• REVIEW: Amazon Fire TV 3 with 4K HDR and Amlogic S905Z SoC

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    We always try to make a review of all Amazon Fire TV devices that we can and this time it was the turn of the new Amazon Fire TV 3 that brings us 4K resolutions at 60fps with HDR support in its smallest format. This family of devices that work with the peculiar FireOS are strictly controlled by Amazon. At the hardware level, this model releases the SoC Amlogic S905Z Quad Core, a version of the well-known S905X with slight modifications to support video and audio certificates. Let’s see in our usual review how this device behaves at streaming level and in general use. It you want a more cheap model for streaming apps you can reas our fire for the Fire TV Basic Edition.

    • Amazon Fire TV 3 can be purchased on Amazon.com only for $54.99
    • We also have it available on Amazon.co.uk for about £54.99 and in Germany we have it on Amazon.de for €59.99

    Recommended products for the FireTV Stick:

    SPECIFICATIONS

    ModelFire TV 3
    CPUAMLogic S950Z Cortex-A53 Quad Core 1.5GHz
    GPUMali-450MP
    OSFireOS 6 (Based on Android 7.1.2 32bit)
    RAM2 GB DDR3
    Storage8 GB eMMc
    WiFiWiFi 2×2 MIMO
    Bluetooth4.2 + LE
    Ports1x microUSB OTG
    HDMI 2.0
     Others
     ContentAlexa Bluetooth Remote
    5.2V 1.8A (9W) DC adapter
    Manual
    microUSB to USB wire
    AAA Bateries
    Dimensions: 2.6” x 2.6” x 0.6”
    Weight: 3.1 oz

    CONTENT DESCRIPTION

    Package content

    The new Fire TV 3 comes in a box with the classic Amazon design, everything comes perfectly packed in its small space. We have the main stick, pretty long microUSB cable, first steps manual, two AAA batteries, 5.2A 1.8A (9W) charger and Bluetooth remote control compatible with the Alexa assistant.

    Product Details

    The design of the new Fire TV 3 this time is square and at one end we can see the small HDMI cable that allows us to hang it from a port of our TV. As we can see it is very small and the remote is much larger than the own TV-Stick.

    The upper part of Fire TV 3 has the Amazon logo, this is a shiny surface that is scratched just by looking at it, the measurements are only 2.6” x 2.6” x 0.6” which allows us to hide it anywhere.

    At the opposite end of the HDMI cable we have the only microUSB OTG port that serves in the beginning to feed it with the included charger, as we will see below we can also use it to connect peripherals.

    In the microUSB OTG port we can use a MicroUSB OTG + USB + power cable that allows us to power our Fire TV 3 while offering us a USB 2.0 port to use for example a USB 3.0 HUB with Gigabit network port, there is Keep in mind that the OTG port is limited to USB 2.0 speeds.

    CONNECTING THE DEVICE

    Connection and desktops

    We connect the power cable of the Fire TV 3 and the system starts up automatically, we have a configuration assistant that helps us connect the Bluetooth remote controller in a first step, then we will have to access with our amazon account, if already we have another FireOS device we will see how we have a list of previous apps already available to download. In the first tab called Home, the shortcuts that we use most are grouped in a first row and the list of installed apps that we can reorder in a basic way. This default launcher can not be changed easily. If we go to the magnifying glass icon we can do a search by entering terms with the virtual keyboard.

    • Boot time: 16 seconds

    The Fire TV 3 launcher is presented with the new design of FireOS 6, we have different categories at the top that group the content although in the long run with the main screen we have more than enough to move daily. The customization is almost nil and as in the Android TV system we do not have lower bar or notification area.

    If we leave the home button on the remote control pressed, we have quick access to our installed applications and we can jump between those that are running, we can also leave the device at rest or access the system settings.

    Unlike Android TV in the FireOS system, we get shortcuts for apps designed for Android TV as well as for classic Android, an interesting point since it simplifies our lives. The app with the cloud icon are apps that we have in our Amazon app library but we have not downloaded yet. If we press the menu button of the remote control we have several options, with the move function we can change the order of the apps that are shown in the first screen of the launcher.

