Streaming apps give Amazon’s behemoth smart display much-needed purpose.
Amazon devices have become ubiquitous in the smart home debate, and the number of Alexa devices available is numerous, including speakers, cameras, thermostats, TVs, touchscreen displays, and so on. However, some are more immediately useful than others. Which was the overarching flaw in our Echo Show 15 review?
It has the largest display in the Echo Show lineup (15.6 inches) and the same functionality as other Show devices, albeit on a larger scale. It’s supposed to be a central Alexa hub, but we couldn’t figure out where it fit in our house. With the addition of Fire TV, the Echo Show 15 is poised to be a kitchen TV replacement, with large widgets that can be seen from a distance and a personalised Alexa experience thanks to Visual ID.
Enter Amazon Fire TV.
For those who are unfamiliar, Fire TV is Amazon’s own streaming operating system. It is built into their TVs, like the Amazon Fire TV Omni, and is accessible via external streaming devices such as the Fire TV Cube and Fire TV Stick 4K. You can use it to access a plethora of streaming apps.
Fire TV’s operability has improved significantly in the last few years, with improvements to layout and speed bringing it more in line with Roku and Google TV.
The free Fire TV update began rolling out in early December 2022 to existing Echo Show 15 owners. The update will be installed automatically during setup for newly purchased units.
Fire TV adds more functionality, but its implementation is limited.
Because the Echo Show and Fire TV are both Amazon products, they pair well with Alexa voice activation. Asking Alexa to “open Netflix” or “play The Expanse” is simple and convenient, especially if your hands are full.
There is an onscreen remote for navigation, but to get the most out of Fire TV on the Echo Show 15, the Amazon Voice Remote (3rd gen) is a must-have, and not just a nice-to-have.
Navigation with the onscreen remote is clumsy, and some Fire TV apps will not work at all without a remote. For example, without the remote, it’s impossible to navigate within Netflix—or even sign in—because the touchscreen becomes inoperable.
Others, like Amazon Prime Video, have some touch functions that work and others that don’t, frequently on the same screen. Swiping your finger across the Prime Video selections on the main screen is simple. In fact, I prefer it to using the remote because it is faster.
When you select a programme, an overlay with a play button appears; however, the touchscreen reacts to the image behind the overlay, so you must use the remote to navigate to the play button. When your movie or show is playing, you can use your finger to move through the progress bar once more.
The most frustrating aspect is that these apps are available in touch-capable versions. They are compatible with iPads. There’s no reason they shouldn’t be available through Fire TV as well, and it’s a shame they aren’t—or that the authorization process for them wasn’t completed before they went live. Especially since Amazon’s Prime Video experiences hiccups when attempting to use touch control for everything.
Even with Fire TV, the Echo Show 15 isn’t a foregone conclusion.
When it comes down to it, Fire TV gives the Echo Show 15 a purpose, most notably as a small kitchen TV option with smart home capabilities. However, the implementation of Fire TV falls short. You’ll have to pay an extra $30 for the Amazon Voice Remote (3rd generation) just to get it to work properly (note that the new Amazon Voice Remote Pro is not compatible with Fire TV on the Echo Show), which adds clutter to the kitchen and detracts from the Echo Show 15’s main selling point: its touchscreen.
Hopefully, Amazon will improve the Fire TV’s touchscreen capabilities in the future. Until then, the addition of Fire TV keeps this as a nice bonus rather than making the Echo Show 15 a must-have.