Apple TV, Roku, Google TV…er, I mean Google Chromecast and now Amazon enters the living room fray with Amazon Fire TV a set-top box and remote, which conects to your Wi-Fi network. The device will stream a multitude of videos, games and music to your big screen TV. But will a set-top media streaming box do much for the bottom line for a company that just raked in 25 billion in the last quarter? Maybe. Maybe not. But that did little to stop today’s launch.
Amazon Fire TV has Apple TV and Google Chrome locked in its sites. But how will it compete? What are some the more compelling and unique features? First up, the specs. The Fire TV set-top box is tiny–measuring 4.5 x 4.5 x 0.7 inches. It weighs less than a pound at 9.9 oz and is packed with a trio of Qualcomm processors. The SoC platform is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 8046, the main processor is a Qualcomm Krait 300 quad-core clocked at 1.7GHz and finally the GPU is the Qualcomm Adreno 320. The Fire TV sports 8GB of internal storage and 2GB of LPDDR2 RAM clocked at 533 Mhz. It supports Bluetooth 4.0 (HID, HFP 1.6, Spp), Dual-band, dual- antenna Wi-Fi. This the acclaimed MIMO Wi-Fi radio tech for super fast streaming with fewer connection hiccups.
The hardware is not quite as impressive as the feature list. Of those, here are X burning reasons to check out Amazon Fire TV.
1. What Can I Watch?
Good question, to which Amazon answers: Nearly everything! It’s true. HBO Go is the only popular service not accessible on Fire TV. Amazon Prime members will reap some of the biggest benefits. Members can watch unlimited streaming of all Instant Video content, of which is already available, aleit with a more refined experience using Fire TV. This is commercial-free viewing of tens of thousands of movies, TV shows and documentaries. The free boon to Prime members makes sense since we’re already paying about $100 per year for the service.
But it’s not all moving media. Fire TV pays special attention to music listeners as well. Stream Pandora, iHeart Radio, TuneIn and Vevo. Lets hop a Spotify inclusion is in the works as well. Pull videos and photos down from the cloud to be shared on your HDTV using Fire TV. It’s all-inclusive.
2. Typing Is So 21st Century
Voice activation search functionality is one of the biggest most talked about features for Amazon Fire TV. The remote has a built-in mic boast the best voice detection of its kind. We have yet to test one but the above video shows raspy-voiced Gary Busey geeking out with the voice search function. If it can detect that voice, there’s a good chance the enunciating masses will have little problem with voice recognition. Just speak the name of the Movie, actor, show, genre or director and Fire TV will seek it out.
3. Hey Look! Amazon Makes A Gaming Console
The Fire TV set-top is sporting a dedicated graphic processing unit (Qualcomm Adreno) and traditional controller (sold separately) for a reason. It’s not PS4 graphics we’re talking here. Yet still, Minecraft Pocket Edition, Asphalt 8, Sev Zero and the family-friendly The Game of Life are the new exclusive. This is something no set-top box–beyond a dedicated gaming console–is offering. Amazon has announced plans to develop more original game content specifically for Fire TV.
4. Mirror Mirror, on my Screen
Screen mirroring is also on offer. It’s unclear how many tablet and mobile devices the feature will play nice with. The PR gives an example with Kindle Fire HDX. Lets hope that’s just a self-serving example since Kindle under the Amazon umbrella. Regardless the feature allows you share movies, TV shows, music and photo from your tablet to your Fire TV-connected HDTV. Doing so turns your tablet into a remote device where you can control the content mirroring from on to your HDTV.
5. Parental Discretion Advised
The need for parental control over the media content is a real one. Next month Amazon plans to launch Amazon FreeTime, which will “let kids watch safely”. It pack controls for daily screen limits and allows you to make personalized profiles specific for kids. When activated it drapes the background and UI in a more kid-friendly motif to show and list content that has been permitted by the “parental units”. it reminds me of the Kids section of Netflix on the Wii consoles. Moreover, you opt into a monthly supscription of kids-only content called FreeTime Unlimited. This is structured for kids ages 3-8 and includes pertinet content for movies, TV, apps and games. When it drops expect a month $2.99 sub fee.
6. Faster than an Apple TV
Amazon says their Fire TV is three times faster than Apple’s TV or Google’s Chromecast. Under the hood is a quad-core processor with its own dedicated processor. So suck it Apple!
7. Full HD
It’s almost a given these days, and yes, the Amazon Fire TV supports full HD playback via HDMI. It also supports Dolby Digital surround.
8. Fitting In
Sure, it’s another black box. So good thing it’s just .7 inches thin, which means that you’ll be able to cram it in with your other gear, even if you don’t have a ton of space to burn. Moreover, the remote is Bluetooth, so you won’t need direct line of sight to control it.
9. Compatible Streaming Services
First and foremost, Amazon’s Fire TV is not currently compatible with HBO Go. So no, you won’t be watching the season (4) premiere of GOT on this device. You can, however, stream Amazon Prime (subscription required), Netflix, YouTube, Hulu Plus, WatchESPN, Pandora, iHeartradio and others.
10. Amazon Cloud Compatible
You probably could have guessed this. Anything saved in Amazon’s Cloud service, such as photos, music and videos, can be played back on FireTV. Just keep in mind, if you want to do this, you should automatically sync your phones locally stored content with Amazon’s Cloud Service.
11. Free Stuff
Amazon says some games will be free. They’re also offering a 30 day free trial of Amazon Prime AND Netflix when you buy an Amazon Fire TV. Hard to say if that offer will end any time soon, but doubtful.
You can buy the Amazon Fire TV today.
Shawn loves gadgets, literature, history and games. For 10yrs+ he's straddled both the comic book & video game industries, as a writer, editor, marketing officer & producer. Shawn got his start in tech & games as an editor & Hardware Director for GameRevolution.com. More notable accomplishments include Executive Producer on mobile games Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved & The Shroud.