    Within the system settings we have many languages available since a few months ago we have a language list much wider than we had with FireOS 5.

     

    User Experience

    The user experience with the Fire TV 3 is dominated by the FireOS environment, a simple and direct system for the good and the bad things. The Amlogic S905Z processor moves the environment smoothly, the 2GB of DDR3 RAM and the internal storage speed really make everything move very fast. It is possible to run any streaming app, game or application in a satisfactory way despite the limitations imposed by FireOS.

    Android Settings

    The settings of Fire TV 3 with FireOS are very simple, we have a notification icon where we can read notices of apps and the system, network settings, Screen and sound, Application management, Bluetooth remote and other peripherals, Preferences, Device, Accessibility, Help and My account where we manage the data of our Amazon account.

    Within the Preferences settings is where we can change the language of the device, we can also change the time zone, notification system and the way in which we are shown the advertising that we recommend to disable.

    Within Applications we also have options from our Appstore account, Prime Photos, GameCircle and installed applications manager where we can uninstall them.

    Within the Device menu we have some important points, in the first section About the device we can see the software version, in the Development Options section we have the option to activate the ADB or install applications from unknown sources from APK files.

    Android System

    As operating system in Fire TV 3 we have FireOS 6.2.1 installed, the update system is quite strict and as soon as a new OTA comes out the system will be updated to the minimum that we restart the device.

    The FireOS system is a fork (parallel version) of classic Android with version 7.1.2, the system works in 32bit as is usual in all Amlogic firmware although the processor is 64bit, the kernel is 3.14.29 a bit old, but it is something imposed by the Amlogic SDK as we already know.

    Brand Support

    Amazon support for their devices is excellent but this also implies that they control it in detail via OTA updates. In order to make modifications or changes we will have to youch a lot, if we are interested in the scene of this device we can go through the XDA forum although for the Fire TV 3 model we still do not have many options..

    Storage and RAM

    Integrated into the Fire TV 3 we have a total of 8 GB of eMMc storage memory, of this storage memory we have really available about 4 GB, a very small figure that we can not expand because FireOS does not allow this option.

    In this device we have 2 GB of DDR3 RAM, of this amount we are still available about 600 MB at startup which allows us to move the system quickly but we can not surf the Internet in a demanding manner, it is not designed for this.

    We pass our tests to memory and internal storage in Fire TV 3 using the SD bench app that gives us excellent figures as we can see, some data that is reflected in how fluid the device moves.

    • NOTE: The FireOS system is not compatible with NTFS drive format and many apps can not see connected external drives, we need to have root permissions to modify the system and get it.

    Consumption and temperatures

    In the section of electrical consumption the Fire TV 3 using the SoC Amlogic S905Z gives us some results quite contained in the line of another similar SoC, in maximum performance scenario of the SoC we reach the 4.6 W peak consumption. The temperature is low in normal use, so this does not affect the daily use of the Amazon stick.

    Amazon Apps Store and alternatives

    In this device we have to install apps using the Amazon AppStore that offers us a wide selection of titles. If we find limited in offer we can always use the alternative store Aptoide using his APK where we can install for example KODI or other apps that are outside of Amazon.

    Root

    In the Fire TV 3 system, as always happens in those systems so controlled by the brand does NOT have the root by default, to get root we will have to carry out operations with certain danger, so we recommend not doing so.

    Power Off / Standby / Power On

    In the Fire TV 3 can not be turned off completely, at best we can put it to sleep that basically is to turn off the HDMI signal or restart it, but it can not be turned off from the system.

    TEST BENCH

    Video and audio connections.

    In the Fire TV 3 we have the new SoC Amlogic S905Z a processor that has support for video output by HDMI 2.0a which gives us the option to see content with a maximum resolution of 4K@60fps with 10 bit of color, the system It also supports HDR. In this system there is NO automatic refresh option, something that would be interesting since it avoids us to play content with the annoying Judder effect. We also do not have image quality control for Brightness, Contrast or Saturation.

