Published on September 2nd, 2014 | by Greg0
Amazon’s Fire TV, An Impressive Steaming, Playing Media Box
If you’re already deep into the Apple ecosystem, via iTunes purchases, your iPhone 6, Macbook Air, and AirPlay, then you probably should stick with an Apple TV. But for everyone else, Hulu and Netflix are widely available across many devices, and there are many solid options that start with gaming consoles like the Xbox One and PS4. But today’s entrant into the crowded race shakes things up, bringing along some light gaming options thanks to it’s Android operating system, but also providing access to one of the largest media libraries out there with plenty of exclusives.
The Amazon Fire TV streaming media player is, first and foremost, a very solid piece of hardware- a hockey puck sized box, with specs that outperform most other competitors handily. Featuring a quad-core processor, 2 GB of memory, as well as a dedicated GPU, you’ll be able to run 1080p HD video along with Dolby Digital Plus surround sound. Everything is pre-registered to your Amazon account, and Prime customers have immediate, free access to a lot of great shows (including new Amazon pilots that are surprisingly good along with, for instance, Downton Abbey).
The software as well was clearly distilled from the experiences of many others, and manages to feel intuitive and very responsive, where the Apple TV, Roku 3, and the Google Chromecast can often feel slow. Amazon is clearly pushing the envelope on some technologies, including voice search that worked fairly well on common shows but faces the same issues as Siri or other interactive system- it’s still not quite accurate enough to make it total reliable. Better, the remote doesn’t require line of sight- no more missed button presses- though it is bigger with a few more buttons than others, which is a mixed blessing. In terms of content, the only major service we missed was HBO Go.
The Kindle is our preferred e-reader, and has been constantly improving from version 1. Now that Amazon has swept in and snagged Twitch, it’s clear that Amazon is going to devote significant resources to gaming as well, offering a substantial well of exclusive content and a niche they can own. And their game studio has been hiring some major muscle, though we haven’t tried the Fire TV’s sold-separately game controller. All of which adds up to a bright potential future for the device, though the current lineup is enough for a strong recommendation, especially for Prime members in need of a sharp, easy-to-use media player. The Fire TV is available now directly, for $99.