Your Amazon Fire TV Stick or Cube is your window to a world of digital entertainment, from movies to music—and you even get Alexa, too. Dig a little deeper into the streaming device’s interface and capabilities, though, and you’ll find it can do more than you might have realized.
1. Access hidden diagnostics panels
The Fire TV can show you overlays with information such as CPU load, memory usage, display resolution, current internet streaming speed, video resolution, and other advanced diagnostic data.
To get the hidden panels up on screen, press and hold the center button on the navigation wheel for about a second, then hold it down while you press and hold the down button on the navigation wheel. After three or four seconds, release both buttons and press the menu button (the three horizontal lines).
When a menu appears, turn System X-Ray and Advanced Options to On to see the panels. They’re helpful for troubleshooting problems with your Fire TV, for seeing which apps are the most demanding on the hardware, and for checking that you’re getting the best video resolutions from your streaming services.
2. Customize the home screen
You like your home to be set up the way you like it, so make sure you treat the Fire TV home screen with the same care. After all, it’s your way into everything that the device and its apps have to offer. From the Home tab, select an app under Your apps and channels and press the menu button (the three horizontal lines) on the remote.
You’ll see an option to Move the app, as well as Move to front if the app isn’t already in the first slot on the far left. If you choose to move it, you can use the navigation wheel to change how high it appears on your list of apps.
Here’s one more tip for customizing your home screen: Head to Settings, then Preferences, and if you select Featured Content, you can turn off autoplay for the mini-trailers apps display as you move over them.
3. Control your Fire TV with a smart speaker
You can interact with Alexa through the remote that came with your Fire TV device, but you can also issue voice commands through an Echo speaker. To link one or more speakers to your Fire TV, open the Alexa app on your phone, then tap More, TV & Video, Fire TV, and then Link your Alexa device.
As long as the speaker is on the same Wi-Fi network as the Fire TV and logged into the same Amazon account, you can use your Echo to control what’s on the big screen.
You can then use commands such as “play Parks and Recreation on Prime Video” to control your Fire TV through your Echo (replacing the title and video service as needed). Amazon has a full list of commands you can make use of, including ones for controlling playback and navigating menus.
4. Protect your privacy
Like many of the biggest tech companies, Amazon likes to collect as much data about you as it can—both to improve the way the Fire TV works (in terms of recommendations, for example), and to better target you with advertising.
If you’d rather Amazon wasn’t keeping quite so close a watch on what you and your streaming device, open Settings, pick Preferences, and then Privacy Settings. Turn all the options off to stop data collection on the use of the device and the use of your apps, and to disable ads based on your profile of interests.
You can also head to Amazon’s website to delete the recordings of any searches or commands you’ve run through Alexa on your Fire TV. Find your way to the Manage Your Content and Devices page, then choose your Fire TV device and click Delete voice recordings from the menu.
5. Keep the kids under control
Amazon Fire TV devices come with some comprehensive parental controls that you should enable if you have youngsters at home. From Settings, pick Preferences, then Parental Controls to turn them on. You can add PIN protection to any Prime Video or app store purchases made through the Fire TV, and limit the age rating of movies and TV shows that can be viewed in the Prime Video app.
You’ll notice that these restrictions only apply to Amazon apps and services—to manage restrictions on other apps, such as Netflix, you’ll need to dig into the settings for those apps themselves.
6. Install the remote app
There’s an Amazon Fire TV remote control app for Android and iOS that you might find easier to use than the bundled remote (or if your original remote gets lost). It certainly makes typing in names, passwords, and search requests much quicker, and you can use it to quickly jump between different streaming apps, too.
7. Connect a gaming controller
You might not have thought much about video games while watching movies and listening to music through your Fire TV, but these media streamers make for pretty decent gaming devices. Now that it’s on your mind, you’ve got plenty of titles to pick from, including Sonic the Hedgehog, Candy Crush Saga, and Crossy Road.
If you are going to start gaming on your Fire TV, we’d recommend picking up a controller to use instead of the Alexa Voice Remote, as it makes playing much easier. A quick web search will net you a bunch of options, but you don’t need to splurge—the default devices that come with the Xbox and PlayStation consoles will both work, for example.
To connect a controller, you can either plug it into the Fire TV device via USB (if there’s a port available), or hook it up via Bluetooth. On your Amazon device, go to Settings, Remotes & Bluetooth Devices, and then Game Controllers to start pairing.