Amazon released its latest streaming device at the beginning of April, the second generation Amazon Fire TV Stick which now comes with an Alexa Voice Remote.
Not only does it access streaming services including BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, Netflix and Amazon's own Prime Video on demand content, it can respond to voice commands in a similar way to an Amazon Echo speaker.
The same is now true of the larger, 4K-enabled Amazon Fire TV box. But whichever you own or are looking to buy, here are plenty of tips and tricks to help you get the most of your device.
- Buy the Amazon Fire TV Stick (UK) with Alexa Voice Remote for £39.99 here
- Buy the 4K Amazon Fire TV (UK) for £79.99 here
- Buy the Amazon Fire TV Stick (US) with Alexa Voice Remote for $39.99 here
- Buy the 4K Amazon Fire TV (US) for $89.99 here
With the launch of the Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote, Amazon added the ability to use its voice assistant service using the microphone button on the control that comes in the box. It also added the same functionality to the larger Fire TV with the Fire TV OS system software 184.108.40.206.
More recently, it has also added the option to use an Amazon Echo, Echo Dot or other Alexa-enabled device to also control your Fire TV, meaning you don't even need the remote at all. If you have an Echo in the room, you can simply bark commands and the Fire TV or Fire TV Stick will obey.
Alexa on Fire TV can pretty much do every an Echo can do but with the benefit of Visual Cards. You also don't need to say "Alexa" before a each request.
You ask Alexa a question by pressing down the microphone button on the remote and she will respond both orally and with graphics on your screen.
For example, say "what's the weather like?" and she'll reply for your current area. In addition, you'll see the next week's worth of forecasts on the screen.
Here are some other commands you can try:
- "What was the Liverpool score?" - or any other sport or team, of course.
- "What's on my calendar?" - you can specify days, etc too.
- "Who is the lead signer of Coldplay?" - or another band or trivia question.
- "Play Happy Mondays!" - your Fire TV will play songs from an Amazon Music or Music Unlimited account.
- "Jump forward one minute!" - all manner of commands can be made during video playback.
- "What's the traffic like?" - you need to set up your commute or travel details in the dedicated Alexa app for iOS, Android or Amazon Fire devices.
- "What's in the news?" - again, set up your favourite news source in the Alexa app; Sky News is set as the default.
You can also listen to radio shows, audiobooks and much more.
To find out more about Alexa, check out our separate guide.
Using voice search
You can also use the microphone on the remote control to search for content using your voice. Just say the name of a TV show, film, actor, director, etc, and the search results will return any relevant content.
The beauty of Amazon's new system is that not only will it return results from Amazon's services, but Netflix too. If a show or movie is on Netflix, it will appear in the results.
Amazon hopes to sign deals with other content providers to include them in search results too in future.
Take your Fire TV Stick on holiday
It is possible to take a Fire TV Stick with you on holiday as you can connect it to hotel Wi-Fi, even if the internet requires additional details to log on, such as room number. It also works if you are a student, say, and need to share dorm Wi-Fi.
Just head to Settings>Network find the network you want to connect to and if more details need to be entered, a webpage will open with the additional boxes required by the hotel or public location. It works, therefore, much like a smartphone or tablet in that way.
Once the network connection is successful, the browser window will close and you can use the Fire TV Stick.
Set your location
When you first boot your Amazon Fire TV Stick or Fire TV box you will be asked for your Amazon account details and a postcode. The former is to link it to your account, whether you have Prime membership or not. The postcode is to ensure you get accurate details based on your location, such as local weather reports through Alexa.
If you didn't set your postcode initially, or need to change it at a later date, you can find the option in Settings>Preferences>Location. Just enter your current postcode there.
- Amazon Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote review: The best media player under £40?
- Amazon Fire TV 4K review: Ultra HD frills for the masses
- Amazon Fire TV Stick or the Fire TV 4K: Which Amazon Fire streaming device is for me?
