Fire TV - Amazon's Streaming Player
Amazon's entry into Video Streaming Hardware
Amazon has announced that they have released the Fire TV streaming player to the market. On paper, it looks amazing, but there are a few points I would like to bring up, so that people can be clear what they are purchasing, and whether it will work for them.
I will also bring up some comparisons to other popular streaming players, like the Chromecast and Roku 3.
I will also bring up a few criticisms over the course of the review, as well as at the end.
First the hardware
Fire TV boast a quad-core processor, the Roku 3 has a dual core processor. To give an example that is a bit easier to understand, this is like going from a V6 to a V8 engine. Additionally, the Fire TV processor is rated at a higher speed, which would be like being able to run your engine at a higher speed (RPM).
Amazon's offering also is fitted with 2 gigs of RAM, compared to Roku 3's 512 mbs. This is 4 times as much, meaning you can have more and larger programs open with less delay.
Both systems support wifi (a/b/g/n protocols) with MIMO. This means nearly every wireless router will connect without difficulty.
The Roku 3 does not have a dedicated GPU. The Fire TV boasts a dedicated GPU (the Adreno 320). More games will be supported by Fire TV, with better graphics.
As you can see, it has a lot going for it.
It supports most streaming services, and the big 3 (netflix, hulu, amazon prime) and youtube, as well as many of the less popular channels.
It has the strongest hardware by far, and will be an excellent gaming system. It is the only system with an optional gaming controller.
Video Streaming Services
It has all the streaming services except for HBO Go.
You can watch Netflix, Hulu, and (of course) Amazon Prime Instant Video directly from the Fire TV without difficulty.
It also boasts a potent voice search feature that will prove to be very convenient. It is important to note that the voice feature only works with Amazon's listings. I feel this might be a ploy on their part to get more people to purchase from amazon, and is a little sneaky. You might end up paying for a show from amazon that would be free to watch on Netflix, for example.
If Amazon really wanted to dominate the video streaming market, they would enable this for all searches, or even search all services at once to help consumers.
Synergy with Kindle Fire HDX
I believe they are playing the long game and trying to inspire the brand loyalty that apple does. If they can pull it off, it will prove to be very profitable.
They have created a lot of functionality and synergy between the Kindle Fire HDX, chief among them the ability to display the screen of said tablet on the screen of your HDTV connected to Fire TV. You can also control your Fire TV with the HDX as a remote, and iPhone/iPad functionality is said to be coming (I wouldn't hold my breath). Android devices are conspicuously absent, probably a shrewd business decision on amazon's part.
Chromecast does something similar with "casting" your chrome browser to the Chromecast connected TV.
Every piece of amazon technology works together, and if they can make the experience seamless, it will help tremendously. A big piece of completing this monopoly is increasing the size of their video library, which is somewhat lacking at this point.
An unboxing and demonstration of how fast navigation is, as well as the voice controls.
Fire TV already has a much larger gaming library than Roku 3. Over 100 are available, with many more coming (1000+ more coming if you ask amazon), whereas Roku 3 has less than 100.
If amazon can get casual android gamers to realize just how much potential is there, Fire TV will take off.
An optional dedicated controller is available for purchase separately, which looks much like a PlayStation or Xbox controller.
The amazon design team is working to develop games for Fire TV, and already has the impressive "Sev Zero" shooter available for 6.99.
Conclusions and Criticisms
Fire TV is meant to compete with Roku 3 and apple TV. At the $99 dollar price point, it is comparable in price to both pieces. If only streaming is what you need, the Chromecast or Roku Streaming Stick are going to be a better option for the money.
Fire TV has a lot to offer. Streaming services are all accounted for sans HBO Go. Compared to Roku 3, Fire TV has a much more robust hardware and will play games the Roku 3 couldn't dream of. It is the STRONGEST product for android based games, and already has the largest library.
If you already have a Kindle Fire HDX or Amazon Prime, the argument for Fire TV becomes a lot stronger.
Google will have to respond.
That said, the lack of android smartphone comparability is a black mark on an otherwise great record. I believe this is a strategic marketing decision on amazon's part, and will turn off some potential buyers. The payoff for amazon will be worth it, and users who invest into amazon's products will have the greatest functionality.