In a crowded marketplace, the Amazon Fire TV sticks and boxes remain some of the simplest and least expensive ways to get music and movies up on your big-screen TV—especially if you’re invested in Amazon’s streaming services. If you own a Fire TV device, here are ten tricks to get more from it.
1) Personalize your screensaver
When you’re not actively using your Fire TV device, the screensaver is going to kick into action, so it’s worth spending a few minutes making sure the screensaver is showing something you’re happy with. From Settings, go to Display & Sound, and then Screensaver: The subsequent screen lets you choose which images are used (your own or Amazon’s curated library), how fast they scroll by, how soon they’re enabled, and more.
2) Restrict Amazon’s data collecting
We’re all a little more aware of data collection practices these days, and Amazon will very happily keep tabs on what you’re doing on your Fire TV device in order to serve up targeted advertising, better recommendations, and so on. If you want to take more control over the data Amazon can and can’t log from your device, head to Settings, then browse across to Preferences and choose Privacy Settings to turn the available options on or off.
3) Use your phone as a remote
You’re probably fiddling with your phone all the time that you’re watching something on your Fire TV device anyway, so why not use your phone as a remote too? You’ll be able to fill out login forms and run searches much more easily with the keyboard on your phone, and you can launch apps and games more quickly too. Download the Amazon Fire TV app for Android or iOS, and connecting across a local wifi network should take seconds.
4) Get friendly with Alexa
Alexa onboard your Fire TV device means you’ve essentially got yourself a huge Echo Show—besides asking for content from your music and movie apps, you can look up the weather, check your schedule, search for pictures of something or someone, get current traffic conditions, and so on. Use the Alexa app for Android or iOS to get your Fire TV gadget connected to your various third-party accounts (like Spotify and Google Calendar) too.
5) Listen over Bluetooth
Just because other people are asleep in the house doesn’t mean that you have to stop watching whatever movie or show you’ve got streaming to your Amazon Fire TV device: You can connect up a pair of Bluetooth headphones and keep on viewing. To add a Bluetooth audio device, you need to head to Settings, then pick Remotes & Bluetooth Devices, then Other Bluetooth Devices to start the wireless pairing process.
6) Take a closer look
The Fire TV software includes an on-screen magnifier you can use to make text easier to read, if you’re struggling to see it at the standard size. From Settings, go to Accessibility, then pick Screen Magnifier. Once the feature is enabled, you’ll see the remote shortcuts you need to find your way around—hold down the Menu button (three horizontal lines), then tap on a direction on the navigation pad to pan around the screen, for example.
7) Fire up Firefox
You might not find the idea of running a web browser on your Fire TV device particularly compelling, but by loading up the Firefox app for Fire TV, you can access a host of online videos, get at apps that aren’t officially supported on the platform (like Twitter), put tabs from Firefox on your phone or laptop up on the big screen, and more. To make typing into the web browser more straightforward, use the Fire TV app on your phone (see above).
8) Make sure your Fire TV display matches your actual TV
Your Fire TV stick or box should automatically configure itself to work as well as possible with your actual television set, but there are settings you can delve into if something isn’t right: From Settings, choose Display & Sound, then pick Display. You can change the resolution, color depth, color format, frame rate and more. To fit the Fire TV output perfectly to the display you’re using, select Calibrate Display and follow the instructions.
9) Quiet the notifications
As if you weren’t getting enough alerts on your smartphone, now your streaming devices are getting in on the act too. Various apps will try and ping you with notifications, about breaking news, recently added content, and so on, but you can turn this off if you prefer: Open up Settings, then scroll to Preferences and Notification Settings. Enable Do Not Interrupt to block all alerts, or use App Notifications for control over individual apps.
10) Lock your kids out
The Fire TV devices come with parental controls onboard, so you can make sure your kids aren’t watching anything they shouldn’t: From the Settings page, choose Preferences, then Parental Controls. You can protect purchases and the launching of certain apps with a PIN, as well as place viewing restrictions on your apps—your choices here are General, Family, Teen, Young Adults and Mature (check the descriptions on the right for details).