After all the rumors and gossip, Amazon has now taken the veil off its own media streaming device dubbed Fire TV. Despite previous claims that the device would have a dongle format similar to the Chromecast, the Fire TV has a design more akin to Apple TV with a size close to that of a CD case.
The Fire TV is powered by a quad-core CPU with 2GB of RAM, a dual-antenna Wi-Fi with MIMO support and 1080p support through HDMI or optical. As you can tell, it’s specs are a bit beefier that you’d normally expect from a streaming box, with Amazon claiming it has “at least three times the power” of Apple TV, Roku and the Chromecast. Amazon doesn’t specify, but we imagine this is running a tweaked version of Fire OS (hence the name) and therefore is technically running Android (or at least a fork of it).
While the Chromecast ditches the remote in favor of your phone, the Fire TV has its own small remote with seven buttons and a circular direction pad. There’s also a microphone within the remote that lets you control the UI via voice commands.
The Software and apps
Turning to the apps, the Fire TV offers all the basics such as Netflix, Hulu, WatchESPN, MLB, Crackle, NBA, Youtube and Vimeo, with more coming down the pipe. Obviously it also supports Amazon’s own video services as well and will be rolling out music services next month including Pandora, TuneIn, iHeartRadio and more.
Probably one of the most impressive things about Fire TV, however, is its ability to load videos instantly without skipping a beat. While Amazon doesn’t specify how it’s able to instantly load videos, we imagine speculate that it probably uses some kind of pre-caching technology that predicts what videos you are going to watch.
Amazon also mentions an X-Ray feature that gives you details on the movies you are watching via your Fire HDX tablet. Parents will also be happy to know that there’s a FreeTime Zone that lets you customize and restrict content for your children. There’s even a “FreeTime Unlimited” mode that gives you content from Nickelodeon, PBS Kids and plenty of other free stuff.
Gaming through Fire TV
In addition to all the normal software features and apps, the Fire TV also puts an emphasis on gaming with support from Disney, Gameloft, EA, Ubisoft, Sega and many others. Amazon says there will be “thousands” of games to choose from by next month and that you can play the games with the FireTV remote or by using an app on your Amazon tablet.
For those looking for a more traditional gaming experience, Amazon will offer an Xbox-like controller called the Fire controller, which will be priced at $40 and includes 1000 Amazon coins that you can use to buy games with.
Some of the games demonstrated are Minecraft, Asphalt 8, and Monster University. Amazon also showed of its own in-house game called Sev Zero, which is a first person shooter where you zap at aliens. It’s worth noting that the graphics are every bit as good as you’d expect on a high-end Android device, though obviously not nearly as good as you’d get with a traditional game console.
Pricing and availability
The Amazon Fire TV is available right now for a price of just $99! Considering the wide level of features offered, this honestly isn’t a bad price and in many ways one-ups both the Roku and Apple TV. Of course, it’s still quite a bit more than the Chromecast. What do you think of the Fire TV, impressed or not?