Today Amazon finally came through to answer all the speculation over what kind of home theater or video device it had been working on, and it turns out it made a Roku.
Well, not actually, but the new Amazon Fire TV is very similar to the popular Roku 3. The Fire TV streaming media player connects to your TV via HDMI and your network via Wi-Fi (or Ethernet) to bring you a wide selection of video, game and music content.
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It’s in the specs that Amazon sets the Fire TV apart from Roku, Chromcast or Apple TV. Performance speed was one of the main drivers of the product, so the system specs should make the Fire TV a lot zippier than its competitors. First, it runs a quad-core processor (Ruku 3 uses a dual-core processor while the others are all single-core) with 2GB of RAM. Like the Roku 3 the remote connects to the player via Bluetooth, but it also includes a microphone to allow voice search for content. There’s also an optional game controller for playing video games.
Amazon hasn’t revealed how many content apps or channels the system has at launch, but because the Fire TV is Android based it probably won’t be long before the selection is quite large. Currently it includes many of the most popular ones including Netflix, Amazon (of course), NBA, TED, YouTube, Pandora, Hulu, Crackle, Showtime and ESPN.
Amazon says that by next month there will be thousands of games available with an average price of $1.85.
The voice search feature is interesting as it solves the problem of hunting and pecking with a four-way button controller over a virtual keyboard. The company wasn’t clear if voice search worked universally on all Fire TV content or just on Amazon content.
It seems reasonable considering all the recent attention that 4K Ultra HD has been receiving, including a commitment from both Amazon and Netflix to deliver Ultra HD content, that the new streaming box would be 4K compatible, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. Amazon’s own streaming video player won’t play Amazon’s streaming 4K content.
The Fire TV is available now for $99 (same price as Roku 3 and Apple TV). The game controller cost an extra $40.
SOC Platform: Qualcomm Snapdragon 8064
Processor: Qualcomm Krait 300, quad-core to 1.7 Ghz
GPU: Qualcomm Adreno 320
Storage: 8 GB internal
Memory: 2 GB LPDDR2 @ 533 MHZ
Wi-Fi Connectivity: Dual-band, dual-antenna Wi-Fi (MIMO)
Cloud Storage: Free cloud storage for all Amazon content
HDMI 1.4b output, w/HDCP
Optical Audio (TOSLINK)
USB 2.0 Type A
Audio: Dolby Digital Plus, 5.1 surround sound, 2ch Stereo and HDMI audio pass through up to 7.1
Output Resolution :720p and 1080p up to 60fps
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Grant Clauser has been covering home electronics for more than 10 years with editorial roles in several consumer and trade magazines. He's done ISF-level damage to hundreds of reviewed products and has had training from THX, the Home Acoustics Alliance, Control4 and Sencore. His latest book is Necessary Myths
. Follow him on Twitter @geclauser.