Review: Amazon Fire Game Controller
The ability to run quality mobile games that scale up for the big screen help separate the Fire TV from other streaming set-top-boxes currently on the market. While there are some casual games you can play with the included remote, the optional Amazon Fire Game Controller is designed for more sophisticated games like first-person shooters and racing games. Here's our look at the device and whether it's likely to be a good fit for you.
The design of the Amazon Fire Game Controller is similar to those designed for dedicated gaming consoles and at 6 x 4.2 x 2.4 in (153 x 107 x 60 mm) and just 9.8 oz (277 g) with two AA batteries, it sits comfortably in your hands. It uses Bluetooth HID 3.0+EDR technology, which gives it a wireless range of around 30 ft (9 m).
Using the Fire TV Game Controller
The controller includes two AA batteries that Amazon says will provide up to 55 hours of battery life. When not in use, the controller will turn off automatically after a short period of time to help save on battery juice. After popping in the batteries for the first time, you'll see four small flashing blue lights at the top of the controller while it's looking for the Fire TV to connect to.
But before if can connect, you'll need to pair it with your set-top box. To do that, head to Settings > Controllers > Bluetooth Game Controllers > Add Bluetooth Controllers and follow the on screen instructions. The process is simple, requiring you to hold down the Home button on the controller for five seconds while the two are paired up.
After that you'll be ready to start playing the games specifically designed or it, as well as the games made for the remote control. You can configure the controller for each game in the settings, like in the example below for the game Sev Zero.
The game controller also has video and music playback controls below the directional pad, and you can navigate through the Fire TV interface with the controller as well. However, you only get the benefit of voice search on the Fire TV remote, so you'll want to have that handy when finding content to watch.
It's a well built controller with the analog sticks, triggers, front-facing buttons, and directional pad all solid and responsive. It also includes a Home, Back, and Menu button. The other front-facing button is for the Amazon Game Circle, which brings up your Game Circle profile to see things like game achievements and leaderboards.
I've played several different games with the device and haven't noticed any stuttering or lag with the connection or game play. At the same time, using the controller as a remote control is just as responsive, and the ability to control video and music playback directly from the controller is an added bonus.
If you want to take advantage of the more complex games on the Fire TV, then I definitely recommend getting the controller because you'll be able to play games that are optimized for it. And if you purchase it at the right time, you can get a bonus. For example, I was able to download two free games, Sev Zero and The Game of Life from EA.
Another thing worth mentioning is the Fire TV got a recent update that adds the ability to play tablet-style games as they're ported over. This means even more quality games will be added to the Fire TV library.
The Amazon Fire Game Controller retails for US$39.99, with Amazon also offering a Fire TV Gamers Bundle for $124.00, which includes Fire TV, the controller, HDMI cable, and two free games.
If you're thinking about getting a new set-top box that includes quality gaming capabilities, make sure to read our initial review of the Fire TV here sans the game controller.