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Amazon Fire TV vs. The Competition: Specs and Features

This morning (Apr. 2), Amazon revealed its contender in the set-top box arena: the Fire TV. This device sports a few innovative features, such as a remote control with voice search and a search feature that compares prices across various content channels.

The Fire TV is entering a very crowded arena, however, and will have to compete with three other major content-streaming devices: Roku, Google Chromecast and Apple TV. Based on the information that Amazon has provided so far, here's how the device may look in comparison to the existing devices.

Compared to other devices on the market, Fire TV is priced similarly, offers a similar number of channels and resembles the Apple TV most closely in dimensions and weight. Only Roku exceeds it in terms of channel selection.


Roku
Chromecast
Apple TV
Fire TV
Channels
1,200+30+30+30+
Remote Control
OptionalNo (computer or mobile device can be used)YesYes
Internal Storage
No
No
No
8 GB
RAM
Undisclosed512 MB512 MB2 GB
CPU
Dual core, 900 MHz (Roku 3)Dual core, 1.2 GHzSingle core, 2 GHzQuad core, 1.7 Ghz
Gaming
Yes, on some modelsYes, by streaming from mobile devicesYes, by connecting with iPhone/iPadYes
Requires Computer or Mobile Device
No
Yes
No (Yes for streaming iPhone/iPad apps)
No
Form Factor
Box/StickStickBoxBox
Price
$49.99 – 99.99$35$99$99
Size
3.5 x 3.5 x 1 inches (Roku 3)2.8 x 1.4 x 0.5 inches3.9 x 3.9 x 0.9 inches4.5 x 4.5 x 0.7 inches
Weight
5 oz (Roku 3)1.2 oz9.6 oz9.6 oz

MORE: Roku vs. Apple TV vs. Chromecast: Which Device Wins?

The big channels, such as Netflix, Hulu Plus and Pandora, are all present and accounted for. Because the Fire TV is Amazon's own box, it will also offer Amazon Instant Video, which offers certain titles for unlimited streaming with an Amazon Prime subscription. Up until now, only the Roku had this functionality.

While Amazon claims that the device will be three times faster than its competition, we cannot verify that information at this point. It's true that quad-core processors can handle more simultaneous tasks, but the Fire TV may not actually be any faster than the Apple TV or Chromecast.

In terms of RAM, however, the Fire TV exceeds its nearest competition by a factor of four. (Amazon claims that the Roku 3 contains 512 MB of RAM, but Tom's Guide was unable to verify this.)

What really sets the Fire TV apart from the three other streaming boxes is its gaming ability. While the other devices have limited gaming capabilities or require secondary devices, all the Fire TV needs is a controller ($40, sold separately). This may also explain why the device offers 8 GB of internal storage, whereas the other devices have only enough to store channels.

Amazon is selling the Fire TV as a full-fledged Android gaming machine, with access to titles from major developers with high production values. "The Walking Dead," the acclaimed adventure game from Telltale Games, will be available, as will "Minecraft," the building simulator from Mojang.

Beyond that, Amazon has elected to break with the current trend toward HDMI sticks, offering users a more traditional boxy design (HDMI cable not included). If the company plans to offer a stick alternative, it likely won't be for a while.

The Fire TV ships today (April 2), and Tom's Guide will have a full review up soon.

Follow Marshall Honorof @marshallhonorofand on Google+. Follow us @tomsguide, on Facebook and on Google+.

  • combine1237
    Can anyone comment if this supports fire HDX apps or streaming services like Dish anywhere?
    Reply
  • softskilled
    about the feature table: apple tv HAS internal storage, otherwise movies wouldn't be stored for later viewing when renting them.
    Reply
  • rwinches
    Apple TV 8GB internal storage.
    Reply
  • croc4
    Roku also has the option for adding storage via a uSD card
    Reply
  • Bean007
    Another damn box. No Gigabit port. Will it support repositories and can I install XBMC on it?
    Reply
  • jasonelmore
    Another damn box. No Gigabit port. Will it support repositories and can I install XBMC on it?
    agree'd. people need to jump on the HDMI IN bandwagon like Xbox One. I havent hit the INPUT button on my remote for months, hell i havent even used a remote in a few days. Voice commands FTW
    Reply
  • gudomlig
    If it costs me like a buck plus shipping to buy an hdmi cable in some places online why can't amazon include a free one
    Reply
  • Dr-Emmerich
    Chromecast just needs to go away...useless at this point. If you're intrenched with iTunes you get Apple TV..if not you get Roku...end of story.
    Reply
  • spdragoo
    Just a nitpick, for the Roku the boxes come with a remote. Not sure if the stick does or not, although IIRC they advertise that you can use a mobile app to control the Roku stick.As for the whole RAM & internal storage...I guess that depends on what the boxes use it for. Except for account login information, my Roku box isn't really storing anything internally: everything is stored on the channel providers' external servers, otherwise I'd have 2 separate Netflix queues (1 for my Wii, 1 for my Roku), which kind of defeats their purpose. And while there might be some requirements on codec processing for higher-resolution formats, the biggest bottleneck on streaming video speeds is going to be your broadband connection: a quad-core processor with 2GB of RAM won't help someone if they're still "rocking" a 1 Mbps DSL connection.The short story is, Amazon's Fire TV box is more expensive than my Roku was, has a heck of a lot fewer channels, & doesn't provide any additional features that set it apart from anyone else. So, Roku for the win for me.
    Reply
  • Slatteew
    Another damn box. No Gigabit port. Will it support repositories and can I install XBMC on it?
    agree'd. people need to jump on the HDMI IN bandwagon like Xbox One. I havent hit the INPUT button on my remote for months, hell i havent even used a remote in a few days. Voice commands FTW
    I think we should adopt Display Port instead of HDMI, especially since Display has a lot more room to grow than HDMI, and does not cost anything extra to add on.
    Reply