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Amazon Fire TV Voice Remote Pro: Is it worth the upgrade?
If you’ve got a Fire TV device or you’re shopping for one, Amazon is eager to sell you the newly-released Alexa Voice Remote Pro as an extra accessory. I recently had an opportunity to test one, comparing it against other Fire TV remotes to judge whether it really makes a difference for the media streaming experience.
What is the Voice Remote Pro?
In short, the Voice Remote Pro is a $35 replacement for the standard Alexa Voice Remote that’s compatible with most media streamers and TVs based on Amazon’s Fire TV platform. It’s not available as an in-pack — even the top-of-the-line Fire TV Omni QLED comes bundled with the vanilla Voice Remote. It adds extra buttons, backlighting, a Remote Finder feature, plus some minor upgrades. We’ll dive into all of these shortly.
You’ll want to check Amazon’s official compatibility list before buying one, but there are relatively few products it won’t pair with. Those include the 1st and 2nd gen Fire TV, the 1st gen Fire TV Stick, the Echo Show 15, and the Element Fire TV Edition. Most conspicuously, you can’t pair it with the Hisense U6HF ULED, despite that TV being released in May 2022. It also won’t work with Insignia HD or FHD TVs, though it will work with that brand’s UHD and F20 sets.
The Pro is a $35 replacement remote that adds extra buttons, backlighting, and a Remote Finder feature.
I tested the Voice Remote Pro using a Fire TV Stick 4K Max, which is second only to the Fire TV Cube in Amazon’s line-up of streaming boxes and sticks. Both the remote and the Max were supplied by Amazon. During the first-time setup, I discovered that you absolutely have to pair the Max’s bundled Voice Remote before you can add the Voice Remote Pro — the stick refused to acknowledge the Pro in its setup wizard. This wasn’t a big problem, since I just added the Pro later using the Fire TV’s Settings menu. You can use both remotes simultaneously and, in fact, having a backup remote may be handy for reasons we’ll explain in a minute.
What does the Voice Remote Pro improve versus other Fire TV remotes?
The Pro adds a number of small but significant conveniences, the most obvious being extra buttons. There’s a dedicated Settings option, a channel selector, and a headphone button that jumps to the Bluetooth menu for quicker wireless audio pairing. The last one is kind of niche, but it’s a mystery why a Settings button isn’t on the standard Voice Remote — Fire TV users need to open Settings on a semi-regular basis to check notifications and force app updates, never mind other controls.
The biggest improvement is the addition of two customizable shortcuts.
You’ll find a Settings button (and/or a channel selector) on some third-party remotes like the Insignia one above, so the biggest deal here is the addition of two customizable shortcuts, labeled “1” and “2”. By pressing and holding them, you can assign a variety of actions, the primary choices being to launch apps or run Alexa voice commands. I assigned 1 to YouTube for instance, and 2 to “Alexa, turn on the Living Room lights.” You won’t hear any vocal reply if you trigger an Alexa command this way.
Customizable app shortcuts are extremely useful, since the shortcuts on other Fire TV remotes are locked to services you might not use. Yes, you’re probably streaming from the likes of Netflix, Disney Plus, and/or Prime Video if you have a Fire TV device, but not everyone has all three subscriptions, and other services may be more important for some viewers. The only catch with custom shortcuts is that you have to remember what you’ve assigned to each of them, and share that info with other people in your household.
If you lose the Pro, you can ask an Alexa device (or the Alexa and Fire TV apps) to “find my remote.” That triggers a loud ringer, making the Pro easy to track down, at least if it’s within earshot.
There are a couple of other caveats. The feature has a range of 30 feet (about 10m) around your TV, and your Fire TV device has to be on, which might be a Catch-22 if it’s the reason you’re looking for the remote in the first place. This is why you should hang on to the standard Voice Remote as backup.
If you like to dim your lights for atmosphere, the buttons on the Pro illuminate whenever you nudge it or pick it up. It’s a smart addition that makes it easier to tell what you’re pressing, although in a pitch-black room you may still have to fumble a bit to find the remote, what with it being nearly all black to begin with.
The Pro is solidly built. It’s still made of plastic, but feels sturdier in the hand than many Fire TV remotes, and its texture is less slippery. It’s also easier to access the battery compartment, certainly versus Amazon’s default Voice Remote. While that one requires odd hand and finger placement, and sometimes too much force, the Pro opens just by pressing down on the arrow marker and sliding — the way it should be.
Amazon Fire TV Voice Remote Pro review: Is it worth the upgrade?
Do you need the Pro? No, especially if you’re comfortable using Alexa. Added buttons might save a few seconds here and there, but you can accomplish most of what they do with voice commands. If you have a Fire TV Cube, a Fire TV Omni, or a linked Alexa speaker, you don’t even need to have a remote in your hand. You can use voice to launch apps before you sit down.
The Pro remote speeds up common actions in a way that makes Fire TV a more pleasant experience.
The story changes if you prefer physical controls or hate Alexa. While the standard Voice Remote is capable enough, the Pro smooths common actions in a way that makes Fire TV a more pleasant experience. If you live in a home where people frequently misplace things, the Remote Finder feature alone might be worth it to prevent arguments and save your sanity.
If you’re interested in the Pro and have the spare cash, then there’s no reason why you shouldn’t get one. The upgrade is useful enough that, arguably, the product should automatically be bundled with higher-end Fire TV devices.