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ASCiiDiTY

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ASCiiDiTY last won the day on November 30 2020

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  1. There’s an issue that seems to be affecting select Fire TVs which causes all images and icons on the home screen to be blank. The issue also affects the app row, making it impossible to distinguish one app icon from another. The Fire TVs suffering from this issue are otherwise working fine, but it makes navigating the main Fire TV interface very difficult. All images within the Fire TV launcher are pulled down from Amazon’s servers and cached (i.e., stored) locally on the Fire TV. This is also true for the app icons on the home screen and in the grid of all apps, but is not how the app icons in the Manage Installed Applications menu under Settings. While icons on the home screen are pulled down from Amazon’s servers, the icons in the settings menu are stored within the apps themselves, which is why they are not affected by this issue. This issue is likely caused by the Fire TV either not being able to download images from Amazon’s servers, Amazon’s servers refusing the connection, or the Fire TV incorrectly storing/retrieving the downloaded images from its cache storage. Issues like these tend to eventually resolve themselves, but here are some things to try that has worked to, at least temporarily, fix the issue. The first thing you should try to fix this issue, and any other issues for that matter, is to reboot your Fire TV. You can do so from the My Fire TV Menu under settings or by simply pulling the power cable out for a few seconds. If your Fire TV is using VPN or DNS settings that hide or redirect your internet traffic, this could also be the cause of the issue. If you have a VPN configured, try disabling it and then restarting your Fire TV. If you have custom DNS settings, try changing your DNS settings to either Cloudflare’s servers, which are 1.1.1.1 and 1.0.0.1, or to Google’s servers, which are 8.8.8.8 and 8.8.4.4, and then restart your Fire TV. If this solves the issue, then note that restoring your previous VPN or DNS settings will likely cause the issue to eventually reappear. Something else you can try, either in addition to or in place of changing your VPN/DNS settings, is to reset the Fire TVs launcher home screen app. To do so, connect to your Fire TV via ADB and then run the following ADB command: adb shell pm clear com.amazon.tv.launcher After resetting the launcher, it’s a good idea to also restart your Fire TV. Your Fire TV may feel a bit sluggish for a few minutes while its launcher tries to repopulate all of its data due to the reset. Resetting the launcher with the ADB command above will not clear your apps or settings. It will, however, reset the customized order of apps that you had set. A final possible solution is to check how much free space your Fire TV has. If your Fire TV is full, then it won’t be able to display images because it doesn’t have room to download them. If your Fire TV has less than 100MB of free space, then it’s a good idea to, at least temporarily, uninstall apps to free up space. Alternatively, you can try clearing the cache of all of your apps individually to free up some space without removing any apps. Clearing the cache will not reset any of an app’s settings, but clear the app’s data will. If any of the solutions mentioned above worked for you, be sure to let everyone know in the comments. If you’ve found a different solution to this problem, be sure to mention that as well. SOURCE: AFTVNEWS.COM
  2. History repeats itself, only this time it’s not Google leveraging the popularity of YouTube against Amazon and Fire TVs, but against Roku and new Roku devices. Google has stated that it will be removing the YouTube app from the Roku channel store on December 9th, which will prevent new and factory reset Roku devices from accessing the video service, according to Variety. This is a result of negotiations between Google and Roku regarding app distribution terms going nowhere for the past 6 months, which has already resulted in the removal of YouTube TV from the Roku channel store. The dispute between Roku and Google over the YouTube TV app, and now the YouTube app, goes back to at least April, when Roku’s deal to distribute YouTube TV expired without a new agreement being reached. This resulted in Roku removing YouTube TV from its channel store, preventing new devices from installing it. Roku devices that already had YouTube TV installed continued to have access to the app and service. Google responded by providing access to YouTube TV through the separate YouTube app on Roku devices. Now Google is threatening to do the removing with the upcoming removal of the YouTube app from the Roku channel store in just over a month. Google has not stated that it will be blocking access to YouTube on Roku devices that already have YouTube installed, but it certainly has that ability, since that’s what it threatened on Fire TV devices at the start of 2018 when Amazon and Google bumped heads. Back then, Amazon responded to the impending loss of YouTube by releasing the Silk Browser, followed by Firefox releasing its browser, on Fire TV devices just days before Google’s deadline. This allowed Fire TV users to continue to access YouTube through