It's on fire

5 tips and tricks to get the most out of your new Amazon Fire TV

So you got your hands on a new Amazon Fire TV or a Fire TV stick this holiday season. You’ve spent the last few days watching Netflix or Amazon Prime Instant, and now you’re wondering: What else can I do with this?

I’m glad you asked. Here are five tips worth trying if you want to get the most out of your Fire TV:

1. Install apps directly from Amazon’s website

One of the more frustrating things about the Fire TV is the integrated app store: Amazon chose to highlight some apps through lists and recommendations, but it’s impossible to find others. Luckily, there is another way: You can always just go to Amazon’s website and either browse all Fire TV apps, or search for what you are looking for, and then remotely install the app directly onto your Fire TV or Fire TV stick.

2. Play personal media

Amazon’s Fire TV allows you to display any photos or home movies you have uploaded to Amazon’s Cloud Drive. But what if you just want to look at photos on your phone or maybe play a longer movie saved on your computer’s hard drive? That’s where local media sharing apps come in.

There are just a handful of those apps available for Fire TV, but these two should help you with most of your needs: Allcast offers an easy way to beam photos, videos and even music from your phone or from sources like Google Drive to your Fire TV. You can download the Allcast app for your Android phone on Google Play, but you’ll also need the free Allcast receiver app for your Fire TV, which can be remotely installed on the device from Amazon’s website. Once that is done, Allcast will automatically launch the receiver app whenever you want to start sending media, meaning that you won’t have to bust out your Fire TV remote control to get things going.

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Allcast is a good way to quickly beam personal media to a Fire TV.

For a more powerful solution, you should check out Plex. It’s a media center app that catalogs your media and presents it on your Fire TV, complete with a nice user interface with cover art and more. Plex relies on a server application that you’ll have to install on your computer, but it’s definitely the way to go if you have a large personal media collection. Plex apps are available for Android, iOS and Kindle Fire, and the Fire TV app for Plex can be installed directly on the device or through the Amazon app store.

3. Mirror your Kindle Fire, Fire phone or Android mobile device

Another way to quickly get content on the Fire TV is to mirror your screen. Fire TV supports Miracast mirroring, which is also supported by Android devices as well as select Windows PCs and Amazon’s own Fire TV tablets and Fire phones. To make it work, you’ll first need to go to Settings – Display & Sounds and then select “Enable Wireless Mirroring,” and then start mirroring on your Android device (instructions here) or Kindle Fire (instructions here).

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To mirror your phone or tablet, you’ll need to first enable screen mirroring.

4. Use Airplay with your Fire TV

Owners of iOS devices or Mac OS X computers don’t have to feel left out when it comes to mirroring: The AirPlay & DLNA receiver Pro app, which is available on the Amazon app store for $4.99, turns any Fire TV into an Apple TV-like AirPlay renderer. This means that you can mirror your Mac’s desktop or your iPad’s or iPhone’s screen on your Fire TV.

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Guess what: Your Fire TV can also receive AirPlay streams.

You can also use AirPlay directly from some iOS apps, but your mileage may vary: Sending audio to your Fire TV should work fine, but you should expect some difficulties sending video from apps. Also, performance of AirPlay mirroring may vary based on your Wi-Fi network and other circumstances, so this may not be the best solution if you want to stream videos from other websites, but it’s still a great way to quickly beam a presentation, or maybe some photos, to the TV screen.

5. Install third-party apps

Amazon now offers a bunch of apps for the Fire TV, but technically, the device would be available to do even more: Fire TV is based on Android, and thus able to play almost any Android app, provided that it doesn’t need touch input and that it can be used with a TV remote control. Loading apps from third-party sources, which is also known as sideloading, is a little more complicated that on some other devices, but still feasible for more adventurous users. Sideloadfiretv.com has some good instructions on how to do it.

However, there are a few things to consider when going down this route: First, you’ll want to make sure to only get Android apps from reputable sources, and be aware of legal grey areas. Google Play doesn’t offer users a way to download apps to their PCs or Macs, which is why many who are interested in sideloading rely on apps hosted on other sites instead. You may violate copyright laws by downloading apps that are republished without the consent of the original developer, and apps downloaded from unknown sources could potentially also include malware code. However, some developers have decided to make their apps directly available from their websites. This includes Kodi, a media center app popular with users looking to customize their Fire TV experience, which can be legally downloaded from the Kodi website.

If you sideloaded a lot of apps to your Fire TV, you may want to consider an alternative home screen like FiredTV.
If you sideloaded a lot of apps to your Fire TV, you may want to consider an alternative home screen like FiredTV.

Also, sideloaded apps don’t show up on the Fire TV home screen. Instead, you’ll be able to launch them by going to Settings — Applications. Or you could instead install a custom home screen replacement like the FiredTVLauncher that lists anything you are installing from other sources. And no worries, you can always go back to the Fire TV home screen in order to browse Amazon’s movies and TV shows.

18 Responses to “5 tips and tricks to get the most out of your new Amazon Fire TV”

  1. Clay Cain

    Good grief some of you really do not know how to use a device or what it takes to use it. Do you read specs and reviews to help you buy it or not???

  2. I own Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV and Chromecast. I have to say I use Amazon Fire TV most of the time and I hardly use Apple TV anymore. Fire TV has some amazing specs, Dolby Digital 7.1, more memory and faster CPU. But to get most out of it you need to root it. After you’ve rooted the Fire TV, you will be able to install all kinds of apps on it from Google Play store such as: Beats music, Spotify, online games etc.; and more important, you will be able to install and use VPN (https://vpntips.com/fire-tv-vpn-install/) on it which allows you bypass the geo restrictions of many streaming services like Hulu plus, Pandora.

  3. replaced my ATV2 +xbmc , bought 2 FireTV devices its smooth and slick and sideloading apps is a doddle with adbfire, using airplay/dlna pro app(from amazon store) means i can still airplay from my idevice’s, if you want one device to play it all this is the closest you will get, new king of the hill

  4. DealForALiving

    If we’re being candid, Amazon products should be used as is. If you’re willing to tinker with something, go with someone you can get from Google. And if you’re not married to Amazon content, stick with Apple products.

    • How is it complicated? If you have a Netflix account you watch Netflix. If you have a hulu Plus account you watch hulu Plus. If you have an Amazon Prime account you watch Amazon Prime. If you don’t have any monthly subscription services, you watch the limited amount of free material available.

      • GenghisDon

        I just got one and I’ve been messing around with it. To me, I’d rather just stick with cable instead of trying to replace it with something like this. Maybe I’m old fashioned but I find it easier to just set my DVR to record the shows I want and then use on-demand to watch movies. Since the list of movies from prime video is like a pile of VHS tapes I’d find at any random garage sale, I’m not really sold on this item. I don’t want to pay for the stick, then pay for prime only to have to pay even more for stuff I might actually want to watch. Guess that’s what i get for buying something advertised by Gary Busey. =)

        • It is a matter of preference to stick with cable, but there are ways around paying the premium price for cable. If you would ditch cable and use fire tv with a hulu plus, netflix and prime you would still pay way less than cable each month and have a great selection. Also with an antenna you could get the OTA channels in your area. If you want to go further and use functions like DVR there are solutions like HDhomerun that convert tv signal in a network stream and you can use applications to record shows. Again, it is a matter of preference and how much you want to tinker with technology. I had my amazon fire tv for more than a week and Inam happy with it. I also own an Android TV box and an android imito mx2 stick and I enjoy them as well. I started to use sling tv on them to get some of the cable channels.