Fire TV – Amazon’s Streaming TV and Gaming Box
For the past few years, Roku and Apple TV have ruled the world of streaming set top boxes. Amazon has sat on the sidelines in part, although they have offered their Amazon Prime streaming service, which features a combination of free and paid content that comes from a variety of sources, including some being produced by Amazon itself. Now, however, Amazon is set to release their own set top box called the Amazon Fire TV. This just might change the game for them and give them an opportunity to take on a market they haven’t had much luck in previously.
This has been a long time coming. People have been wondering for years when Amazon was going to take over the living rooms of faithful subscribers and they have heard the call. This isn’t a small, bare device like the Chromecast, this is a serious Roku competitor that is powered by Android.
The Amazon Fire TV resamples a more sharply designed Apple TV. Not sharp as in stylish, but sharp as in box like. Inside of that box is a 1.7 Ghz quad-core processor and 2GB of ram, making it 3X as powerful as the Apple TV or Roku. For storage, there are 8gb of space on the hard drive, which makes it easy to store quite a bit of data, although that isn’t necessary in many cases due to the nature of streaming and the ease that the box pulls it off. The only problem might be when installing multiple games that take up a large amount of space.
In addition, Fire TV provides 1080p HD video output, ethernet and WiFi connectivity, and even voice control. The voice control works through a microphone that is in the remote, which picks up your command and sends it to the cloud, finding the content that you want. That voice control feature is also coupled with the ability to control it from your Kindle Fire as well, giving you an almost endless number of ways to control your content and find what you would like to watch.
Amazon Fire TV works with most of the popular apps that are out there. Netflix, Pandora, Crackle, Hulu Plus, and more are here. Many will complain about the lack of support for HBO GO, although this has been one application that has been slow to find support anywhere. For the vast majority of people, though, the app selection will be more than enough.
There is a heavy reliance on the Amazon Prime services as well. Amazon is heavily pushing their own content, which streams very quickly and efficiently, although other services aren’t quite as fast. This might not be intentional, but it is something to think about if you don’t frequently stream Amazon content.
What stands out about Fire TV, in large part, is the gaming capabilities. It has an actual gaming remote, compared to using the Roku controller to play basic games, and offers games from Disney, EA, and all of the big names. Even Minecraft is available. The controller costs an extra $40, but you also receive 1,000 “Amazon coins” that you can use to purchase the games for it. According to the announcement, there will be over 1,000 titles available for free, with most other games averaging out to around $2.00. With the power that is built into the system, the games will look great, although they might not be PS4 level.
They’re also taking on one of the features of Chromecast that Google has recently been advertising en masse. Amazon is introducing X-Ray, which allows you to pull up information on everyone in the show or movie you are watching from your Kindle by simply opening up an app.
What might be important to families is the inclusion of a kid-friendly platform as well, that allows parents to control the content that is available to their children. This is already built into things like Netflix, but this is the first time it has been possible system wide on any set top box that has been released so far.
Much like Apple is known for doing, Amazon announced the Fire TV and immediately had it on sale. It’s available now from their site for just $99. That puts it at a competitive price with everything else on the market, but Amazon has its own set of features that make it a much better deal, even at that price point.
All of this is very promising. It will take time to see how well it performs in the long term, but Amazon is making an honest attempt at becoming a major player. They have so far fallen behind companies like Netflix and Roku, but this could be the first step towards taking control.