its web-based TV interface, which was virtually identical to the regular YouTube app, since all TV-based YouTube apps are just browsers loading a YouTube website anyway. Amazon continued to improve the browser-based access to YouTube with improvements like 4K support, voice controls, and support for casting videos. The disagreement ended about a year and a half later when official YouTube and YouTube TV apps from Google returned to Fire TVs in 2019. Should Google go through with its threat to remove the YouTube app or block access on Roku devices, Roku will not be able to circumvent the blocking of YouTube through a browser as Amazon did. That’s because YouTube has since taken down its web-based TV interface, most likely to prevent any future streaming device manufacturer from using the exact type of workaround that Amazon used. If Roku creates a browser app to access YouTube.com, the experience will likely be horrible, since YouTube will likely serve the desktop version of its site. Roku could choose to spoof the browser user agent of a competing streaming device, which may trick YouTube into serving its TV interface to a Roku-made browser, but it would surely just be a matter of time before Google caught on and resumed blocking access. SOURCE: AFTVNEWS.COM
  3. Amazon has significantly increased the number of local news channels and cities in its News app for Fire TV devices. The app first launched its local news coverage with 12 cities and then expanded that to 88 cities earlier this year. Now the app takes another significant jump in coverage to include 158 cities where local news is available within the app. That takes the total channels available in the app from 126 to 259 and Amazon says more than 90% of U.S. households should find at least 1 local channel in the app, while 50 metros have 2 or more options to choose from. Follow this guide to learn how to select your local news channels within the Fire TV News app. SOURCE: AFTVNEWS.COM
  4. Amazon Sidewalk is a low-bandwidth shared network for devices like trackers and motion sensors to be able to connect to the internet without needing full-fledged Wi-Fi or cellular connections. The connection is intended to emanate from devices you already own, like Echo smart speakers and Ring cameras, which is why it is a bit surprising that Ring appears to be working on a standalone dedicated “Amazon Sidewalk Bridge Pro” device that just appeared in a new Bluetooth regulatory filing last week. The apparent upcoming device is simply called the Amazon Sidewalk Bridge Pro by Ring. It has a model number of 5F48E9 and was approved on Oct. 11th by the Bluetooth Special Interest Group, which is the standards organization that oversees the development of Bluetooth standards and the licensing of Bluetooth devices. Amazon sidewalk uses Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) for short-distance communication. Not much is known about the new Ring device but, based on the name, its primary purpose seems to be to serve as a hub between Sidewalk-enabled devices and an internet connection. That’s unexpected because, up until now, a device serving as a sidewalk bridge has always done so as a secondary function. The official list of devices that serve as Sidewalk Bridges only includes Echo speakers, Echo Show smart displays, and Ring cameras. When Amazon Sidewalk was first revealed in 2019, it was announced alongside a Ring Fetch pet tracker that will use the shared network, but it has not yet been released. Should Ring release the Fetch pet tracker and other Sidewalk-enabled devices, the Amazon Sidewalk Bridge Pro by Ring may be meant as a solution for those not in an area with sufficiently dense Sidewalk coverage. Ring already makes a Smart Lighting Bridge, pictured above, for connecting various light bulbs and fixtures to the internet. It’s easy to see Ring switching those lights to Amazon Sidewalk networks and replacing its lighting bridge with the new Sidewalk Bridge Pro device. SOURCE: AFTVNEWS.COM
  5. Last week, Google announced that user profiles were finally coming to Google TV devices next month. TW Electronics, the manufacturer of the Google-designed G10 remote that many Android TV devices have been shipping with, has revealed in a tweet that manufacturers can actually select whether they want to include a user profile button in place of the bookmark button that has been on all G10 remotes so far. It’s a very fine line between useful and cluttered when it comes to the buttons on streaming device remotes. The bookmark button on the G10 remote, which simply adds the highlighted content to your watchlist on Android TV devices, certainly seemed like the most useless button, since it only worked in very specific parts of the home screen interface. It seems that the intent of the button all along was to serve as an easy way to switch user profiles, but Google just hadn’t added user profile functionality yet. Note that “Watson” in the image above is a reference to the older Android TV interface. TW Electronics also revealed that the button can be made to open the device’s list of installed apps instead. That certainly seems like the most useful function, but the company implied that it was for “Operator Tier” devices, which means it’s for cable set-top boxes running on Android TV systems. Ultimately, it’s up to the device manufacturer to decide which of the three button choices they want on their device, so a generic streaming stick/box running Google TV or Android TV with an app button isn’t out of the question. SOURCE: AFTVNEWS.COM
