It can listen, it can talk
We have been smitten with the second-gen Amazon Fire TV streaming media box ever since its October launch. Its quick content loads, notably with rewinds and fast forwards, has made it this author’s favored streaming device currently on the market, and its particular voice search and gaming capabilities are strong, functional bonuses.
The set-top box was not the only thing to get an upgrade this year; last year’s cheap-feeling, Amazon-branded control got an upgrade as well, and in our October review of the Fire TV carton, we expressed our hopes that the updated, $50 pad would, at the very least, outdo last year’s clunker.
Like an Xbox 360 pad—and that is a great thing
Feel and the general contour of the controller of this year is really similar to last year’s—meaning, it’s emulating an Xbox 360 pad quite blatantly. In fact, this year’s does so even more, and your hands will probably be glad for it.
The hand grips are somewhat more tapered this time around, meaning they fit a lot more flush into hands both small and big than last year’s. The joysticks have received increased tension; the d-pad sits on a slightly raised ledge; and also the fender and cause buttons have gotten broader and bigger, with more satisfying activity upon depression.
After changing back and forth in active gameplay between this new Amazon Fire TV Gamepad and the Xbox 360 pad, we actually did not detect much difference in both relaxation and control —with one exception. The very first Amazon Fire TV Gamepad we received had serious problems with dpad functionality; faucets in every way were sometimes lost, with rightward spigots suffering the most for some reason. Our replacement pad did not have this issue, but its downward button presses felt a little sticky. This continues to be a far better dpad than can be found on most third party controllers on the market; we had say it’s on par with the 360’s wonky d-pad, but the Xbox One pad along with PlayStation controllers have it beat.
This past year’s all-matte finish has been interrupted with a segment of polished plastic surrounding the buttons and joysticks. Perhaps this decision was made because Amazon thought people’s hands and fingers would prevent the parts that were glossy, and hence they’d pick up fingerprints that were fewer, but nonetheless, it just took us 10 minutes of use to make the polished section all sorts of smudgy. We had have favored the matte focus of last year, to be honest, but it’s not a dealbreaker.
Activate buttons for volume? Okay…
In a very welcome change, the Fire TV Game Controller has lost its excessive media-control buttons, and not merely for aesthetics. Within their place now sits a committed 3.5mm headphone jack.
Because Amazon has started to support a multiplayer network full of headset yak that is not; rather, this empowers both gamers and media -streamers to redirect their content’s sound from TV speakers to their headphones of choice.
When this worked in our evaluation unit, it worked. As we walked round the room, getting a total 20 feet away from our Amazon Fire TV carton without any pause sound played clearly, and the trigger buttons of the controller let’s correct volume. We didn’t have the alternative to make sound play on both our TV and our speakers, but we couldn’t think of an occasion where that’d prove useful (and in the instance of TV sets with processing delays, we had go nuts with the echo, anyhow).
Regrettably, our first review controller was totally hit or miss when it comes to playback functionality. Either we’d get a clear signal, or we’d wind up hearing a ton of pauses and some chirps of electrostatic, without any in between wavering between both extremes. Also, volume controls are disabled in video games, since they are tied to the L2 and R2 trigger buttons; should you want to change the volume of a game, you will need to completely pause it by tapping on the ‘home’ button.
The other major change to this year’s Fire TV Game Controller is its inclusion of a dedicated mic, which both Fire TV remote controls had assembled in for the benefit of Alexa-powered searches. All this really does is save users the trouble of needing to place down the game controller to conduct a voice investigation—but in the event that you are utilizing the controller as a mic receiver, you’ll like having that choice closer to your fingers by default.
Like the control of this past year, this variation has no micro-USB slot, meaning it needs batteries and it does not function as a wired controller for other platforms.
Amazon’s latest Fire TV Game Controller doesn’t revolutionize console pads, and we are not impressed with it including a characteristic that Roku already builds into some of its remotes. But if the new Amazon Fire TV’s super-speedy fetching chops have won you over, and you either desire to play a few more games or keep those late night Netflix sessions private to your ears just, then this control can get the job done.
An obvious but essential inclusion on this particular list, if you have the gaming control that came with your Amazon Fire TV Gaming Edition, you can purchase additional controls from — where else — Amazon.
The Amazon Fire TV control connects via Bluetooth and has a number of features especially designed to get the most out of your Amazon Fire TV carton. For starters, it includes a built-in mic, which gives you total access to Alexa features and enables you to search for music, movies, games, and more information, using only your voice.
The controllers also feature a headphone jack, so you can completely immerse yourself in game or a movie without bothering the people around you. This can additionally be your best option if you own a second generation Fire TV, as support for third-party game controllers with the Amazon carton that is more recent is spotty at best compared to its predecessor.
The Amazon Fire TV controller takes two AA batteries, so if you intend on becoming a significant gamer, you should stock up on those.