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Amazon Fire TV 2014 vs Fire TV 2015: Why Gen 1 is better

Fire TV vs Fire TV 4K

written by Anand October 8, 2015

Amazon started shipping the new second generation Amazon Fire TV 4K last week. The first iteration of Amazon Fire TV was a big hit among media center enthusiasts because it brought everything into one box: Amazon Instant Video, Netflix, Sling TV, and more importantly Kodi. We have covered Kodi installation on Fire TV, Kodi shortcut on Fire TV home screen, and auto-starting Kodi on booting. Kodi installation and auto-starting Kodi still work on the new 2015 Amazon Fire TV. So why am I saying Amazon FireTV Gen 1 is better than the newest AFTV 4K version? Read on to find out.

Amazon Fire TV 2014 vs Fire TV 2015

Fire TV vs Fire TV 4K – I gave away the answer in the title. But it is important to understand that my impressions are based on the performance at the time of the release. Amazon may fix many of the issues in new Fire TV 4K with future software updates (next one expected around October 22nd).

New Amazon Fire TV 2015

New Amazon Fire TV 2015

In terms of specifications, AFTV Gen 2 with UHD is much better. Here are some things that are better/different in FireTV UHD 2015 (a detailed comparison can be found here):

  • Better Processor and GPU
  • 75% better overall performance
  • Wifi Voice remote
  • MIMO 802.11a/b/g/n/ac
  • Bluetooth 4.1 HID, SPP, HFP, BTLE, HOGP, GATT, A2DP, AVRCP
  • Micro SD cards up to 128 GB
  • OpenGL ES 3.1 with AEP

Unfortunately, preliminary tests reveal that these theoretically better specs did not translate into better performance / experience. Consequently, the new Fire TV currently has a rating of 2.8 out of 5.0 on Amazon reviews. Now let us have a detailed look at Amazon Fire TV 2014 vs Fire TV 2015 and why the first generation is better at this point.

1. No HD Audio / Surround Sound

The biggest issue is the lack of surround sound or HD audio output / HDMI passthrough for apps such as Netflix, Plex, and Hulu. This ruins HD watching experience for people who have a home theater speaker setup as all audio is downgraded to 2.0 channels.

And when audio does work, it seems to be too low. Some Kodi users have reported that the audio had to be turned all the way up to even barely hear conversations. Fortunately, this could be fixed in the next software update expected around October 22nd.

Update (Dec 15, 2015): Amazon is rolling out an update to 2nd Gen Fire TVs that fixes the Dolby DTS surround sound issue.

2. No Optical Audio Out

To add to the audio issues, the Fire TV 4K compared to Fire TV 2014, has no optical audio output. With HDMI passthrough not working as it should, the optical audio out could have come in handy.

Fire TV 2014 vs Fire TV 2015

Fire TV vs Fire TV 4K: MicroSD slot added but Optical Audio removed.

3. Tight Battery Cover

Amazon changed the design for the battery cover. I had to press really hard to make it slide open. Some users spent over an hour trying to open the battery cover to install batteries. The previous version had a clip design, which was very easy to open.

4. Laggy Wifi Remote

Amazon switched from Bluetooth to Wifi remote, stating lower batter consumption and faster response. Not the case, I found that I had to press the remote multiple times to get it to do what I wanted to do. [Read: A simple yet awesome IR Fire TV remote control for $5]

5. Buggy Software

The Amazon Fire TV 2015 sports Fire OS 5, which seems a bit half baked at this point. There were numerous blank screens and freezes while trying to stream videos. With better specifications, one would expect more responsive operation. Again, these bugs could be ironed out in the next update.

Update (Dec 15, 2015): I am noticing less of these things after few recent OTA updates.

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6. 4K Video Streaming Works…Sort of

4K Video streaming from Amazon works but only at 30 fps and not 60 fps like (1080p or 720p videos). Furthermore, 4K videos does not work unless you have HDCP 2.2 compliant devices (with HDMI 2.0). For some this may mean, upgrading their TV.

