Amazon Fire TV: $99 Streaming Box Launches into Crowded FieldBy: Josh Wolford - April 2, 2014
As expected, Amazon unveiled their long-awaited streaming device today in an event in New York. Contrary to the rumors, however, the device isn’t a dongle like Google’s Chromecast. Instead, it’s a super-thin (0.7 inches) set-top box that the company is calling the Fire TV.
It’ll run you $99 and you can order it right now. In terms of price, Amazon Fire TV matches Apple TV and the Roku 3, and is significantly more expensive than a Chromecast.
But in terms of specs, Amazon has built a more powerful device. It sports a quad-core processor which Amazon says has three times the processing power of its competitors, as well as 2GB of memory–which is four times the memory of the Apple TV, Roku 3, or Chromecast.
As expected, Fire TV comes stocked full of third party apps like Netflix, Hulu Plus, Watch ESPN, Pandora, Showtime Anytime, and many more, alongside the company’s own Amazon Prime Instant Video. It plugs directly into your TV and supports full 1080p and HDMI audio. This falls in line with most of its streaming box competitors.
Where Amazon tries to differentiate its new device from its competitors’ is not in the price or the video streaming basics, but in flourishes to the experience. The company has added voice search to the set-top box’s remote, and in a jab at other streaming devices, Jeff Bezos says that it is “voice search that actually works.”
“Gone are the days of searching for a movie or TV show by left-left-down-right-ing through an on-screen alphabet grid using your remote. Simply speak the name of a movie, TV show, actor, director, genre, app, or game into the remote, and the results will appear instantly. Voice search leverages the search data and expertise of Amazon.com and IMDb, and is optimized to understand Amazon’s…catalog.”
Amazon Fire TV also boasts a new “ASAP” mode, which stands for “Advanced Streaming and Prediction.”
“You shouldn’t have to wait 10 seconds for a video to buffer after you press “Play”—it should start immediately. Based on your Watchlist and recommendations, the new ASAP (Advanced Streaming and Prediction) feature predicts which movies and TV episodes you’ll want to watch and prepares them for playback before you even hit play. This feature is smart—it is personalized based on your viewing habits and adapts as those habits change. The caching predictions get better over time, so ASAP will continuously improve as you use Fire TV,” says Amazon.
There’s a bunch of other little things that Fire TV offers, and if you’re interested, the company’s lengthy release on the new device is worth a read.
“Tiny box, huge specs, tons of content, incredible price—people are going to love Fire TV,” said Bezos. “Voice search that actually works means no more typing on an alphabet grid. Our exclusive new ASAP feature predicts the shows you’ll want to watch and gets them ready to stream instantly. And our open approach gives you not just Amazon Instant Video and Prime Instant Video, but also Netflix, Hulu Plus, and more. On Fire TV you can watch Alpha House and House of Cards.”
Last but definitely not least, Amazon is pushing Fire TV’s gaming component. As was leaked a few weeks ago, Amazon Fire TV has its own game controller available for purchase to compliment games from EA, Disney, Gameloft, Ubisoft, Telltale, Mojang, 2K, and Sega. A few titles include Minecraft, The Walking Dead, NBA2K14, and an Amazon Game Studios exclusive title called Sev Zero.
Bezos says that there are currently about 100 titles available, but “thousands more are coming soon.”
There’s no denying that Amazon has created an alluring products here, and the addition of the gaming elements is sure to attract customers in a way that other streaming devices cannot. Its price is at least competitive with other top-end streaming boxes, but well above the lower-cost dongles like the Chromecast and Roku Stick.
It’s a super competitive field, so it’ll be interesting to see how Fire TV sells over the next few months. It’s not just the Roku, Chromecast, and Apple TV that the Fire TV will have to compete with–it’s also the gaming consoles like Xbox One and the PS4, as well as the various SmartTVs on the market. Maybe this Gary Busey ad will give it an edge.
Images via Amazon