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Amazon Fire TV 2nd Gen

I’ve had a Kindle Fire TV first gen in the house for a long time. I side loaded Kodi and used llama to hide the Fire interface. Kodi was the only purpose to the box. I still have this and it’s my secondary media player in the house. It works well, sleeps well, draws very little power, is reliable and completely silent. The remote works pretty well with Kodi the only nits being no volume control and no stop button. A while back I started using Firestarter, an app that made it easier to launch and update Kodi. Amazon caught on and blocked Firestarter. Clever folks renamed it to Firestopper and things continued. Then the maker of Firestarter decided to play nice with Amazon and came up with AppStarter and removed some of the things Amazon found offending (capturing the home button, and auto starting on boot). Sadly in becoming less offensive to Amazon the developer neutered anything that was useful about Firestarter in the first place IMHO.

Amazon released a second generation FireTV with some updates to processor, codecs it could support etc. This article does a great job of explaining the differences. The power adapter was bumped up from 18W to 21W and the barrel end of the charger was changed up. Amazon removed the optical output for 5.1 audio (something I still use on my secondary home theater system). The remote is pretty similar to the first gen.

Amazon have been a lot more aggressive with blocking any apps other than apps that come from the Amazon Appstore. They install but you have to find them in the settings to start them. And if you manage to press the home button on the remote, your back manually starting the app. To say this has become infinitely clumsy is an understatement. In fact, Amazon’s behaviour makes the FireTV a far less compelling Kodi box, something I am sure Amazon is fine about. Just to illustrate the point, to launch Kodi from first power on (assuming you can’t get it into the recent apps list, which seems to come and go) it takes 28 clicks (9 – to get to settings from home, 4 – to get to applications, 4 – manage installed apps, 6 to get to kodi (varies depending on how many installed apps)). Sheesh.

A colleague of mine, Johannes, had discovered a neat party trick. When the FireTV registers, it registers with Amazon.com. If on Amazon.com you have a US address (pick an address, any address) and add a credit card, low and behold magic happens and apps you manually launch (like Kodi) appear in the applications list, favorites and recent. This dramatically cuts down on the number of clicks to get Kodi up.

You can see what the latest firmware release from amazon.com. From a command prompt on ADB you can issue the command cat /system/build.prop|grep ro.build.version.name to see what your currently installed firmware version is.

Once Kodi is up and running playback is smooth, and manipulating through the menus is also smooth. IPTV using the Stalker plug in under Kodi also works well, but initial load is quite slow think 2-3 minutes. So if your using it for IPTV your going to want to exit Kodi only when absolutely necessary.

Power management on the FireTV 2 is not perfect. In Kodi your going to want to change the power management option to minimize (or off) to avoid the slow IPTV startup. The screen saver of the Fire’s can be used to black out the screen when not in use and the Fire itself goes into some form of sleep mode. Neither my HDMI receiver nor my TV went into sleep when the FireTV when into sleep, rather the screen was just a dull black.

There is an app called FireTV Utility that you can use to make side loading onto any of the FireTVs easier.

So all in all the FireTV 2 adds new codec support, some challenges to getting a Kodi icon for easy launching, but overall is an excellent playback device. The remote works well for Kodi but is missing volume control and the stop button.

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August 2, 2016 - Posted by | Mutlimedia, Uncategorized

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