Change featured content
The homescreen features a large bar across the top which recommends content - generally from Amazon. By default, this will autoplay video trailers and the like but you can turn off that option.
Go to Settings>Preferences>Featured Content and you can switch off "Allow Video Autoplay" and "Allow Audio Autoplay" independently. By switching them off you will save internet bandwidth and use - for example, if you are on a limited data plan or are hotspotting from a mobile phone.
Turn off notifications
Certain installed apps might interrupt your viewing experience with pop-up notifications. These will likely not interfere too much, but if you want to turn them off, just head to Settings>Preferences>Notification Settings and you can either hide all notifications pop-ups by turning on "Do Not Interrupt" or switch then off on an app to app basis.
Turn off targeted advertising
Some apps on the Amazon Fire TV Stick or Fire TV, including Amazon's own, will target adverts at you depending on previous data it has gathered about your interests. You can turn this off. You'll still see adverts, but they won't be based on data gathered - indeed, data will stop being gathered about your interests and "advertising profile".
Head to Settings>Preferences>Advertising ID and you can switch them off there and/or reset your "Advertising ID".
Set up Parental Controls
The Amazon Fire TV devices offer comprehensive parental controls where you can PIN protect purchases and apps, even the Prime Photos app so a four-digit PIN is required before accessing any of those features.
In addition, you can set the viewing level available without needing a PIN. For example, if you switch on parental controls, the default viewing level is "Family" which allows all Amazon Video content rated PG and below to be viewed with a PIN. Anything rated higher requires the PIN to be entered each time. You can also set the ratings to General (U), Teen (12, 15) and Mature (18, Unrated, Not Rated).
To turn on and adjust parental controls head to Settings>Preferences>Parental Controls.
You may need to adjust parental controls for other services separately - such as Netflix.
Calibrate your display
Some apps might need you to ensure the Fire TV device is properly calibrated to your exact screen size. This will require you to check the options on your individual television, although there is a handy screen in Settings with arrows to show the correct scaling.
You can find it in Settings>Display & Sounds>Display>Calibrate Display. The grey arrows top, bottom, left and right should be visible with the point ending at each edge. If they don't, you may need to adjust your TV settings.
Set your own photos as the screensaver
If you are an Amazon Prime member, you can use your own photos, taken on a smartphone or camera and stored on the Prime Photos cloud service, as your Fire TV screensaver.
Prime Photos is a free, unlimited cloud storage service for all Prime members, which can be set to store all of your smartphone pictures automatically, uploaded to through a browser or app, or linked with a Facebook and/or Twitter account to sync images posted socially.
You can find out more about Prime Photos and how to access your account here.
If you have photos stored on Prime Photos, they can be accessed via a Prime Photos app pre-installed on a Fire TV device. You can also set them to work as your screensaver.
A Fire TV Stick or box automatically scrolls through pretty pictures of scenery if you leave a menu screen static for too long. You can change the photos it shows by going to Settings>Display & Sounds>Screen Saver. Here you will see "Amazon Collection" as the default Album, click on it and you can change it to any collection or folder of your own images you have stored on Prime Photos.
You can also change the way the pictures move on screen, the speed they refresh and the time the screensaver kicks in.
Turn off menu "clicks"
By default, the Fire TV menus click when you scroll through. You can turn this off by heading to Settings>Display & Sounds>Audio and turning Navigation Sounds to off.
Enable Miracast display mirroring
If your smartphone or tablet is able to mirror its display to a TV via Miracast, you can use it with the Fire TV or Fire TV Stick. This tends to be restricted to Android devices only.
Go to Settings>Display & Sounds>Enable Display Mirroring, click on it and it will pop up as an option to Miracast to on any compatible device.
It's easy to install apps - mainly through the homescreen or search - but less obvious as to how to uninstall them again if you want to clear some space for new downloads.
To uninstall an app, head to Settings>Applications>Manage Installed Applications and scroll down to the app you want to delete. Click on it and you can see the uninstall option three lines down.