The Fire TV devices from Amazon are easy to like and arguably the pinnacle of the Fire sub-brand … with all due respect for the mighty Fire Phone, of course. All Fire TV and Fire TV Stick models do something different, but whichever model you own and what you mainly use it for, a handful of Fire TV tips, tricks, and hidden features will really help you get more out of your streamer.
Whether you just add a few Alexa smarts to your otherwise stupid TV, or bring more 4K Ultra HD content into this slick new set that you’ve been out for, there is a Fire TV for most people. The cheaper Fire TV Stick is fine if your TV is Full HD, while the Fire TV 4K is at hand when you’ve exhausted the extra pixels for UHD.
However, both offer otherwise very similar functionality, so these Fire TV tips and tricks – gathered over many tedious TV lessons – should be good no matter what space you have in one of your TV’s precious HDMI sockets.
1. Unlock the power of Prime Video (for free!)
Amazon’s Fire TV devices are not tied to a content provider, so you can stream not only from their own Prime Video platform, but also from Netflix, YouTube, Disney +, Apple TV and others.
However, that doesn’t mean your streaming doesn’t get much richer when you have Prime Video shows and movies to hand – and best of all, you get to try Prime Video absolutely for free.
It’s part of Amazon’s wider Prime subscription, which costs just £ 7.99 a month (or a slightly cheaper £ 79.99 a year) for all day and even same day deliveries that you can eat as well as the complete Prime Video catalog.
This includes exclusive titles like Bosch, Fleabag, The Boys, The Expanse and more – for a full overview, check out our guide to the best highlights on Prime Video. Considering that it’s 100% free to try everything that is on offer, why not?
2. Use Alexa
Now Alexa is here on both the Fire TV Stick and Fire TV 4K, you can just as easily take advantage of the voice assistant’s know-how.
You can ask Alexa to do a variety of things, such as: For example, control playback, play music or find content based on name, genre or actor. It will even dig up Netflix content as long as you have a subscription.
However, if you’re unsure of what else to ask, the Fire TV has a handy guide. Navigate to Settings> Alexa> Things to Try for inspiration.
3. Leave the remote control off
As with all things vaguely important, the remote that came with Fire TV is just the right size to fall on the back of the sofa and never be seen again. When your own escape mission is on (or you don’t bother adding another remote to the growing pile on your coffee table), the Fire TV app (iOS / Android) does all the physical does. In fact, it makes some things even better.
So while you can still type your Alexa commands, browse your apps and navigate the interface the same way – you can also use a real keyboard to enter passwords faster and easier.
4. Get serious about gambling
One of the things that sets Fire TV apart from the streaming hardware competition is the good selection of games, which includes everything from full-fledged SNES emulators to retro Final Fantasy titles, Sonic, and much more.
But playing the more complicated games with a fiddly remote control is far from ideal. In fact, some of them won’t even allow it.
To take your TV-based gaming more seriously, you can upgrade to the Fire TV Game Controller. It comes complete with a D-pad, two joysticks, and shoulder buttons for the tougher tasks, and has all of the functionality of your regular Alexa remote so you don’t even have to switch between gaming and boxing sets.
5. Have a private movie night
Ever wanted to be in a movie when the rest of the house is sleeping? Fire TV lets you throw the sound of even the loudest TV shows on bluetooth headphones, and the rest of the house doesn’t have to be the smarter. Especially useful if your preferred genre is action.
Simply navigate to Settings> Controllers & Bluetooth Devices> Other Bluetooth Devices to pair your headphones.
6. Change your location
Alexa is smart, but only if you give her the right stuff to work with. If you move away from where you first set up your Fire TV (or if you take the Fire TV overseas), be sure to re-enter your zip code so you can get personalized updates on things like the weather in your location .
To do this, go to Settings> Settings> Location and enter your current zip code there.
7. Turn off targeted advertising
Call us brainwashing, but when we have to toss advertising in our general direction, we prefer it to be tailored to our interests. But if you’re someone who prefers to keep their love for Taylor Swift and Friends a secret (or you just don’t know that Amazon turns your likes and dislikes into an advertising profile), you can turn off targeted advertising on Fire TV.
You still get ads, but they’re based more on the swamp standard than based on everything you clicked on. You can do this under Settings> Preferences> Advertising ID.
8. Turn off autoplay of recommended content
The Fire TV has a pretty nifty user interface (well, compared to rival Roku at least) that goes down big with some of the content I’ve shown at the top. This usually includes a video highlight of the show that will play automatically if you even hesitate. Worst of all, it’s often The Grand Tour.
If you feel a little uncomfortable at the thought of Jeremy Clarkson’s voice booming uninvited into your room, you can turn this off with a quick jump into the settings menu.
Go to Settings> Preferences> Recommended Content, where you can turn off automatic video and audio playback independently.
9. Set a personalized screen saver with Prime Photos
If you spin your Fire TV with your thumbs for too long, it will start a roll of photos with brilliantly captured landscapes from around the world. If you want your horrific photos taken from your last night to be displayed, you can change that in the display settings.
To do this, however, you’ll need to use Prime Photos – the unlimited cloud photo storage that comes with your Prime package.
If you have an Amazon tablet, any photos you take will be uploaded to it automatically, but you can also download an app for your phone or upload it using a browser.
To select them, go to Settings> Display & Sounds> Screensavers and select the collection of photos that you want to display. You can also select the slide style, slide speed, and start time from this menu.
10. Activate the parental controls
Amazon takes parental controls seriously, so it’s pretty easy to keep the little ones from seeing things they shouldn’t – let alone run into massive bills for movie rentals and game downloads.
A 4-digit PIN separates them from the things they shouldn’t see, but you can also set restriction levels. This is set to “Family” by default, which will see Amazon Video content classified as PG and below as fair game and PIN-free.
You can personalize this under Settings> Settings> Parental Controls, with the option to PIN lock purchases, app launches and Prime Photos, and set the viewing restriction level. Don’t forget that third party apps may need their own tax settings.
11. Switch off navigation sounds
It’s pretty much universally accepted that turning on your cellphone keypad tones is socially unacceptable. So why deal with it on your TV?
Fire TV comes with a pretty subtle click when you navigate the menus, but to turn it off completely go to Settings> Display & Sounds> Audio and turn off the navigation tones.
12. Learn more about your film
Don’t miss a good part of a movie’s plot anymore and wonder what else you’ve seen this actor in, Amazon’s X-Ray feature is a know-it-all movie buff at your fingertips.
At any point in the movie, just press the up button on the remote to view the movie’s IMDB profile, including the actors in that scene, the entire cast, featured music, and some trivia.
You can also use an Amazon tablet in second screen mode to view this information without interrupting playback. What’s second screen, I hear you cry? Funny that you should ask …
13. Use an Amazon tablet as the second screen
When you’re watching a movie on your Fire tablet and want to update it to the big screen, you can cast it to your TV much like you would with Google’s Cast feature.
Hit the second screen icon (a screen with an arrow in it) on the watch button on your tablet, select your Fire TV, and you’re gone. Just make sure that both devices are on the same Wi-Fi network and that they are both signed in to the same Amazon account.
However, you should first make sure that second screen notifications are turned on on your Fire TV (Settings> Displays and Sounds> Second Screen Notifications). This enables the second screen control on your tablet so that you can control playback and access the X-ray functionality for everything you are currently viewing.