Tech Talk: Amazon Fire TV
I love tech, and I love film. And, the intersection of the two – or rather, of media and technology – is a p-r-e-t-t-y awesome place.
The Amazon Fire TV is the most recent addition to the little black set up streaming box market.
It is the first offering in this space for Amazon, and may very well give both Roku and Apple TV, the current market leaders, a solid run for their money. Fire TV works extremely well with Amazon Prime (no surprise there), but, and what is most impressive, is that it has 3x the processing power of its primary competitors as well as 2GB of memory, the latter of which is 4x that of Roku, Apple TV, and Google Chromecast. In the world of content streaming where bandwidth and storage space (physical and cloud-based), are, well, everything, these are two pretty significant features. Basically, it’s faster. A lot faster. In terms of speed, only Roku 3 is a close second with a dual-core versus the quad-core processor of the Fire.
Further, Voice Search and the forthcoming (next month) FreeTime also make the Fire unique. The former allows you to search for your favorite program by holding down a button at the top of the remote and speaking directly into it. The latter is a kid-tested-parent-approved type deal. FreeTime will allow parents to customize the content and time that their kids watch. Specifically, parents can create up to four custom profiles, each of which can be ‘designed’ (color, layout) so that the interface is fun for younger users. Kids can watch and enjoy on their own, and parents know that they are watching ‘appropriate’ programs.
The audio is also better – Fire TV offers Dolby Digital Plus surround sound, and an optical audio out.
And, Amazon is truly enabling a second screen experience with X-Ray. If you have an Amazon tablet, you can pull up additional info on the TV show or film that you are viewing, or the lyrics to a song that is playing.
But, let’s talk about what’s really most important – the content. It has most of the usual suspects – Amazon Instant Video, Netflix, Hulu Plus, Crackle, YouTube, and even WatchESPN, Bloomberg TV, Vevo, Pandora, and Showtime Anytime. It, however, does not have HBO GO, which will be a deal-breaker for some. It is also missing Vudu, one of my personal favorites. Though technically, Vudu is comparable to Amazon Instant Video, the omission is still of note. Further, it does not support Ultraviolet (a beta Vudu supported cloud-based entertainment storage service).
That said, the android-powered Fire is making a real play for the gaming market, with over 100 games offered and counting, including Minecraft Pocket Edition. Plus, the Fire offers a wireless game controller (sold separately).
In short, Amazon Fire TV is a much faster streaming device that is solid but not comprehensive on content. Roku, whether the Roku 3 or the Roku Stick, covers you for content. The former offers a remote headphone jack for private listening, and the latter, another recent industry release, is a cost-conscious option at only $50, that plugs directly into your HD TV.
As with all new technology, there are multiple options, each with pros and cons. It is a personal choice which, in this case, is based what is most important and applicable to your viewing patterns and preferences.
On a separate note, Roku announced at the 2014 International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, that it will be releasing a Roku TV later this year. Roku is working with global TV manufacturers TCL and Hisense to produce. I will follow up on this upon its release in a few months!