  6. Amazon has just put the Fire TV Recast on sale for $169.99, which is 26% off the regular price of $229.99. That price is for the 500GB model with 2 tuners. The 1TB model with 4 tuners is on sale for $219.99, which is also $60 off its regular price of $279.99. These are average prices for Amazon’s over-the-air tuner and DVR. If you wait for Black Friday in about a month, you’ll probably be able to save an extra $40. The 500GB model can store about 75 hours of HD video, while the 1TB model will double that to 150 hours. While you can record more content at once with the 4 tuner model, you are still limited to 2 simultaneous streams on either model. Most Fire TV Sticks and Cubs are still on sale, but some devices are at slightly higher prices than they were last week. SOURCE: AFTVNEWS.COM
  7. While there have been several smart TVs that have adopted Google TV, the version of Android TV that uses Google’s newer interface, the only stand-alone streaming media player running Google TV has been the 2020 Chromecast with Google TV. That changes with the release of a new streaming stick from Realme in India this week. Additionally, there are a couple of new features coming to Google TV next month. Here’s an overview of the new streaming device and those new Google TV features. The “Realme 4K Smart Google TV Stick“, as it’s officially called, has launched in India for ₹3,999 ($55 USD). Realme is an offshoot of OPPO, the biggest smartphone manufacturer in China. The stick supports 4K video at 60fps and HDR10+ through its HDMI 2.1 connection, but there is no support for Dolby Vision or Dolby Atmos. It has 2GB of RAM and 8GB of internal storage. Realme only lists the CPU as being a quad-core ARM Cortex-A35 processor, but I suspect it is using an Amlogic S905Y4 SoC, which would likely put it on par with the Chromecast in performance. Interestingly, Realme has opted to use its own custom remote instead of the Google-designed G10 remote. There has been no indication that the stick will be sold outside of India. As for new Google TV features, the interface is finally getting user profiles. Kids profiles were added earlier this year, but now that will expand to adult profiles as well. Each profile will have its own watchlist and recommendations. The feature should be rolling out next month in the US. Another change coming to Google TV is information cards that will be displayed when the device is idle, just prior to the screensaver starting. The smart display-like feature will show weather, sports scores, news, and other information that can be scrolled through with the remote. Podcast and music apps will also be able to display cards. I’m willing to bet that these new information cards will eventually, if not immediately, display ads, much like the Fire TV’s screensaver ads. This is also expected to arrive next month in the US only. SOURCE: AFTVNEWS.COM
  8. Ever since the 3rd-gen Alexa Voice Remote was introduced, which gaines a guide button and 4 app shortcut buttons compared to the older remote, it began being bundled with more and more Fire TV models. The 3rd-gen Fire TV Stick was the first bundle to receive it and the new remote was bundled with the Fire TV Stick 4K when that model was finally released in Australia, Brazil, and Mexico. Similarly, when the Fire TV Cube was released a month later in India for the first time, it too included the new remote. More recently, Amazon swapped the new remote into Fire TV Stick 4K bundles in many countries and, of course, the new Fire TV Stick 4K Max includes it. Now, the last Fire TV model with the old remote is losing it as well, as the Fire TV Cube has now been bundled with the new remote in most countries. Amazon has introduced new Fire TV Cube bundles this week in many regions that include the newer 3rd-gen Alexa Voice Remote, instead of the older 2nd-gen remote. These new bundles include the exact same Fire TV Cube that was first released in 2019, but come with the new remote. The new Fire TV Cube bundles are already available to order in the UK, Germany, France, Italy, and Spain. As already mentioned, the Fire TV Cube in India already had the new remote bundled. Pricing of the new bundles with the newer remote is exactly the same as the Fire TV Cube prices with the older remote. Amazon is not yet selling the Fire TV Cube in the US, Canada, or Japan with the newer remote. It’s likely just a matter of time before the new remote is bundled in those countries as well because Twitter user @_snoopytech_, who has a knack for finding images of unreleased devices, has posted images of the Fire TV Cube with the US varient of the new remote, so that bundle will probably be released in the US soon. The US varient of the 3rd-gen Alexa Voice Remote is the only one with Disney+ and Hulu as the bottom two app shortcut buttons. Amazon will likely continue to sell both the Fire TV Cube and Fire TV Stick 4K with the older remote for a little while as it depletes its supply of the older bundles. The 3rd-gen Fire TV Stick was available for purchase on Amazon with the older remote for about a month after the new bundle was introduced. More recently, the bundle with the older remote was made available on Amazon-owned Woot.com for a discount, so we may see the same thing happen to the Fire TV Cube and Fire TV Stick 4K bundles that include the older remote. SOURCE: AFTVNEWS.COM