    Within the advanced settings of HDMI we find control to choose the color depth in detail, something that can work well to adjust the image with respect to our TV.

    We also have the possibility to choose the color format between RGB or YCbCr, something that we can do well to correct some incompatibility problems in the image.

    DLNA and Miracast

    By default with the Amazon Fire TV 3 Stick we do not have the usual DLNA app installed on the system, although it is possible to install an app such as Stream Online or BubbleUPnP, so from an Android phone or from a PC with the Windows file explorer we will see our content.

    NETWORK CONNECTIONS

    Wi-Fi and Ethernet

    By default in the Fire TV 3 we have a Dual Band Wireless Wi-Fi Adapter 2×2 MIMO, with which we have connected with an ASUS RT-AC1200G+ Router, a mid range device. We transferred files over a SAMBA network connected through 2.4Ghz Wi-Fi and achieved a speed of about 25 mbps, with the 5Ghz Wi-Fi network we reached about 44 mbps a value that can be improved, fair results.

    We also ran tests on the network adapters for streaming using the iPerf measurement tool with which we have the maximum connection speed in each type of network. With this figure we have how far we can reach using the available connections, the final performance will depend on our internet provider, the contracted speed, the distance of our Wi-Fi network and other factors. The results are correct above all using the 5GHz Wifi adapter that gives us good performance reaching up to 180 Mbps.

    During the Wi-Fi coverage tests with the device located at a distance of about 16 ft as always and with a wall in between we verified that we have connection without cuts, the signal reaches a level of about 41 dBm a figure that indicates we have a good range.

    Bluetooth

    Integrated with the wifi adapter of the Fire TV 3 we also have Bluetooth 4.2 LE connectivity with which we have no major problems when detecting other devices, we have tested a BT headset, a mouse and a BT gamepad without major problem.

    CONTROL SYSTEMS
    Remote control

    By default with the TV-Box Fire TV 3 we have the same Alexa remote control that we had in the previous version, it is powered by two AAA batteries and works by Bluetooth. In the upper part we have the microphone button to give orders to Alexa, below the circle with the classic functions of crosshead and OK button in the center, shortcuts of Android commands, volume and playback controls.

    Within the settings menus we also have the possibility to activate HDMI CEC to be able to use the control of our TV with the TV-Box itself, a system that gives different results depending on our TV model.

    A useful application for the control of the Fire TV is Mouse Toggle, a payment app, interestingly you have to buy it on a device other than Fire TV since it is not available in the Amazon AppStore. You have to download it, extract the APK and finally install it on our Fire TV. If we press the play button twice, we can move the mouse cursor with the Fire TV command, something useful for apps that require a pointer such as HBO Nordic. Anyway, for the price and accuracy of this app we recommend using a real mouse, cheap Bluetooth mice are a good option.

    Remote control app

    By default in Fire TV 3 we have a remote control server that we can use in conjunction with the Amazon control app, with it we can control or give orders by Alexa to our device remotely from a Smartphone or tablet whenever they are connected to the same Wifi network. We have verified that the latest version of CetusPlay is not compatible unfortunately.

    Gamepad and games

    In the TV-Box Fire TV 3 we can use the Alexa controller in some titles but it is better if we connect an external Bluetooth gamepad. We can use them in games with this type of support, in general we will not have problems with a conventional PC gamepad. With the Mali-450MP GPU that incorporates this Amlogic S905Z SoC the performance is correct and we can play the most titles without problems, only the most powerful titles have some drop of frame rate.

    PERFORMANCE TEST

    SOC

    As the core on the Fire TV 3 we found integrated the AMLogic S905Z SoC that includes four ARM Cortex-A53 processors with support for 64bit instructions and a Mali-450MP GPU, a processor identical to the S905X but with specific certificates for audio and video. This AMLogic SoC works between 100 Mhz and 1.51 GHz depending on the performance needs of the system and incorporates hardware decoding support for the H.265 video codec, H.265 10-bit and also supports VP9 codec . It is capable of supporting video output at 4K@60fps thanks to the HDMI 2.0a connector included. The performance is good although below the S912 naturally.