7. Alexa is a hit or miss

Alexa on Fire OS 5 had no issues telling me what the weather was. But some complex questions were a hit or miss and no where near Google Now’s or Microsoft’s Cortana’s performance and accuracy. [Read: 5 Must try Kodi skins for Amazon Fire TV]

Update (Dec 15, 2015): Recent updates have improved Alexa and added more features to it.

8. Kodi Works but with Minor Issues

Good news is that Kodi can be installed and it does work normally. But homescreen shortcut to open Kodi (with Llama and iKonoTV app) does not work at this point. There is no known solution. So you will have to manually go to Settings->Applications->Manage Installed Applications and open Kodi every time you want to use it. You can make Fire TV auto start to Kodi but how many times do we really reboot AFTV. The chances of fixing this or rooting the new AFTV 2015 significantly increases by stopping software auto update.

Update Oct 13, 2015: FireStarter app can simplify launching Kodi and other sideloaded apps on Fire TV, including 2015 version. Here is the guide to install FireStarter on Fire TV and Stick.

9. Harmony Compatibility

I have Logitech Harmony remote. The “OK / Enter” button does not work properly on many apps. This causes a lot of issues with navigating and playing content. Many have reported this issue in online forums as well.

Concluding Fire TV 2014 and 2015 Comparison

The awesome performance of Amazon Fire TV 2014 created a huge expectation for the 2015 version. But the new Fire TV 4K did not live up to it. Once again, many of the above problems could be fixed with a software update. I have both 1st and 2nd generation Fire TVs but I am continuing use my first generation while I test the new Fire TV 2015. It almost looks like Amazon hastily released the new Fire TV to beat out competition from 2015 Apple TV and Google (Chromecast). If you already bought the new Fire TV, you may return it, wait for the bugs to be ironed out, and re-purchase. Or you could hang in there, with the hopes that future updates would improve your Kodi and Fire TV experience. But I would not hesitate to buy the 2nd Gen Fire TV because it is still, in my opinion, the best all-one-box that can play online content from providers as well as using Kodi.

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24 comments

Mats November 5, 2015 - 6:45 am

Hi,
You state in the article that AFTV Gen 2 does not support surround sound. I am looking at getting a small media center for mainly my locally stored films, photos and misic, so I would still buy it if it would support surround when using Kodi? All my films are ripped with surround.
If not, would you know which, if any, android based small media centers will support surround?

Many thanks
Mats

Reply
Anand November 5, 2015 - 9:44 am

Mats, the Fire TV can theoretically play HD audio both inside and outside Kodi. However, there is are bugs in the Fire OS that is not allowing HD audio playback. Fire OS updates are expected to fix this shortly. Many bugs have already been fixed.

So I would still recommend Fire TV. Just be patient till the updates roll out.

Reply
Mario November 28, 2015 - 1:04 pm

HI Anand, I have a fire tv 2014 version that i use for Kodi and wanted to know would upgrading to 2015 amazon fire tv help kodi run faster or look better?

Reply
Anand November 29, 2015 - 9:19 am

The new fire TV has faster process and faster Wifi among other things. Kodi won’t look better or at least you wont find any differences visually. If you use wifi and have wifi AC network then the streaming may be a bit better. I only updated one of my 2 fire TV and that too only for testing purposes. The old one still works fine.

Reply
Chris Gagner November 28, 2015 - 11:38 pm

You state in the article that some fixes could come during the October 2015 update. Are there still problems with the Fire TV at this point?

Reply
Anand November 29, 2015 - 9:16 am

If you do not use a receiver or a surround sound system, you won’t notice any difference. In my case the 2015 model is connected directly to the TV and it works perfectly.

Reply
Brian November 30, 2015 - 3:23 pm

So the audio problems still exist for those using HDMI passthrough? And Llama still does not work?