  9. Amazon has put most Fire TV models on sale at some of the best prices we’ve seen all year. If you missed picking something up during Prime Day or can’t wait until Black Friday, these are very likely the best prices you’ll see outside of those major sale events. To start, the Fire TV Stick Lite is on sale for $19.99, which is 30% off and just $2 above the lowest price it has ever been. The 3rd-gen Fire TV Stick is on sale for $24.99, which is 38% off and is also just $2 above the lowest price it has been. The Fire TV Stick 4K drops to $29.99 when you use promo code ADDFTV at checkout. That bundle includes the new remote with a guide and app shortcut buttons, but, if you prefer, the same code works for the older remote bundle as well for the same discount. Lastly, the Fire TV Cube is on sale for $89.99, which is 25% off the regular price of $119.99. That price is $10 above the lowest it has ever been. SOURCE: AFTVNEWS.COM
  10. Every time a new Fire TV model is released, I run it through benchmark utilities like Geekbench and GFXBench and post the results compared to all previous Fire TV models. Those tests serve as a good way to measure the raw performance of a device, but I always preface the results by saying that it’s not a good representation of how the devices will perform in actual daily use. A better indication of real-world performance is seeing how quickly each device executes the most common task of a streaming device, which is the launching of apps. I measured how fast every Fire TV, Fire TV Stick, and Fire TV Cube model launches apps and the results were quite surprising. I’ll include details of how this app launching test was performed at the bottom of the article, but the short version is I measured how long it takes to sequentially launch HBO Max, Disney+, Fubo TV, Sling TV, Tubi, and Pluto TV. Timing started when the first app was clicked and stopped when the sixth app reached its home screen. I, notably, did not include Netflix because the Netflix app is preloaded on certain Fire TV models to make it launch faster, which would have been an unfair comparison across devices. Each 6-app launch sequence was done 3 times on each device and the fastest 2 results were averaged for the final score. If you need to determine exactly which Fire TV model you have, to know how it ranks in this test against other models, in you can use my Informer app or follow this quide. Traditional benchmark utilities primarily tax the CPU and GPU of a device. Launching apps in rapid succession, as I did for this test, is also a good measurement of processor performance but it also heavily relies on how fast the internal storage and the memory (RAM) can be read and written to. Another aspect of the device that makes a significant impact is how much RAM the device has. With more RAM, going back to the Fire TV’s home screen in between each app load, for example, will be quicker because more of the home screen elements will still be stored in the RAM, as opposed to needing to be read from the much slower internal storage. The Results Comparing the results above to the Geekbench benchmark scores, you can see that devices with more raw power absolutely do not always launch apps faster than weaker devices. I’ll go into more detail about how each model scored below, but an immediate surprise is the Fire TV 2, which is the 2nd most powerful device but is only the 5th quickest to launch apps. In contrast, the Fire TV 1, which is the oldest device and ranked 8th in raw power, is surprisingly the 3rd quickest to launch apps. The original Firestick 4K also launches apps more quickly than its power ranking, since it’s the 4th quickest to open apps but the 6th most powerful device. Fire TV Cube 2 (Released 2019): 55.7 seconds The 2nd-gen Fire TV Cube is the most powerful model and the only one with a 6-core CPU. It also has 2GB of RAM, which matches several other models for the most memory. Unsurprisingly, it launches apps the quickest, but what is surprising is that it does so nearly 4 times faster than the 1st-gen Fire TV. That’s a pretty compelling reason to upgrade from the old Cube to the new one, even though both models share the exact same features. Fire TV Stick 4K Max (Released 2021): 63.2 seconds At the risk of sounding like a fanboy, the brand new Fire TV Stick 4K Max continues to impress me with each new test I throw at it. I expected it to rank high, based on its benchmark utility scores, but I absolutely did not expect it to score within 11% of the Fire TV Cube 2 on this test. With only a 7 second difference across the launch of 6 apps, you really aren’t going to notice much of a performance difference between the Fire TV Stick 4K Max and the Fire TV Cube 2 in real-world use. Compared to the original Fire TV Stick 4K, the new model launched apps 35% faster. That likely has just as much to do with the 2GB of RAM in the new device, compared to 1.5 GB in the old model, as it does with the CPU performance. Fire TV 1 (Released 2014): 97.7 seconds Talk about an underdog coming out of nowhere to impress. The 1st-gen Fire TV that started it all just barely edged out the next model to, surprisingly, be the 3rd fastest to