    Benchmarks

    Antutu

    With this famous test we get an idea of the general performance of the device and we can compare it with others. Since this tests changes a lot of scale we can not use it in our graphics.

    Geekbench 4

    A new benchmark in SoC testing that offers fairly reliable numbers of CPU’s working in a single core or multiple cores ate the same time, it also has a section of GPU computing that gives us an overall result of the processing capacity.

    3Dmark

    The graphical performance test par excellence with a fairly solid continuity in the results which helps us to compare the performance of GPU’s historically.

    PCMark

    This benchmark tests the device in various scenarios of image processing, web browsing and other everyday uses of our device, the results are useful to check if you defend well in these areas.

    VIDEO AND AUDIO TEST

    Video format test

    We perform our usual video playback tests on Fire TV 3, in this TV-Box we have the Amlogic S950Z SoC that gives us positive results in general. It is possible to reproduce the most common files without major problems in native resolution in a fluid way. We can watch videos at 1080p resolutions or also in 4K format encoded with the h.265 codec, this SoC also supports HDR modes and 10 bit color files. To install KODI we need to download the APK of this program and install it by hand, the same happens with MX Player but the latter does not work, interestingly VLC if it is available in the Amazon AppStore. In all these programs we will have problems accessing external units connected by the microUSB OTG.

    Test results

    H.264 formatDefault playerKODI
    BBB – H.264 8bit – 1080p@25fps – 7 MbpsCorrectCorrect
    Birds – H.264 8bit – 1080p@24fps – 40 MbpsCorrectCorrect
    Samsung Oceanic Life – H.264  8bit– 1080p@30fps – 40 MbpsCorrectCorrect
    Anime – H.264 10bit – 1080p@24fps – 10 MbpsArtifactsFrame skip
    Skyfall – H.264  8 bit – 4K@24fps – 10 MbpsCorrectCorrect
    Timelapse – H.264 8bit – 4K@24fps – 43 MbpsCorrectCorrect
    H.265 format
    Tears of steel – HVEC 8bit – 1080p@24fps – 17 MbpsCorrectCorrect
    Beauty – HVEC 8bit – 4K@120fps – 12 MbpsCorrectCorrect
    Anime – HVEC 10bit – 1080p@24fps – 21 MbpsCorrectCorrect
    Samsung UHD Dubai – HVEC 10bit – 4K@24fps – 51 MbpsCorrectCorrect
    HDR format
    Life of Pi HDR –  HVEC – 4K@24fps – 45 MbpsCorrectCorrect
    TravelXP HDR HLG – HVEC – 4K@24fps – 20 MbpsCorrectCorrect
    Planet Earth II – HDR HLG – HVEC 10L5 – 4K@25fps – 31 MbpsCorrectCorrect
    • The MKV, Blu-ray ISO and BDRemux formats are only containers, inside we can have different codecs, resolutions, audio channels, chapters or subtitles. To play the Blu-ray format menus we need KODI or a compatible program.

    Audio format test

    In the Fire TV 3 we have the Amlogic S905Z SoC Quad core that as we know it IS licensed for the use of audio pass through for DD and DTS. For the sound tests we use our Yamaha RXV-577 AV receiver and we naturally check that in the device we have audio pass through for DD and DTS 7.1 with no problem.

    Test results

    Formato audioPCM*HDMIOptical
    Dolby Digital 5.1CorrectCorrect
    Dolby Digital Plus 7.1CorrectCorrect
    Dolby True HD 7.1CorrectCorrect
    Dolby Atmos 7.1CorrectCorrect *
    DTS 5.1CorrectCorrect
    DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1CorrectCorrect
    DTS-HD High Resolution 7.1CorrectCorrect
    DTS-X 7.1CorrectCorrect *
    • PCM – Stereo downmix from DD or DTS
    • Core – Only the core of the format Dolby / DTS is played
    • * Our AV receiver does not support these native formats but we check that it does downmix fine

    WEB NAVIGATION AND STREAMING

    Navigation

    We perform performance tests on the Fire TV 3 using the Amazon Silk browser where we have no problems opening a large number of tabs thanks to its 2 GB of DDR3 RAM. The contents are reproduced in HTML5 correctly. If we are outside US we can download the APK and install it manually.

