while you're watching Amazon content on the TV, your tablet can be used for checking out profiles of characters and actors in a certain scene on your tablet. The information comes from IMDB and also includes some trivia. Another thing you can do is control playback from the Kindle Fire.
To set it up, on the Fire TV go to Settings > Second Screen and switch it to ON.
The shot below is an example of the second screen experience. You can find actors in current scenes and the entire movie, and there's plenty of trivia to boot.
Mirror the Kindle Fire HDX to Fire TVWhen we took a look at streaming video from the Kindle Fire HDX to the big screen,
Send video from the Kindle Fire HDX to the big screenWhile watching movies and TV from Amazon on the
Send YouTube videos to Fire TVWhile Amazon's Fire TV includes a YouTube app, you can also stream YouTube videos from your Android or iOS device. Just launch the YouTube app on your device, then tap the "cast" icon. When experimenting with this, I had to first pair the Fire TV with my computer, and it works fine. I was also successful with iOS 7 and the
Delete voice search cache from Amazon serversWhile the voice search feature via the remote is one of the Fire TV's selling points, it does save your search information on Amazon servers. According to the company: "When you use voice search on this Amazon Fire TV, we keep the voice recordings associated with your account to learn your voice and how you speak to improve the accuracy of the results provided to you and to improve our services."
If you're privacy conscious and would rather the voice searches not be saved, it is possible to delete them. Log in to your Amazon account and go to Your Account > Manage Your Content and Devices. That will give you a list of each Amazon device you own. Select your Fire TV and then click Manage Voice Recordings listed underneath it. Then confirm the action when the dialog box comes up.
Delete ASAP cacheThe ASAP feature on Fire TV buffers TV and movies you're about to watch, so they play back instantly. Depending on how much you watch, that can take up space on the internal 8GB drive. I've had the Fire TV for a couple of weeks now and haven't seen too much space being used, but knowing how to clear up that space might come in handy one day – especially if your drive is full of games and other apps. To delete it and other app cache, go to
Use Parental ControlsIf you have kids, parental controls are important on any piece of technology. Parental controls on Fire TV allow you to set up a PIN to block certain types of Amazon video and game content and prevent purchases. With parental controls on, you need to enter your PIN to essentially watch any videos or play games. This gives you control over Amazon content, but not apps like Netflix or Hulu Plus. To protect that content, you need to go in those apps and set up its parental control feature.
Stream your photos and set a screen saverApple TV users are familiar with sending photos from their iOS devices to the big screen. Now, with the Fire TV, you can do the same. The photos will need to be stored on
Then to display your photos on your Fire TV, go to Photos on the main menu. Then select Albums or All to find the ones you want. There you can start a slide show or set a photo album as your screen saver.
Remove recent items from home screenJust like on a Kindle Fire tablet, the Fire TV has a carousel at the top that shows recent items. If you don't want certain items showing up, they can be removed. From the main menu, under recent, select the item you want gone and select the Remove from Recent button underneath it.
More features on the wayThere are a few popular music apps included like Pandora, but the company says its Amazon Music Cloud player will be available soon. Currently you can't access your local video or music collection from an external drive, even though there's a USB 2.0 port. Company execs say the port is meant for accessories as well as developer support. But once the Amazon Cloud Player is ready, you can upload your songs to it and play them.
FreeTime for kids is another feature that works with parental controls and limits the amount of time your kid can watch videos and play games. It also lets you create personalized profiles for each of your children. The FreeTime service is a subscription that will cost US$2.99 per month, and is said to be arriving in the coming weeks.