launch apps even though it ranks close to the bottom of the pack in raw performance figures. Its age is probably what actually ended up helping it the most in this test because there are some features, both in the OS and in the launched apps, that aren’t available on the original Fire TV. While you can certainly argue the benefit of features versus speed, that lack of bloat is probably what keeps it so snappy. Fire TV Stick 4K (Released 2018): 97.8 seconds The Fire TV Stick 4K certainly holds its own at nearly a tie for 3rd place. It’s certainly no slouch and these results help explain why Amazon has decided to keep it around and even rejuvenated it with a new remote, even though the Fire TV Stick 4K Max is now available. The Fire TV Stick 4K has nearly the same processor as the Fire TV Stick 3 and Stick Lite, but, notably, launches apps about 11-14% faster. That’s certainly all due to the fact that it has 1.5GB of RAM compared to 1GB in the non-4K Firesticks. Fire TV 2 (Released 2015): 107.5 seconds One of the biggest surprises of this test, in a bad way, is the 2nd-gen Fire TV ranking 5th in app launch speed, despite it being the 2nd most powerful device. That highlights how raw performance does not directly correlate to real-world advantages. One explanation for the poor ranking is that the 2nd-gen Fire TV is the only Fire TV model using a 64-bit operating system. 64-bit architecture, compared to 32-bit which all other Fire TV models use, takes a hit in performance, especially when software running on the device doesn’t take advantage of the extra addressable space. This is a big reason why Amazon switched back to a 32-bit OS with all newer models. Fire TV Stick 3 (Released 2020): 109.7 seconds The 3rd-gen Fire TV Stick expectedly ranks in the middle of the pack in terms of app launch speed because that’s around where it falls in raw performance. As noted previously, the Fire TV Stick 4K, which uses nearly the same processor, launches apps 11% faster primarily due to the extra 0.5 GB of RAM that it has. The extra RAM keeps more of the OS in memory, so switching between an app and the home screen is snappier. One thing to note is that the gap between the 3rd-gen Fire TV Stick and the Fire TV Stick 4K is greater if the latter is set to 1080p, since this test was run at the device’s maximum resolution. Fire TV Stick Lite (Released 2020): 114.4 seconds The Fire TV Stick Lite, much like the 3rd-gen Fire TV Stick, ranks as expected because the two devices share the same hardware, so the comments above apply to it as well. The 4% difference between the two models is larger than I would have expected. My best explanation for the difference is that the Fire TV Stick Lite was the last device I tested, whereas the 3rd-gen Fire TV was among the first. Sitting powered on longer, relative to the others, and being tested during a hotter part of the day probably made the Fire TV Stick Lite run a bit hotter during the test than the 3rd-gen Fire TV Stick, which hurt performance. Fire TV 3 (Released 2017): 115.7 seconds The 3rd-gen Fire TV (pendant) holds its own in this test. Even though it’s near the bottom, it rounds out the pack of models that come in close to the 100-second mark, so it’s not much slower than those above it. While it has a weaker processor than most of the Firesticks above it, it’s helped by the fact that it has 2 GB of RAM. While most Fire TV 3 owners were absolutely fine skipping on the Fire TV Stick 4K, unless Dolby Vision support was important, the Fire TV Stick 4K Max does present a decent upgrade, since it launches apps about twice as fast. Fire TV Cube 1 (Released 2018): 180.9 seconds The 1st-gen Fire TV Cube has had the reputation of being underpowered, since it has the exact same hardware (CPU, GPU, and RAM) as the Fire TV 3 (pendant) but carries the performance burden of far-field mics that need to constantly process audio for wake word detection. It is a bit surprising that the mic burden results in such a slower device, with apps launching 36% slower than the Fire TV 3. This really makes me hope that whenever Amazon makes a 3rd-gen Fire TV Cube, that they also release the same hardware in a non-far-field variant for those that are willing to give up the hands-free voice capabilities in exchange for even better performance. Fire TV Stick 2 (Released 2016): 297.7 seconds Despite all the surprises already, easily the most surprising results for me were with the 2nd-gen Fire TV Stick. I knew it would be slow, but I did not expect it to be as slow as it is. This certainly wasn’t always the case with the Fire TV Stick 2, but years of bloat in both the OS and in 3rd-party apps have bogged this device down to where it is infuriatingly slow if you want to use more than a couple of apps. It’s passable if you’re just opening an app and spending all of your time in that one app, which I suspect is how most people are using it, but switching apps grinds it to a halt. Additionally, heat build-up seems to be a big issue with the Fire TV Stick 2 when quickly performing many tasks. Most devices scored slightly faster times with each iteration of my test as more background tasks were forced out of RAM to make room for the apps being launched. The Fire TV Stick 2, on the other hand, clearly got slower and slower with each iteration, most likely due to the device getting hotter and hotter, which slows