Amazon’s been releasing and iterating on its Fire TV streaming gadget line for six years. Now it is constructed into varied TVs and bought in sticks and cubes. However one fixed has remained: a bloated, ad-filled consumer interface that lags behind the competitors.
Not anymore, although.
The rollout for what the corporate is looking the “new Hearth TV Expertise” has begun, with help coming to almost all Hearth TV merchandise by early 2021 — apart from first-generation Hearth TV and Hearth TV Stick units. Amazon’s said aim is to make it sooner and simpler to search out what you need to watch with a variety of quality-of-life upgrades. I used to be capable of check out the interface overhaul and am happy to report it is a noticeable improve, although not one with out some kinks to iron out sooner or later.
The Good: Horizontal structure, stay TV integration, profiles
Previous to this replace, the Hearth TV interface had a half-dozen tabs on the prime of the display for issues like films, TV exhibits, and apps. There was additionally a house display that kind of vomited all of these issues out collectively primarily based totally on what you had been watching just lately, with advertisements for Prime Video exhibits and films taking on a ton of area on the highest half of the display.
You will nonetheless get a scrolling number of well timed advertisements on the prime of the display now, however Amazon condensed every little thing else into simply 4 tabs within the center part: Library, House, Discover, and Reside. Scrolling to any of those tabs will unfold their contents onto the underside half of the display. On to the correct of those tabs is a customizable row of six apps, together with a button taking you to each app you’ve got put in and one other one for the settings menu.
Assuming you solely ever want six apps for every little thing you watch, that is nice. Your necessities won’t ever be greater than a few directional button presses away. Amazon additionally included one thing known as “App Peeks” that can preview common exhibits and films inside supported apps like Hulu and Netflix within the backside space in the event you scroll over them in the primary app bar. In case you see the primary The Lord of the Rings film hanging out down under as you scroll previous Hulu, simply spotlight it and you can begin watching it straight from the primary menu, for instance.
The “Library” tab is fairly self-explanatory, because it’s the place you go to search out any films or exhibits you have bought digitally from Amazon. I’ve solely ever purchased John Wick Chapter 3 that method, so it is good to have a devoted part only for after I need to see the cool fight in the knife museum from the start of that film. (It is known as having priorities, people.)
The “Discover” tab can be simple, supplying you with methods to look via fundamental classes like films and TV, and extra particular ones like documentaries, sports activities, and so forth. It ought to go with out saying which you could additionally search utilizing Alexa voice instructions, which is all the time going to be sooner than typing one thing out utilizing a streaming distant.
“House” operates equally to the way it did earlier than, supplying you with a smorgasbord of apps you have used just lately, sponsored content material, and suggestions primarily based in your watch historical past. It is nonetheless somewhat busy for my tastes. However the truth that you will get by with out ever even taking a look at it because of the brand new app bar negates most of my complaints.
Lastly, the “Reside” tab bundles collectively no matter stay subscriptions you log into on the Hearth TV gadget so that you need not open these particular person apps. For instance, I logged into my Sling account so I can entry a fundamental channel information straight from the Hearth TV menu and discover one thing to observe with out going via the hassle of opening Sling. That is truly an enchancment over my favourite streaming gadget and interface this 12 months, the Chromecast with Google TV, because the stay TV tab there solely helps YouTube TV in the intervening time.
These are all sensible enhancements that hasten the method of attending to your exhibits and films (or stay sports activities, in my case), particularly contemplating how slick and responsive the UI is total. I skilled some noteworthy lag for possibly half an hour after organising the Hearth TV Stick Amazon supplied for testing, however as soon as I downloaded my apps and every little thing settled in, it grew to become fairly breezy. That I used to be capable of dart across the interface and discover what I needed largely with out interested by it’s a excessive praise.
One final enchancment I am going to speak about is the addition of profiles. These work precisely as they do all over the place else: Every one who needs to make use of the Hearth TV gadget in a family could make their very own profile and customise the interface to their liking. Whereas not strictly mandatory, this may even be certain that you aren’t getting content material suggestions primarily based on issues your dad watched. It is small and doubtless overdue, however hey, we’ll take it.
The Unhealthy: Small essential app row, outstanding SponCon
I haven’t got lots of gripes with the brand new Hearth TV interface, however there are nonetheless a few issues I want have been higher.
First up is the omnipresent horizontal app row, which as I’ve beforehand said is a superb addition that speeds issues up tremendously. Sadly, six slots simply is not sufficient to work with relying in your particular person wants. It is most likely simpler in the event you’re not a sports activities fan, however my must have ESPN and Fox Sports activities be rapidly accessible means I actually solely have 4 slots for normal streaming providers.
This is likely one of the areas the place the Chromecast with Google TV nonetheless outpaces Hearth TV. That gadget’s interface provides you at the least twice that many dwelling display slots for its horizontal app row, so there isn’t any actual comparability. That mentioned, Amazon’s saving grace here’s a part for apps you have used just lately within the “House” tab. In case you’ve used something that could not match within the app row, it’s going to at the least be pretty simple to get to that method.
Even that is not with out issues, nonetheless. You must scroll down previous a large horizontal scroll of sponsored content material within the “House” tab to entry your current apps. Sure, you learn that proper: SponCon is given precedence over one thing as fundamental as “listed here are the previous couple of apps you used.” I do not care if Crimson Bull paid Amazon to promote Crimson Bull TV on my dwelling display! Put that some place else!
Except for these two quibbles, I am going to give Amazon credit score for a largely clever Hearth TV redesign that lets customers lower to the chase sooner than they may earlier than. It is cleaner and snappier than the outdated UI, and the addition of profiles might be a boon to multi-user households. I might nonetheless most likely advocate the brand new Chromecast with Google TV over this, however I am unable to complain in regards to the hole between the 2 being nearer than it was once.