April 17, 2017

Alexa comes on TV: The new Amazon Fire TV Stick in the test

Alexa comes on TV: The new Amazon Fire TV Stick in the test

Is ernsehen much more than football, "Tatort" and "Germany Idol": Streaming expands the program selection almost to infinity. Providers such as Amazon and Netflix offer Internet series and films in abundance. Streaming devices like the Amazon Fire TV Stick bring the new variety to almost any TV: simply plug into an HDMI port, register at the local WLAN - ready. And with 40 euros is not even expensive. Amazon now comes with a new version of its Fire TV Stick. He can now also use Amazon's language assistant Alexa. COMPUTER BILD has tried it out and reveals what it is good for. 

30% faster and more memory
Externally hardly changed anything, the stick is still an insignificant box with HDMI plug. However, he has become an inch longer and half a centimeter thicker. Behind the TV can be tight. In the event that the HDMI connections are too close to the TV, Amzon provides a small extension. On the side of the stick is a micro-USB port for power supply via the supplied power supply or a free USB of the TV. Amazon's own life has completely revised the inner life. Now a four core processor is working on the Fire TV Stick, supported by 1 gigabyte of memory and 8 gigabytes for apps. The test showed: Thanks to the new hardware loading apps faster and movies start faster - by about 30 percent, for example, the waiting time at the start is reduced. The Fire TV Stick now also handles the modern HEVC video format (H.265). This allows very good image quality at low data rates and is used, for example, on Amazon series to achieve good HD quality, even over-fast Internet lines with around 5 MBit / s. More than Full HD, the stick does not continue. Only one thing is missing: The volume buttons on the remote control.

Amazon Fire TV Stick: New menus and better search
In addition to the inner life, Amazon renovated the user interface. While the categories movies, series, apps and games were arranged in the main menu, they now appear as a horizontal bar at the top of the menu. Underneath this, preview clips with film and series recommendations are automatically started. This looks fresh and colorful, the quieter predecessor version had its advantages and led at least as fast to the desired content. More important are the newly added elements: Installed apps, such as media counters or news providers, can now be sorted and arranged at will. The recommendations mentioned by Amazon are no longer limited to films and series from the Amazon program, the user gets individual tips, such as from Netflix. If he is looking for a film or series, The Amazon and, for example, Netflix in the program, the menu lists both hits - and both prices. Amazon promises to always show the most favorable variant for the customers in the first place. 

Amazon Fire TV Stick: Alexa helps at the push of a button
The search provides the keyword for the most important update on the Fire TV stick. For a year now there is a version with microphone and associated button on the remote control. This allows movies and series to be searched for by language. The new Fire TV Stick can also talk with Alexa. Alexa is the Siri of Amazon, so a so-called Sprachassistentin. It answers questions about the weather or football results, plays desired music, such as Spotify or Internet radio, and controls more and more compatible products in a networked house: "Alexa, turn off the light" switches about the smart Hue lamps from Philips out; Heating thermostats can also be set or blinds can be opened. For these tasks and links to other equipment and services, so-called skills are available. Skills are also available, for example, to order a taxi or a pizza. All this has been required by the specially designed loudspeakers Amazon Echo or Echo Dot. While they are constantly listening and forwarding the spoken word to Alexa, or computer, for analysis via the Internet to Alexa, Alexa needs to press the microfont button on the Fire TV Stick. The password "Alexa" is therefore superfluous. It is enough to press the microphone button and say "soccer". The Fire TV signals Alexa's activity with a blue stripe at the top of the screen. After a short pause and search, the menu on the TV screen offers relevant films such as Biographies of Ronaldo and Messi, the ARD Media Library, the Apps of Kicker and DAZN with Bundesliga game summaries. You can also ask for player results and gets them parallel from Alexa announced and displayed on the TV screen. Several other features with Alexa are announced, for example, to control the TV streaming service Waipu by voice.

To turn the HDMI control off (Settings - Sounds and Screen - HDMI CEC Device Control Off) so that the Fire TV Stick does not switch on the TV with any voice command. Alexa also makes movie viewing more comfortable. With commands like "2 minutes back" and "10 minutes before", viewers navigate in the current program. Film and serial fans, however, quickly reach the limits of Alexa. "Continue my series" for example Alexa answers with "I do not know how I can help you." Film and serial fans, however, quickly reach the limits of Alexa. "Continue my series" for example, Alexa answers with "I do not know how I can help you." Film and serial fans, however, quickly reach the limits of Alexa. "Continue my series" for example, Alexa answers with "I do not know how I can help you."

Amazon Fire TV Stick: Prices, Availability and Update
Even with a new interior life, the Fire TV Stick remains very cheap, the price of 39.99 euros is even 10 euros below the previous model with simple language search. It is already pre-orderable , the sale starts on April 20, 2017 via Amazon and relevant stores like Media Markt and Saturn. For old sticks and for the Fire TV boxes, Amazon announced an Alexa software update, still without a specific date. For owners of an old Fire TV Stick without language search on the remote control, Amazon offers the voice remote control separately for 25 euros. With its test score of 1.52, the new Fire TV Stick just scrapes past a "very good" and is thus in front of the Apple TV 4 and before Google Chromeecast .

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