down the processor. If you are still using a Fire TV Stick 2, and can afford to do so, you will absolutely not regret upgrading, no matter which new model you buy. Fire TV Stick 1 (Released 2014): 495.6 seconds The 1st-gen Fire TV Stick is almost unusably slow for everything other than single-purpose streaming in a single app. If all you do is launch one app and start playing a video every so often, it’ll still be slow but usable. Once you start switching apps you might as well go grab a snack or do some stretches between button presses. Unlike all other Fire TV models that have at least a quad-core processor, the original Fire TV Stick is the only model with a dual-core processor, which is likely what contributes most to how slow it is. I’m always hesitant to say someone absolutely should upgrade a device, because everyone’s financial situation can vary greatly, but, in the case of the Fire TV Stick 1, nobody should still be using it since the Fire TV Stick Lite can be purchased for around $20 when on sale and launches apps over 4 times faster. Testing Procedure Details Each Fire TV model was factory reset and updated to the latest available software version, including both OS updates and system app updates, prior to the test. Each model was running at its highest resolution with default settings. The latest available version of each app in the test was installed from the Amazon Appstore. I chose HBO Max and Disney+ to represent paid on-demand apps. I chose Fubo TV and Sling TV to represent live linear cable-replacement apps. I chose Tubi and Pluto TV to represent free ad-supported apps. HBO Max, Disney+, Fubo TV, and Sling TV apps were logged in but Tubi and Pluto TV were not used with accounts. In full disclosure, Fubo TV and Sling TV provide complimentary access to AFTVnews for review purposes, but they had no say in their involvement in this test and had no influence on the results. All 6 apps were placed in the first 6 slots on the Fire TV home screen’s app row and were launched sequentially from the home screen, in the same order every time, using the Fire TV remote. When each app was launched, a user profile was selected when presented (i.e., for HBO Max and Disney+), and I waited for all elements and images on the app’s home screen to fully load before proceeding to the next app. The Fire TV home screen was loaded in between each app, in order to access the next app, but I did not wait for the home screen to fully load and, instead, proceeded to launch the next app as quickly as possible. Timing started when the first app was selected and timing stopped when the final app’s home screen fully loaded, which constituted one complete sequence. On each Fire TV model, after all apps were installed and logged in, the device was restarted and allowed to sit idle before starting the test. The first sequence of app launches was performed and not measured to ensure that all apps had an opportunity to cache their needed data. Then 3 back-to-back sequences were performed and separately measured, only pausing in between each sequence to record the results and reset the timer and cursor position. Of those 3 measured sequences, the fastest two times were averaged for the final score. SOURCE: AFTVNEWS.COM
  11. I’ve spent a large part of today testing how fast every Fire TV model can launch apps for a performance benchmark article I plan to put up on Monday. Something I immediately noticed is that Netflix launches fast. Like, very fast. Actually, it launches too fast. From a fresh reboot of the device, most apps take several seconds to launch. Netflix, on the other hand, launches in 1 to 2 seconds every time. It shouldn’t be launching that fast when the device was just rebooted because there shouldn’t be any apps in memory (RAM). After a bunch of testing, I’ve determined that Amazon is preloading Netflix into memory on Fire TV devices before it is ever launched, making it load faster when/if you do decide to launch it. Amazon is not doing this for other apps, including Prime Video. When an app is launched for the first time after a reboot, after many other apps have been used, or after the device has been idle for a while, the app needs to be read from the device’s internal storage and loaded into the device’s memory. This is often referred to as a cold launch. Once an app has been loaded into memory, and assuming nothing else has kicked it out of memory, it will launch much more quickly the next time you go to launch it. This is often referred to as a warm launch. It appears as though Amazon is preloading some or all of Netflix into memory, or pre-warming the app, on certain Fire TV devices. The result is that the first time Netflix is launched, it launches as fast as if it was recently launched and still in memory. Here are launch times, in seconds, for Prime Video, Netflix, Disney+, and Hulu on the Fire TV Stick 4K Max: .compare{width: 100% !important; table-layout:fixed;} .compare tr td{text-align:center; padding: 0.2em;} .compare tr td img{margin: 0 auto;} .compare tr td:nth-child(1){text-align:left;font-weight:bold; vertical-align:middle; background-color:#F2F2F2} .compare img,.compare img.alignnone{margin:0px} Cold Launch Warm Launch Reboot Launch Prime Video 2.62s 0.71s 2.70s Netflix 12.60s 0.89s 1.84s Disney+ 7.52s 4.32s 8.38s Hulu 8.66s 0.87s 10.30s I tested those four apps because they are