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|
|Remote Control||Optional||No (computer or mobile device can be used)||Yes||Yes|
|Internal Storage||No||No||No||8 GB|
|RAM||Undisclosed||512 MB||512 MB||2 GB|
|CPU||Dual core, 900 MHz (Roku 3)||Dual core, 1.2 GHz||Single core, 2 GHz||Quad core, 1.7 Ghz|
|Gaming||Yes, on some models||Yes, by streaming from mobile devices||Yes, by connecting with iPhone/iPad||Yes|
|Requires Computer or Mobile Device||No||Yes||No (Yes for streaming iPhone/iPad apps)||No|
|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 inches||3.9 x 3.9 x 0.9 inches||4.5 x 4.5 x 0.7 inches|
|Weight||5 oz (Roku 3)||1.2 oz||9.6 oz||9.6 oz|
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.