    DRM

    As for the DRM certificates required for some payment Streaming apps we do not have any installed by default, something usual in this type of models, as a novelty we see that we have CENC ClearKey.

    Youtube

    In this TV-Box you can play Youtube up to 4K but as we have seen in a special article on the subject YouTube will no longer be available on Fire devices since January 1, 2018, the fight between Amazon and Google is on is highest point and it seems that users will pay for this war.

    • UPDATE: It seems that Amazon retreats and will allow to sell Google device in your store, it is very possible that Google will lift the restriction of YouTube soon.

    Streaming services with subscription

    One of the key point of the Amazon streaming devices is how the contents are presented and how we can select them directly in the launcher, all these services are for the US, German or UK market and in rest of the world we will not be able to use them, Netflix’s is the expedition. If we are in the US as we see we have many channels that we can hire to see the contents directly in the highest quality.

    We do our battery test as usual on the most popular streaming services to verified if can work correctly, the power of this device is more than enough to see any type of content on this services, although as we know we are limited on the streaming quality for the restrictions of each company.

    Streaming serviceVideoAudioPerformance
    NetflixSD (480p)*StereoCorrect
    Amazon Prime Video (Outside Amazon official territories)SD (480p)StereoCorrect
    HBO Nordic (not HBO GO)SD (480p)StereoCorrect
    • HBO Nordic: To use this app we need to install the HBO Nordic APK v.2.2.0 that has certain control limitations, we need a mouse to control it and we can not advance or pause the playback. The quality is SD because in superior quality it is not stable. The new version v.3 is not compatible because it requires Google Play Services and FireOS does not work.
    • Amazon Prime Video: The default application for this service is blocked for the US region with what we can not use in Europe, so we need to use the Android TV app extracted from the Nvidia Shield TV as we saw in the Xiaomi Mi Box. We can only use it with the screen system configured to 1080p because in 4K gives us error. You can only access this app by pressing the Home button and selecting it in the list of apps.

    CONCLUSIONS

    Amazon Fire TV 3

    Amazon Fire TV 3
    7.1

    DESIGN AND CONNECTIVITY

    6.5 /10

    HARDWARE

    7.5 /10

    SOFTWARE

    6.5 /10

    SUPPORT

    8.0 /10

    PRICE/QUALITY

    7.0 /10

    Pros

    • Compact design
    • Can be powered using a USB on the TV
    • Fast internal storage
    • Strong stability
    • Alexa remote

    Cons

    • FireOS limit the user
    • Only one microUSB OT port

    Opinion

    As we have seen in our review of the TV-Box Fire TV 3 we are facing an interesting device that has many limitations imposed by the FireOS system and the geographic impositions of the streaming services. At the hardware level, the system moves smoothly thanks to the Amlogic S905Z processor and the read speed of the installed storage memory. The environment is nice and the Alexa remote control behaves quick, the wifi adapter also gives us a good result despite the small size of the device, if we want to expand options we have seen that we will have to pull a HUB connected to the microUSB OTG port.

    In general we can say that the FireTV 3 with regard to Fire TV 2 offers us only the significant improvement of the 4K on the official Amazon territories. In short, as we have verified this device has no very big difference respect to Fire TV 2 or Fire TV Basic edition unless we have the 4K as an absolute priority, an option that already depends on each one of you.

    Where to buy

    • Amazon Fire TV 3 can be purchased on Amazon.com only for $54.99
    • We also have it available on Amazon.co.uk for about £54.99 and in Germany we have it on Amazon.de for €59.99

    Recommended products for the FireTV Stick:

     

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