the four app shortcut buttons on Fire TV remotes in the US. All times were measured from launch to reaching the app’s profile selection screen or home screen, whichever came first. For cold launch times, I force-quit the app, to ensure it was not in memory, and measured how long it took to launch. For warm launch times, I loaded the app, pressed the home button on the Fire TV remote to leave the app, and then measured how long it takes to immediately relaunched the same app. For reboot launch times, I rebooted the Fire TV, waited a few seconds after it fully loaded the home screen, and then measured how long it takes to launch the app. I took an average of 3 measurements for each value. As you can see, cold launch times for all apps but Netflix are similar to the app’s reboot launch times, as they should be. Netflix, on the other hand, lanches nearly as fast after a reboot as it does when the app is warm, indicating that the Fire TV is giving the Netflix app some kind of preferential treatment in order to launch it faster than it should be launching. It’s worth noting that reboot launch times for the other 3 apps are likely slower than the app’s cold launch time because the Fire TV is still busy performing background tasks after a reboot. Whereas, for the cold times, the Fire TV had been sitting idle for a while. It’s also worth mentioning that Disney+ has a poor warm launch time, relative to the other apps, because it always plays the full Disney logo animation when it’s launched, while the other apps skip right to the profile selection screen or home screen if the app is warm and in memory. At this point, I was already convinced the Fire TV was preloading Netflix on boot, but to prove it further I ran another test. I botted up the Fire TV Stick Max and measured that about 610 MB of its 2 GB of memory was not being used after the device had sat idle for a while. I then connected to the device, using the Android Debug Bridge (ADB), and remotely force-quit Netflix (which I never launched) using a shell command. Immediately after running the quit command, the available memory increased to 695 MB instantly. I then launched Netflix and saw the available memory drop to around 601 MB. I did not check every Fire TV model for this behavior with Netflix, but I did observe it on the aforementioned Fire TV Stick 4K Max and on the 2nd-gen Fire TV Cube. I did not see the same behavior on the original Fire TV Stick 4K. This could be because only Fire OS 7 devices behave this way with Netflix, which the Stick 4K Max and Cube are, while the older Stick 4K is a Fire OS 6 device. It also seems like some Roku devices preload Netflix this way as well, but Roku does not provide the level of control and insight into what the device is doing to know for sure. I did not test Apple TV, Android TV, or Google TV devices. On one hand, it makes sense for Amazon to want the world’s most popular streaming app to launch as fast as possible, since so many people will benefit from it launching faster. On the other hand, I’d much rather have control over which apps, if any, receive this kind of special treatment, instead of it being decided for me. One unknown is whether Amazon is voluntarily doing this or if Netflix is forcing them to do it through the leverage they hold as the top streaming app. SOURCE: AFTVNEWS.COM
  12. The original Fire TV Stick 4K was first introduced in 2018 alongside the 2nd-gen Alexa Voice Remote, which brought TV power and volume controls to the Fire TV lineup for the first time. Since then, Amazon launched the 3rd-gen Alexa Voice Remote with the 3rd-gen Fire TV Stick and the Fire TV Stick 4K Max. Now, Amazon has also decided to bundle the 3rd-gen Alexa Voice Remote the original Fire TV Stick 4K. The new bundle costs the same as the old bundle and the old bundle is still available if you prefer to older remote. The 3rd-gen Alexa Voice remote was introduced earlier this year and Amazon swapped it in as the remote that comes with the 3rd-gen Fire TV Stick in all regions. The main difference between the new and old remote is the addition of a channel guide button and four app shortcut buttons. Later, when Amazon launched the original Fire TV Stick 4K in Australia, Brazil, and Mexico it included the new remote but kept the old remote bundled in all other regions. That has now changed because a new bundle for the original Fire TV Stick 4K with the newer remote has been made available in several more regions and will likely may its way to all regions. The new bundle costs the same $49.99 as the older bundle. Amazon is also pushing the new bundle with messages on the old bundle’s product page that say a new version is available. While the new remote likely costs more to produce, due to the added functionality, it’s likely more profitable for Amazon because of revenue brought in by streaming services paying for the app shortcut buttons. I expect that, once the existing stock of the Fire TV Stick 4K with the older remote runs out, Amazon will only sell the device with the new remote. There’s no saying how long that will be, but it took about a month for the 3rd-gen Fire TV Stick bundle that included the older remote to go out of stock, once the new bundle was released. Fire TV Stick 4K w/ 3rd-gen Alexa Remote: US UK Canada Australia Brasil Mexico SOURCE: AFTVNEWS.COM