Reply
Anand November 30, 2015 - 6:00 pm

Llama will quite possibly never work or will only work with limited functionality. If you are trying to launch Kodi, try FireStarter.

Install FireStarter on Amazon Fire TV: alternative launcher

The audio problems should be fixed pretty soon if not already. I have not had the time to verify.

EDIT (Dec 22, 2015): here is an easier method to install FireStarter: Install FireStarter on Fire TV without adb and computer

Reply
Allan Levy December 4, 2015 - 12:18 am

Plex is not working with the amazon fire 4k. Works fine on my other non 4k

Reply
Joachim Szepannek March 7, 2017 - 5:27 pm

plex is working great on fire 4K, out of the box

Reply
Andrew December 8, 2015 - 4:53 pm

Will Amazon push an update to the original Fire Tv to support 4k or will a swap be necessary?

Reply
Anand December 9, 2015 - 9:26 am

Yes and No. Original Fire TV will upgrade to Fire OS 5 but won’t have 4K support, which is more hardware dependent.

Reply
Megan December 10, 2015 - 4:44 pm

Do you when the update to the original Fire TV to upgrade to Fire OS 5 will happen?

Reply
Anand December 11, 2015 - 12:05 pm

Expected in January. AFTVNews is a good website to follow for Fire TV related news updates.

Reply
Hank Nguyen December 12, 2015 - 2:36 am

It is true What Anand talks about. I have my AFTV 2015 and install KODI today. I’m amaze how how robust it is compare to AFTV 1st generation. Definitely something that worth to have but if you are hardware dependent, there no need to upgrade.

Reply
Vicky December 18, 2015 - 11:05 pm

Hi Anand,

Even after making changes to Audio output to 5.1 in Kodi, Gen1 Fire tv doesn’t send out 5.1 sound but 2.0 to receiver.

Will this be fixed on Gen2 FTV

Reply
Anand December 20, 2015 - 8:08 am

I am surprised that is happening. Yes, Gen2 update should fix this. It may have already been fixed (I cannot test it right now).

Reply
Kelsey December 31, 2015 - 9:56 am

Is the gen 2 worth $30 more than gen 1?

Reply
Anand January 2, 2016 - 10:57 am

Its hard to find Gen 1 anymore. Yes, $30 more is worth it.

Reply
Tom January 18, 2016 - 1:29 am

Still can’t get Dolby Digital with version 2 Fire TV with latest software. Anybody have info on this? Very Frustrated. Sure wish I had optical output

Reply
Andy green January 31, 2016 - 8:13 am

Im the same. I have to connect the fire tv via hdmi to the tv. But the sound will only come through the tv speakers and not the Sony dav surround sound system.
everything else i have is connected with optical cables.
frustrating.
perhaps i need a digital cable from the surround sound to the tv.
tried optical but the tv only outputs the dtv signal. Not the hdmi audio.

Reply
EB February 2, 2016 - 8:27 pm

I have both Gens of Fire TV. One major issue I’ve had with the 2nd gen that the 1st gen didn’t have was during the use of IPTV within Kodi. First Gen worked extremely well. On the 2nd Gen, many channels will play the first couple of seconds of video and then freeze while the audio continues. A fix is to disable the video acceleration within Kodi. This allows the video to play, but of course the quality is degraded. Have you heard of another fix or heard of a possible update to the AFTV 2015 that may address this? This is the only box I have this issue on. My NUC running windows 8, fire tv first gen, fire tv stick, and nexus player all play IPTV without a hitch. Thanks in advance!!

Reply
ltd777 November 30, 2016 - 11:56 am

first gen fire tv is a piece of crap that i wasted 2 days just trying to get the remote to pair! cdomplete waste of my time!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Reply
MaverickCoast February 5, 2017 - 9:35 am

From the research I’ve done, if you’re interested in a VPN, you HAVE to have a 2nd Generation Fire Stick/TV, as the 1st generation will NOT support VPN.

Reply

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