Element EL4KAMZ17 series (Amazon Fire TV Edition) review – CNET

People love using Amazon’s voice assistant, Alexa, to play music, get the weather and control stuff like lights and thermostats. And many want to use her to easily control the TV, too.

If easy voice control of a TV is what you’re looking for, the Element EL4KAMZ17 series delivers. The first so-called Amazon Fire TV Edition television, its Alexa feature can accept your voice commands for any standard Alexa task. It controls TV-specific stuff too, like finding shows to watch, switching inputs and changing channels on antenna broadcasts. Alexa’s soothing voice pipes right back through the TV’s speakers, and she lets you do most major tasks with just a few words. It’s really pretty amazing.

This TV doesn’t achieve its true potential unless you use it with an always-on, always listening speaker from Amazon, such as the Amazon Echo or Echo Dot. That’s because the far-field microphones that listen for commands, like “Alexa, turn on the TV” or “Alexa, watch ‘The Salesman,'” aren’t built into the TV itself. Unless you pair this TV with one of Amazon’s Echo speakers, you’ll have to speak into the remote while holding a button, walkie-talkie style, to control it with your voice. How like, totally, mid-90’s!

In my tests the Echo integration with this TV works great, and if you don’t own one already you should seriously consider buying one for use with this TV. 

This TV works just like the Amazon Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote, which costs $40. You could add that device to any TV and get basically the same functionality, minus 4K streaming and the TV’s excellent antenna features, designed for cord cutters who watch over-the-air TV. 

Meanwhile, if you want built-in 4K streaming and don’t place a premium on TV voice control, I think TCL’s Roku’s TVs are a better bet.

The EL4KAMZ17 series makes sense for people who prefer Amazon’s Fire TV system and its Alexa voice control to Roku TV, or who really want to get the Element’s superior antenna functionality. Otherwise, get a Roku TV or, if you prize image quality in an inexpensive TV, a Vizio E series.

Editor’s note Aug. 21, 2017: This review has been updated since its initial publication to account for the addition of the ability to control it with an Echo speaker. The overall rating has been increased from 6.9 to 7.5, and other updates made throughout.

Amazon Fire TV Edition TVs

Brand Model Size Price
Element EL4KAMZ4317 43-inch $450
Element EL4KAMZ5017 50-inch $550
Element EL4KAMZ5517 55-inch $650
Element EL4KAMZ6517 65-inch $900

Talking to the remote.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Alexa, buy me an Echo to go with my TV

People who decide to forego pairing this TV with an Echo will get a better sense of privacy — the only time the TV is “listening” is when you press the remote’s voice button — but sacrifice the futuristic convenience of commanding their TV by speaking into thin air.

Remotes with microphones are nothing new. Just ask Apple TV with its Siri remote, your late-model Roku, Samsung or LG TV, or an Amazon Fire TV box or stick. Like the latter, the Element TVs let you control lights, thermostats and other smart home gadgets, answer questions about the weather and local restaurants, call an Uber or play music. You can also use voice to search for TV shows and movies, launch apps, fast-forward and pause in compatible apps and even switch inputs. 

I tried all of that using the remote and it worked fine, but for many tasks like pause and input switching, it’s often easier to just mash the button. The clicker was in my hand anyway. 


Talking to the Echo Dot.

Sarah Tew/CNET

But when I paired an Echo Dot with the TV, the skies opened up and I got a glimpse of TV-control heaven. OK, maybe that’s an exaggeration, but that combination easily delivered the most satisfying voice-controlled living room experience I’ve ever tested.

Every command I tested that worked with the remote in-hand worked hands-free too when I said “Alexa, …” into thin air. I especially loved the ability to turn on the TV via voice, launch apps, switch inputs and perform searches without touching the remote. As usual, far-field voice recognition was great with my Echo Dot, but of course your mileage may vary. For best results, your Echo speaker should be as close as possible to where you sit, and ideally far from the TV itself. Check out my full tests here.

It’s also worth mentioning that some third-party Alexa skills, like the one from Harmony, let you control any TV or other compatible AV device, including Roku, using an Echo or Dot and a Harmony Hub, for example.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Amazon TV vs. Roku TV: Roku still wins

In my reviews of streaming devices I’ve always favored Roku over Amazon, and I like Roku’s approach to TVs better than Amazon’s too. The basic reasons are the same:

  • Roku’s home page is fully customizable and feels “app neutral.” It doesn’t push one content provider over any other.
  • Amazon’s home page pushes Amazon content, with prominent promotions of Amazon shows and numerous rows you can’t customize that are devoted to Amazon.
  • Roku’s search results put providers (including Amazon) on an equal footing and prioritize pricing.
  • Amazon’s search results favor Amazon and exclude competing pay-per-view stores like Vudu, Google Play Movies and TV, and Fandango Now.
  • Roku’s top-level My Feeds section grabs content from multiple partners (including Amazon), and you can disable its sponsored top-level stores and News section.
  • The top-level Your Videos, TV Shows and Movies sections of Amazon’s page lead to Amazon content only and don’t allow any customization.
Sarah Tew/CNET

Yes, the Fire TV interface is getting more agnostic, surfacing rows from providers like Netflix and HBO and allowing third parties into the top home page promotion area, but overall it’s still very Amazon-heavy.

Amazon’s first Fire-powered TV apes Roku TV in other important ways, however, and that’s a good thing. First and foremost is the Fire TV system’s access to thousands of apps and near-constant updates, a big improvement over traditional smart TV systems from LG and Samsung.

Like Roku TVs, the Element’s inputs for connected devices are put on the same easy-to-use menu as apps, the remote is super simple with just a few buttons and no number keys (although it did feel cheaper than the standard Fire TV Stick clicker) and the menus are cake to navigate. There’s also ample help, especially for Alexa, and response times were quick with no delays on my fast Wi-Fi network.

Unlike Roku, Amazon does offer parental controls, but in my book they’re too restrictive. You’ll have to input a code to adjust even the most basic functions, like the Display and Sounds menu. I ended up turning it off, which is a shame since I’d prefer to leave on the code requirement for purchases.

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