  13. One big unadvertised but significant difference between the Fire TV Stick 4K Max and the original Fire TV Stick 4K is how each one handles external USB storage. With the original Firestick 4K, you can connect a drive using an OTG cable and access files on that drive through 3rd-party apps, but the Fire TV operating system ignores the drive entirely. With the new Fire TV Stick 4K Max, external drives are fully supported, meaning, you can mount, format, and eject the drives. Most importantly, you can also use external drives to expand the device’s internal storage and move apps to the external drive. If you connect a USB drive formatted with FAT32 to the micro-USB power port of the Fire TV Stick 4K Max using an OTG cable with micro-USB power, the device will mount it and add a notification declaring that the drive has limited device access. This just means that you can’t store apps on the drive in its current state, but the drive will be mounted and accessible by 3rd-party apps. Amazon labels this as a drive for “External Storage,” as opposed to a drive for “Internal Storage” which I’ll get into more further below. FAT32 formatted drives mounted as External Storage will appear under the Fire TV Stick 4K Max’s Settings > My Fire TV > USB Drive menu. From there you can see how much of the drive’s available storage is used. You can also use this menu to safely eject the drive and can choose to format it for use as Internal Storage. Apps, like Kodi, will be able to access any files stored on the USB drive. As mentioned, the drive must be formatted with FAT32. If you connect a drive that is not FAT32, the Fire TV will ask if you want to format it for External or Internal Storage. Selecting External Storage from the prompt will erase the drive and format it with FAT32. Like all past Fire TV models, NTFS formatted drives are not supported. If you select Internal Storage from the formatting prompt, or you go to Settings > My Fire TV > USB Drive and select “Format to Internal Storage,” then the drive will be erased and formatted to allow Fire TV apps to be stored on the drive. Once formatted for Internal Storage, the drive cannot be used for anything else unless it is first formatted back to FAT32 or some other file system format. The Fire TV will provide a new option under the USB Drive menu to “Format to External Storage” when a drive formatted for Internal Storage is connected. With a drive formatted for Internal Storage connected to the Fire TV Stick 4K Max, certain apps will now have a “Move to USB Storage” option in the Manage Installed Applications menu. It is up to the app developer to decide whether their app can be moved to USB storage, so many apps will not have the option. Additionally, it’s important to note that only the apps “Application” files will be moved and not the “Data” files. In the image above, you can see that Kodi is using 153 MB of “Application” storage, which can be moved to USB storage, but the 103 MB of “Data” storage must remain on the Fire TV’s internal storage. Once an app has been moved to USB storage, a USB icon will appear next to the app in the Fire TV’s management menu. You can also filter the list of installed apps by only those stored internally or externally. An app can easily be moved back to internal storage using the same app management menu. If a USB drive with apps on it is disconnected, those apps will not be accessible until the drive is reconnected. If you connect a USB hub to the OTG cable, or, better yet, a USB hub with OTG capabilities built-in, you can connect multiple USB devices. The Fire TV does not handle multiple USB drives too well, since the settings menu only shows the last drive you connected, but it is possible to mount and access more than one drive at the same time, as shown within Kodi in the image above. You can also connect USB peripherals, like mice and keyboards, as well as Ethernet adapters, all simultaneously. One limitation, however, is that you cannot connect both a drive for Internal Storage (for apps) and a drive for External Storage (for media) simultaneously. The Fire TV can’t handle that and just makes the External Storage drive accessible. This means that, if you want to store apps on a USB drive, you can’t also access files on a second drive at the same time. SOURCE: AFTVNEWS.COM
  14. One of the shortcomings of the original Fire TV Stick 4K is that, even though the device supports Dolby Atmos surround sound audio, it is not supported within the Netflix app. This is because, for some absurd reason, Netflix has decided that only devices running Fire OS 7 will support Dolby Atmos in Netflix, even though there are plenty of apps supporting Dolby Atmos on Fire OS 6 devices. Since the original Fire TV Stick 4K runs Fire OS 6, it does not support Dolby Atmos in Netflix. Thankfully, the new Fire TV Stick 4K Max addresses that shortcoming by running Fire OS 7 and it does support Dolby Atmos playback in Netflix. SOURCE: AFTVNEWS.COM
  15. With each new Fire TV model, the question is always asked if Amazon has done anything to deter sideloading apps. The new Fire TV Stick 4K Max is no different, but, rest assured, that it’s all business as usual. The latest Firestick does support sideloading just fine. You can use my Downloader app on it just fine and I’ve used it to install Kodi without any issues. SOURCE: AFTVNEWS.COM
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