2015 Amazon Fire TV (2nd Gen)

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The 2015 Amazon Fire TV (2nd Gen) was an update to the 1st gen device that accomplished several goals for Amazon.  Even after the release of the 2017 Amazon Fire TV (3rd Gen), this remains the most powerful Fire TV hardware, and the best choice for playing games.  Obviously it’s a device refresh designed to make the platform more powerful, including adding 4K output.  It transitioned the platform to their current System on a Chip (SoC) supplier, MediaTek.  Finally, it let them make some additional hardware configuration changes, likely based on customer usage of the features on the 1st gen device.

Hardware

The biggest checkbox that the 2nd Gen Fire TV checks is 4k output.  Beyond that, Amazon removed the optical audio output, which probably wasn’t highly used, and added an micro SD slot, allowing memory expansion for those who want to install more apps.

WiFi went from being capped at 802.11n to 802.11ac, Bluetooth went from 4.0 to 4.1 and Bluetooth LE.

The SoC went from a Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 to a MediaTek MT8173C.  This provides a noticeable increase in performance in some areas,   This makes this the first (and only, to date) 64-bit Fire TV device.  On the video side, it’s the SoC that allows 4k output, and it also adds hardware decode support for H.265, VP8, and VP9 video codecs.  These codecs are important for video streaming applications, and critical for 4k streaming.  The SoC also supports OpenGL ES 3.1, though Amazon’s platform specs only reference 3.0.

The 2nd generation remote, like the 2nd generation gaming controller, uses WiFi Direct instead of Bluetooth, and continues to have voice capability, which now means you can use it with Alexa.

Software

On the software side, the new Fire TV introduced a new interface that is considerably different from the 1st generation interface.  Software has continued to be updated, though (as of this update) Fire OS 6.x has not been released for this device.

Gaming Edition

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For a $40 premium over the baseline Fire TV, Amazon offered the Fire TV Gaming Edition.  This version added the Fire TV Game Controller with Alexa ($50 value), but didn’t include the standard Alexa Voice Remote ($30 if you want to add it).  It included licenses to a couple of games: Duck Tales Remastered ($5 value) and Shovel Knight ($15 value).  Finally it added a 32GB microSD worth $10-$12.  All in all, assuming you wanted the game controller, the value of the package varies greatly depending on whether you’re going to add the standard Alexa Voice remote and whether you think the games are interesting.

Summary

The 2015 Amazon Fire TV (2nd Gen) is a nice refinement and upgrade to the original product.  While some may not have liked some of the changes (removal of the optical audio, mainly), most of the changes were an improvement to the platform.  While it would be nice to see Amazon go with a higher end SoC, for the price point, the Mediatek option provides a nice upgrade.  All in all this is a great device.

Accessories


Amazon Links:

2015 Amazon Fire TV (2nd Gen) (refurbished)


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