– Ben Martens


Amazon Prime Video Monthly

amazonprimeAmazon has always offered Prime as a one year plan. It’s $99 and you get free two day shipping along with access to a selection of free Kindle books, streaming videos, music, unlimited photo storage and a bunch of other smaller benefits. It’s a fantastic deal and they’ve had me hooked for many years. They will still continue to offer this but they’re adding two new plans:

  1. Amazon Prime Video is now available for $8.99/month. This is obviously in direct competition with Netflix. It’s a good move because it allows them to expand globally even when the rest of the more complicated offerings like 2 day shipping are not available. I don’t think the Amazon Prime catalog is as good as the Netflix one, but since I would pay for Prime just to have the shipping option, the video stuff is just gravy on top and there’s plenty there to keep me occupied.
  2. The full Amazon Prime is available for $10.99/month. If you aren’t sure that the service is right for you or maybe you only want to use it in December for ordering gifts, then you have the option of paying monthly.

If you keep either one for a full year, you’re going to end up paying more than if you had prepaid for a year, but it’s nice that these options exist to expand their customer base.

Amazon Promotional Credit Balance

slowershippingcreditIf you’re a Prime member, you’ve probably noticed that at checkout you can choose a slower delivery and get $1 towards books, movies, etc. While I love the free two day shipping, I’ve been choosing the credit for things that I don’t need quickly.

But finding out how much credit you have built up turns out to be a bit complicated. Ignore all the step-by-step instructions and just go to this link:

You’ll quickly see how much money you have available. The only thing it doesn’t tell you is when various parts of it expire. Generally it seems like the credits are good for about two months. I figure it’s free money so if I have a purchase that can use them, great, if not, oh well. And I’m sure that makes Amazon happier. They end up saving money overall because they don’t have to ship so much stuff with the higher two-day shipping cost. It’s brilliant… I pay them $100/year to ship things to me at normal speed in exchange for credit that I don’t always use. These guys are good.

Amazon Fire TV Review

topgearworkbenchAfter Ken gave me a 32″ TV for the garage, I decided to pick up an Amazon Fire TV to go with it. Yes, I have a Chromecast sitting on a shelf already, but the Fire TV has a remote which is a big win. I don’t really like the idea of leaving my phone sitting out on my workbench to control the TV.

I started with the Amazon Fire TV Stick since it’s cheaper and takes up less space. Unfortunately, the Wi-Fi signal isn’t strong enough in my garage. I even added a second access point right across the wall in the living room, but it still wasn’t enough to hold a steady stream. I suspect there is some sort of barrier between the house and the garage.

By that point, my long-lived hatred of Wi-Fi for stationary devices had boiled over so I took back the stick and ordered an Amazon Fire TV box.

That arrived and … it was a brick. I had ordered a refurbished model to save $20, but it still should have worked. A quick call to a very nice tech support lady got me a new one shipped out.

The replacement unit worked fine. I ran a cable from my network closet to the workbench and voila, I have TV out in the garage.

The Fire TV is a slick little device. It’s a lot like a Roku device if the Roku device first booted into the Amazon app. The other bonus feature is that the remote lets you do voice search. That’s a lot faster than typing character by character with a D-pad on the remote.

You can load other apps onto it. The main excuse for doing this was so that I could have YouTube up showing an instructional video for whatever I’m working on. While there isn’t a dedicated YouTube app for the Fire TV, they do have a simple app that opens up YouTube in it’s big screen experience mode. You can pair the website with your phone and then control it from your phone (similar to a Chromecast but more generic.) Then you can use the remote to pause, rewind, etc.

If you’re looking for a box to add smarts to your TV, this is a solid choice if you’re an Amazon Prime member. If you’re not, then I’d probably go with the Roku.