Firing the Fire TV
By Harold Glicken
The first corollary of Murphy’s Law is that gadgets fail when you need them most. The second corollary is that their manufacturers release their gadgets before the bugs are worked out. And the third corollary is that they don’t let their offshore techis in on the secrets of dealing with the bugs. So it is with Amazon’s Fire TV Second Generation and Logitech’s otherwise smart Smart Hub universal remote.
Logitech says the Amazon Fire TV is compatible with its hub remote, but after a long and exasperating call to Logitech tech support, they conceded that the $100 second generation Fire TV wasn't, at the time, compatible with its hub remotes. So why did their website list the Fire TV as compatible? (A pause while I wait on hold.) That’s all I can tell you, the tech says. “But sometimes if you add and delete the device on your remote several times, it starts working. We will be having an update soon.” And sure enough, the update arrived.
And then, in the middle of this periodic screed, the Amazon apps on my Roku and the TV itself stopped playing audio. No matter how hard I tried to get audio through my surround-sound system, the only way I could get sound was through the TV’s speakers. So, a call to Amazon.
Amazon Tech No. 1 tells me to change the audio settings on my Fire TV. That worked for about a minute, then the speakers went silent.
Tech No. 2 tells me that the Fire TV senses that there is a recordable DVD (which I don’t have) or sound system and, to prevent piracy, shuts them down. There is no fix for that, he claims.
Tech No. 3 scratches his head at that, but can only offer what Tech No. 1 suggested. Same results: sound for a minute, then silence. I felt like a dog chasing its tail.
And now for the fourth corollary of Murphy’s Law: Just because a gadget worked before doesn’t mean it’s going to work later.
I had a perfectly good first generation Amazon Fire TV, but when I upgraded to a Super Ultra High Definition 4K TV, I wanted to take advantage of 4K streaming that Amazon offers. Since I couldn’t get sound out of the new device, I decided to reinstall the old one. And then I discovered Corollary No. 5: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Not only couldn’t I get sound from the old Fire TV, the universal remote no longer worked with it.
Amazon’s tech support may not be up to snuff, but their free return policy steps in where gadget freaks dare to tread.
I returned the Fire TV device and ordered an Amazon Fire TV Stick. If nothing else, I have retained an ounce of optimism where gadgets are concerned. The sound through my speakers works fine, my universal remote controls it perfectly and other than the fact that it doesn’t offer 4K resolution, it’s good enough. At $40, direct from Amazon, it’s a great deal. Endings can be happy, too.