Deciding whether or not to buy the new 3rd generation Amazon Fire TV isn’t as easy as it has been with previous Fire TV models. While certain aspects of the new pendant-shaped Fire TV are superior to all previous models, other characteristics are inferior because Amazon chose to omit capabilities in order to lower its price. Whether you currently own a Fire TV or Fire TV Stick and are looking to upgrade, or you’re buying one for the first time, this article should help you decide if the new Fire TV is right for you.
Controversy surrounding the new Amazon Fire TV
Before getting into who should or shouldn’t buy the new Fire TV, it’s worth discussing some of the controversies surrounding it. When a new model of a device comes out, it’s usually better than the model it replaces in every way. That isn’t the case with the new Fire TV because Amazon chose to remove capabilities, that were present on the 2nd generation Fire TV, in order to reduce the launch retail price by 30%. That decision has disappointed many who wanted the new Fire TV to be better in every way than previous models.
Another reason why the new Fire TV has a bad reputation is Amazon’s decision to debut Fire OS 6 on the new hardware without first releasing a developer preview of the new operating system, like they did for Fire OS 5 prior to it debuting on the 2nd generation Fire TV. When the new Fire TV shipped, it was plagued with numerous bugs and incompatibilities that might have been avoidable if Fire OS 6 was first released to the public through a developer preview. Early adopters who pre-ordered the new Fire TV were rightfully disappointed with the new model’s issues at launch and have been very vocal against the new Fire TV ever since.
Since its release, the new Fire TV has received numerous software updates to address the issues that customers experienced at launch, but many made up their mind that it’s a device that should be avoided. The 2nd generation Fire TV experienced a similar streak of issues at launch and actually had poorer initial reviews than the new 3rd generation Fire TV, as shown in the chart above. The difference is that the Fire TV 2’s issues were mostly related to surround sound and its new remote, while the Fire TV 3’s issues had to do with poor video playback.
Fire TV 2 early adopters reviewed it poorly but were able to live with the issues until they were fixed because it could still perform its primary function of streaming video, however, since the Fire TV 3’s issues affected video playback, the device was initially unusable for some, resulting in very poor reviews during it’s first week. Now that its issues have been fixed through software updates, most Fire TV 3 owners are very happy with the device, as is evident by its climbing review rating.
Who should buy the Fire TV 3?
Now that you know a little about why some people hate the new Fire TV, here’s a breakdown of people in different situations and whether the Fir TV 3 is a good purchase for them.
First time Fire TV buyers
If you don’t own a Fire TV device, you’re probably deciding if you should buy the Amazon Fire TV or the Fire TV Stick. If you own a 4K TV or are planning to buy one within the next year, you should probably buy the Fire TV instead of the Fire TV Stick if your budget allows it. If you have a 1080p or 720p TV, and don’t plan to replace it soon, then you’re better off buying the Fire TV Stick. The main advantage of the Fire TV is its ability to play 4K and HDR content, which you won’t be able to take advantage of.
1st generation Fire TV Stick owners looking to upgrade
If you have the original 1st generation Fire TV Stick (which likely came with a non-voice remote), you will see a significant improvement by purchasing the new Amazon Fire TV or the 2nd generation Fire TV Stick. If you have a 4K TV or plan to buy one within the next year, you should buy the new Fire TV, but if your TV is 1080p or 720p and you’re happy with it, the current 2nd generation Fire TV Stick is probably a better buy. Both models will give you a voice remote for Alexa and a much snappier interface.
2nd generation Fire TV Stick owners looking to upgrade
If you own the current 2nd generation Amazon Fire TV Stick, you really should only upgrade to the new Fire TV if you have a 4K TV or plan to buy one within the next year. If you have or are planning to soon buy an HDR TV, then the new Fire TV makes even more sense for you. That said, there still isn’t that much 4K content and even less HDR content available. Prime Video and Netflix are the main sources for 4K and HDR shows, but even then it’s only their original shows that will take advantage of the new Fire TV’s improved video capabilities. If you watch mostly 1080p content, you’ll be perfectly happy sticking with the Fire TV Stick.
1st generation Fire TV owners looking to upgrade
If you have the original 1st generation Fire TV, you have the most difficult call to make on whether you should upgrade to the new Amazon Fire TV 3. If you have a 4K TV or are planning to buy one, you will probably be happier with the new Fire TV since it’s capable of 4K and HDR, however, it’s not a certainty. The 1st generation Fire TV has an optical audio port and supports external storage through its full-size USB port. If those are important to you, then you’ll probably want to stick with the Fire TV 1, even though it’s only a 1080p device. The Fire TV 1 is also a slightly more capable gaming system, so if you play some of the higher end games available in the Fire TV appstore, you’ll want to check whether or not they’re compatible with the Fire TV 3. Lastly, the Fire TV 1 has a built-in ethernet port, while the Fire TV 3 requires purchasing an external ethernet adapter if you want wired internet access. However, the Fire TV 3 has 802.11ac WiFi while the Fire TV 1 only has 802.11n, so you’ll achieve faster speeds through the Fire TV 3’s WiFi. If you don’t have or plan to buy a 4K TV soon, you’re better off sticking with the Fire TV 1, but be aware that it is the oldest Fire TV model and is about to turn 4 years old. Amazon still supports it with software updates, but that isn’t going to be the case forever. Once it stops being updated, which will probably happen soon, 3rd-party apps will slowly stop supporting it as well.
2nd generation Fire TV owners looking to upgrade
If you have a 2nd generation Fire TV, you likely should not upgrade to the new Fire TV. The only Fire TV 2 owners who should consider upgrading are ones with an HDR TV because that’s really the only thing the Fire TV 3 offers them. The Fire TV 3 is also able to play 4K content at 60fps, which the Fire TV 2 can only play at 30fps, but realistically, there is very little 4K 60fps content available for that to matter. Upgrading to the Fire TV 3 for HDR or 60fps 4K means you’ll lose your Fire TV 2’s micro SD card expandable storage, USB port for external drive access, and top-notch gaming capabilities. You’ll also lose the internal ethernet port and will have to use an external ethernet adapter if you want to maintain wired internet access. If you have a 1080p TV, there is no reason to replace your Fire TV 2 with a Fire TV 3.