Amazon jumped into the streaming device wars last month with the introduction of their new Amazon Fire TV device which will stream 1080p video similar to other devices already on the market. However, Amazon is touting some features that devices such as Apple TV, Roku 3, the Roku Streaming Stick and the Chromecast do not offer.
Fire TV allows you to search for content by speaking to the device, similar to the way Siri works on iOS. The company is betting its content will drive sales as the perfect option for using their Prime service which includes unlimited streaming from their growing library.
Priced at $99, it is similar in price to equivalent devices that do the same thing. Although the Chromecast USB device is only $35, it does not include some of the features as the Fire TV and others from various manufacturers.
What is Fire TV?
Amazon Fire TV is a set top box that you hook-up to your internet connection and your HDTV which allows the streaming of video from services such as Prime Instant Video, Netflix, Hulu and more, including instant pay-per-rental options.
What sets the Fire TV apart from the competition is that it is the first that offers voice recognition software so that you can simply say what you want to watch. How?
Well, you are not screaming across the room at your television set, you simply speak into the amazon fire tv controller. Then the device searches for it online either in one of your prepaid monthly services or instant rentals in the Amazon Prime Library.
If you are new to Amazon, they offer a 30 day free trial for Amazon Prime so you can try out the video streaming service.
Another innovative feature of the device is that it actually anticipates what you might want to watch and prebuffers it in a queue so you do not get those annoying “Buffering” errors when streaming online content live. In that sense, it functions in much the same way as the TiVo software which learns your viewing patterns, then offers suggestions (actually records them) of programming you may like based on other things you have recorded.
In similar fashion to Apple TV, it also allows you to view content from your PC on your HDTV, such as photos or videos. It also has a mirroring feature that allows you to display the content on your TV from the device on all of your Amazon devices such as the Kindle Fire HD.
Therefore, if you are looking at photos or watching a movie in one room on the main TV, you can also watch it in another room as it is streamed wireless to your Kindle.
When you order the device from Amazon, it arrives already preregistered to your account and ready to go. Simply hook it up in between your router and TV and you are ready to stream.
What Makes the Fire TV Different from the Competition?
- Fire TV offers Dolby Digital Plus up to 7.1 surround sound via HDMI or optical out
- Voice recognition feature to search for content
- Learns from your viewing habits and downloads content based on your preferences ready to watch without any buffering errors during viewing
- Offers an optical output to your HDTV
- 2 GB of internal memory
- The remote works by repeating the signal and does not require line of sight
- Preloaded with all of the amazon fire tv apps from the most popular streaming services with one notable exception
- Access to a library of over a 1000 games you can play onscreen
- Access your music in the cloud
Amazon Fire TV Specs
- 5.5 mm DC Jack
- Type A HDMI 1.4b output, w/HDCP
- Optical Audio (TOSLINK)
- 10/100 Ethernet
- USB 2.0 Type A
- Video: H.263, H.264, MPEG4-SP, VC1
- Audio: AAC, AC-3, E-AC-3, HE-A, PCM, MP3
- Photo: JPG, PNG
Output Resolution Supported:
- 720p and 1080p (up to 60 frames per second)
I do not own one of these products as of this writing, however, I can make some generalizations based about how it will operated based on my experience with the Kindle Fire HD which uses similar hardware and software.
I have streamed video on the Kindle Fire HD from Netflix and it works flawlessly. There is no buffering at all and I use it with a wireless network. There is no option to hardwire a Kindle tablet to the router. My point is that most people will opt to connect the Fire TV directly to their router if it is located nearby, which will decrease the likelihood of any network issues even further.
I am intrigued by the feature that pre-downloads video for you and stores it until you watch it so that there is no chance of buffering issues. Also, the voice search feature is the first in its class and really sets it apart from the other streaming devices. Imagine not having to scroll through a menu of programs you have saved just to find the one you want to watch. With this new device you simply talk into the remote and say the name of a show or movie. From there, I assume you would have to select which episode manually with the remote, but you may be able to drill-down on it further.
In any event, I will be ordering one soon so I will let you know.
Amazon Price: $49.99 $29.23 Buy Now
(price as of May 23, 2016)