Amazon's Fire TV: Betting on better technology

Amazon's Fire TV: Betting on better technology

Summary: Amazon has entered the set-top box market with a box that has better stuff inside it than the competition's. Will this be enough for it to gain a foothold in this crowded space?

TOPICS: Hardware, Amazon
Fire TV
(Source: Amazon)

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Amazon has entered the set-top box market with the Fire TV, and it's clear that the world's biggest retailer is betting on technology rather than cut-throat pricing.

The $99 price point for the Fire TV is nothing to write home about. Google's Chromecast is a third of this price, while the Roku 3 and the Apple TV are both $99, just like the Fire TV. Instead for firesale pricing (which many were expecting), Amazon has chosen to pack a lot of cutting-edge technology into its black box.

At the heart of the Fire TV is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 SoC platform featuring a 1.7GHz quad-core Qualcomm Krait 300 and a Qualcomm Adreno 320 GPU. This beats the single core found in both the Apple TV and Chromecast, and the dual-core chip found inside the Roku 3. According to Amazon, the processor package offers over 3x the processing power present inside the other devices.

The inclusion of this SoC is also another big win for Qualcomm.

Fire TV specs
(Source: Amazon)

Then there's RAM. While the other devices have to get along with 512MB, Amazon has kitted out the Fire TV with 2GB. Four times more RAM gives Amazon more headroom to make the Fire TV do more, and also space for future improvements.

Amazon is also taking audio seriously. Just as with the Kindle Fire HDX, the audio platform of the Fire TV is certified Dolby Digital Plus surround sound, something none of the competition can claim.

The Fire TV also brings what seems to be the first realistic voice search system to the living room. Voice control has been bandied about as a killer TV feature for some time now, and while devices such as the Xbox One take a stab at offering voice control, the Fire TV looks like the best offering so far.

Another strength of the Fire TV — a strength that leverages the technology inside — is games. Not only has Amazon developed a separate optional games controller, but it has more games on offer than the Roku 3 (which is the only rival offering games) and promises that thousands more and coming.

Another interesting feature of the Fire TV is the way Amazon has leveraged the Kindle Fire HDX tablet not only as a mechanism to beam content to the set-top box, but also as a second screen to display information about what's being shown. This goes above and beyond the sort of integration that iOS and Android offer with the Apple TV and Chromecast.

The set-top box market is a crowded space, but Amazon's entered it with guns blazing. Will it work? It's hard to tell, but Amazon certainly has a big enough customer base that deliver plenty of eyeballs on the product to give it a fighting chance.

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Topics: Hardware, Amazon

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  • Ok

    This does look appealing and might work as THE living room media center... for now. I like the idea that it may be expandable. It is new and it will be interesting to watch and see how this plays out with the masses. But if I was a simple betting man... I'd say this is pretty good buy comparable to the competition. The one thing that is lacking is a blueray player. If it had that, this could be the only media center needed. So right now, you would need to setup a separate blueray player for all those BR and DVD discs people got sucked into purchasing over the years. Although streaming is great... it still can't compare to a DVD or BR disc quality. Until the US of A corporations ungrade their Internet infrastructure to much higher speeds, the average mom & pop household can only download fair quality streaming movies and shows. Like on Netflix, some are horrible, shakey or not clear because I would imagine Netflix and others have different processes for rendering video content for streaming. I've even seen some which was rendered wrong and the audio don't match the video... that should be against the digital laws of the land!
    • Bluray player

      You do see the size of the popcorn next to it right??
  • Customizable?

    Unless the Fire TV allows customizable (private) channels, it will never take off like the Roku.

    I have used several Blu-Ray players, games systems, and set-top devices, staying away form Roku for quite a while.

    I got my first one because of a big sale, and now I wouldn't go back (I have since bought another, and have two running in my house).

    The big difference? customization. The private channels on Roku offer some amazing content that can't be found on devices that only give you what you have when you bought it. I view ustream channels,, cnn international, among many others.
  • Chromecast killer yes! Roku Killer?

    Not by a long shot! Why don't they put up a comparison to the Roku R3500 Streaming Stick? Cause the R3500 blows away this new Amazon device! Sorry Amazon really missed the mark on this, cut the price in half and maybe I'd look at it!
  • Don't think the Spec Wars strategy plays well in this space

    I don't think the Specifications War strategy will play out well in this "$50 set top box" space.

    Clearly, Amazon Fire has better hardware specs than the competition.

    But what does it buy the average consumer TODAY that will make him shell out *twice* the money?

    Roku hardware is more than 'good enough' for most people. The real limiting factor for most people is the limited bandwidth of their internet connection, NOT the hardware. And we're talking about a $50-$70 device here, not a $500 PC... a Roku/chromecast/whatever is NOT a huge investment if people want to replace it in the future when more bandwidth and better content is desired.
  • xbmc?

    If I can't put xbmc on it, I don't want it. I have a Roku 3 which is great but sits unused without XBMC. Recently the Yatse remote control app added chromecast support there are xbmc transcoding issues but workarounds are popping up makes me happy I have 2 chromecasts.