Amazon’s Fire TV outdates Apple TV’s technology by a couple years, packing 3-times the processing power, 4-times the RAM, and a dedicated Adreno 320 graphics engine. But folks love their Apple TV. The $99 box, (the same price since the 2nd generation 2010 model), is simple to use and integrates nicely with Apple computers, iPads and iPhones.
As far as size difference, Apple TV’s footprint is slightly smaller measuring 0.9” x 3.9” x 3.9” vs. Fire TV’s lower profile 0.69” x 4.53” × 4.53” dimensions. Both devices weigh in essentially the same at about 0.6 pounds.
In terms of content, Apple TV currently has more channels than Fire TV but Amazon Prime members can tap into the entire Prime Instant Video library, as well as Netflix and Hulu Plus. And, it may not be long before Amazon builds up its channel lineup. In fact, this morning Amazon announced Fire TV support for HBO Go would be coming this year.
Let’s take a look to see how these two streaming boxes compare:
Fire TV’s Voice Search for the most part has been received with positive reviews. Although upon launch the feature only searched through the Amazon library of TV shows and movies, Amazon is expanding title search to include Sony’s Crackle, Hulu Plus, Showtime, and more recently announced Netflix. Apple TV doesn’t support voice search.
Winner: Fire TV
Apple TV supports H.264 video and other formats up to 1080p at 30 frames per second. Fire TV also supports H.264, as well as other formats, up to 1080p but at 60 frames per second.
Winner: Fire TV
Both streaming boxes share support of audio formats such as AAC and MP3, but vary in other formats. For example, Apple TV supports AIFF and WAV while Fire TV doesn’t. Apple TV also supports Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound, but the newer Fire TV supports Dolby Digital Plus with up to 7.1 channels. Therefore, the advantage goes to Fire TV.
Winner: Fire TV
Apple TV has a Apple single-core A5 chip processor. Fire TV sports a Qualcomm Krait 300 quad-core processor and a Qualcomm Adreno 320 GPU for graphics. There is not much of an argument here.
The latest 3rd-generation model of Apple TV released in January, 2013 comes with 512MB RAM memory. But that wasn’t an improvement from the 3rd-generation model released a year earlier in 2012. Fire TV boasts 4-times the amount of memory with 2GB RAM, so the winner is clearly Fire TV again.
Winner: Fire TV
Apple TV’s last two 3rd-generation models (2012-2013) and 2nd generation model (2010) include 8GB NAND flash for RAM. Amazon’s Fire TV also gives you 8GB flash storage. However, don’t consider the 8GB enough room to hold your HD movies. It’s mainly used for apps and caching.
Both the FireTV and Apple TV have five ports that include HDMI, Optical Audio, Ethernet, IR receiver, and Micro-USB (for service and support on Apple TV, and presumably the same on FireTV).
Both devices support dual-band Wi-Fi compatible with both legacy 2.4 GHz and faster 5 GHz bands, but Fire TV includes MIMO (Multiple Input, Multiple Output) which uses antennas both at the transmitter and receiver to improve communication. Newer iPads utilize MIMO, so Apple is probably looking to integrate into the next Apple TV design.
Apple TV has been in the game for a couple years, hence, there are more popular channels to choose from. While both streaming boxes have some of the most watched channels — Netflix, Hulu Plus, WatchESPN, and YouTube, Apple TV’s lineup also includes Watch ABC, Disney Channel, MLS Live, NHL GameCenter, MLB.TV, and History among others. Interestingly enough, Fire TV includes access to Showtime Anytime while Apple TV does not. And, although Fire TV does not currently support HBO Go, Amazon announced plans to launch the channel this year.
Winner: Apple TV
Apple TV and Fire TV have their native operating systems, iOS and Android, respectively. While both boxes only support their native OS, Amazon says an iOS app will be released later this year to support Fire TV. For now, looks like they are tied.
Mobile Device Integration
Apple TV supports AirPlay, letting you play content from your iOS device directly to your TV, or mirror what’s on your Mac, iPad or iPhone to a larger screen. You can also use your iOS device to control some games.
Fire TV let’s you “fling” what you’re watching on a Kindle Fire HDX tablet to your TV. You can also perform other tasks on the tablet while flinging. In addition, Amazon has started supporting Miracast-enabled accessories and TVs, allowing you to use your HDTV as a large monitor for your tablet.
Amazon will start shipping their Game Controller (now expected in stock on May 4) that can be used with the Fire TV to support over 100 games upon launch, with many more expected due to Amazon’s open dev platform. Apple TV doesn’t support gaming, although through AirPlay you can use your iPad or iPhone as a controller for some games.
Winner: Fire TV
Fire TV’s hardware and voice search integration clearly outweighs Apple TV’s features, but it will be hard to convert any Apple TV owners to Amazon’s brand. Of course, there is a whole population of Apple haters out there. If they haven’t purchased a Roku yet, Amazon’s Android-based Fire TV might be looking pretty sweet.
|Voice Search||Fire TV||Because Apple TV doesn’t have!|
|Video||Fire TV||Both support 1080p 30fps, but Fire TV also supports 60fps.|
|Audio||Fire TV||FireTV supports Dolby Digital Plus 7.1|
|Processor||Fire TV||FireTV has 3x the power with a quad-core processor.|
|Memory||Fire TV||FireTV packs 4x the amount of memory with 2GB.|
|Storage||Tie||Both have 8GB flash storage.|
|Ports||Tie||Both have 5 ports.|
|Bluetooth Remote||Tie||Both have Bluetooth remotes.|
|Wi-Fi||Fire TV||Fire TV supports newer MIMO technology.|
|Channels||Apple TV||Apple has a better channel lineup (for now).|
|Operating Systems||Tie||Alhough an app for iOS is in development.|
|Mobile device playthrough||Tie||Both offer playthrough from mobile devices.|
|Warranty||Tie||Both offer 1-year limited warranties.|
|Gaming Support||Fire TV||Apple TV doesn’t support gaming but Fire TV does (although we’re still waiting to see how the controller and game integration pans out)|
|Price||Tie||They are both $99|
|Overall Winner||Fire TV||Fire TV wins 14-8|
Jeff Chabot has a background in web development and design, as well as working in broadcast television as a studio engineer, lighting director and editor. He frequently writes about technology, broadcasting, digital entertainment, and the internet.