Amazon has just announced the Fire TV at a media event in New York City. The $99 media streaming box gives people the ability to watch thousands of shows and also play video games. It comes pre-registered, so it is quite easy to just take it out of the box, hook it up to your television via HDMI, and start watching.
The Fire TV box is running on the Android OS and features a very solid 1.7 GHz quad-core Snapdragon CPU with 2GB RAM, Bluetooth, 8GB internal storage, and the same duel-antenna wireless internet that the latest generation Kindle Fire tablets have. It connects to your television via HDMI to give you full 1080p video and Dolby digital surround sound.
This box has a lot in common with Apple TV, Roku, and a number of other boxes. You get access to Netflix, Hulu Plus, WatchESPN, YouTube, Crackle, Flixter, Watch ESPN, NBA Gametime, and a number of others. It also has lots of online radio apps like TuneIN, iHeartRadio, and Pandora. One of the elements that separates it from the competition is taping into the Amazon Instant Video system with 200,000 videos and television shows.
There are a few things that separate the Fire TV from the competition. One of them is called ASAP, which bears a striking resemblance to Amazon Silk. As you use the television service to use certain apps or watch shows, it will pre-buffer them so they will instantly play. There is also a microphone built into the remote control that is voice controlled. You can say actors’ names, like “Christopher Walken,” and it will list all of the movies that he has been in. It leverages IMDB for actors, movies, television shows directors, genres, and other fun stuff.
Media devices often lack security and most of them are in family homes. Amazon introduced a version of Freetime, which allows parents to modify the security settings to insure their kids aren’t watching anything they shouldn’t, like The Walking Dead. When in FreeTime, the background color and fonts change to a kid-friendly design. Kids only see titles that have been selected by their parents for them, and those who can’t yet read can navigate visually to content based on favorite characters or topics—for example “Dora the Explorer,” “Princesses,” or “Thomas and Friends.” Parents who have already set up profiles and approved content on Kindle Fire tablets will find the settings are automatically synchronized on Fire TV, making it simple and seamless to get started. Customers who subscribe to FreeTime Unlimited—Amazon’s all-you-can-eat content subscription designed just for kids ages 3 to 8—will get unlimited access to thousands of movies and TV shows.
Unlike all of the other streaming media boxes out there, Amazon has taken the unique step to integrate gaming. The Seattle based company worked with game developers like EA, Disney, Gameloft, Ubisoft, Telltale, Mojang, 2K, and Sega to bring their games to Fire TV. Games available starting today include customer favorites like Minecraft, Monsters University, The Game of Life, The Walking Dead, NBA2K14, Asphalt 8, Riptide GP2, Despicable Me: Minion Rush, and more. You can game on the remote control that comes with the unit, or purchase the dedicated Game Controller.
Only residents in the UK and US stand to get the most out of this unit right now. The bulk of the voice controlled actions pulls up listings from Amazon Instant Video, which excludes every country in the world other than the US and UK. Still, the whole system is compelling. It is part gaming, part videos, and has lots of cool, unique features borrowed from the Kindle Fire line of tablets. It might be worth it to check out since its only $99.
Michael Kozlowski is the Editor in Chief of Good e-Reader. He has been writing about audiobooks and e-readers for the past ten years. His articles have been picked up by major and local news sources and websites such as the CNET, Engadget, Huffington Post and Verge.