As you may have heard, Amazon has decided to get into the set-top box wars today with the Amazon Fire TV. So, should you give Amazon $99 of your hard-earned cash to replace your Roku or Apple TV? Here’s what you need to know.
…Amazon Fire TV?
Look, we don’t name ’em, we just report on ’em.
So it’s like my Roku? Or my PS3? Or my Xbox One? Or my…
Yes, in the basics, it’s like that. It does, however, have a few good ideas in the box. The most basic being that Amazon has gone for raw power: The Fire TV comes with 2 GB of RAM and a quad-core GPU. Essentially, Amazon is hoping to solve common streaming problems by throwing more processors at them.
That sounds like an advantage!
It is! The demonstration featured movies that started instantly and faster menu scrolling. Whether this is a key advantage is an open question, but its undeniably impressive. It also helps with the voice search, demo-ed here…
Wait, voice search?
Apparently that’s how Amazon got around the whole “poking buttons to find stuff” problem. Of course, whether you want to talk to your TV is still something of an open question, but it’s a nice touch. Still, we’ll want to try it out: As anybody who got sick of using Siri can tell you, voice search isn’t the most accurate thing in the world and can get old at light-speed. In fact, the search didn’t work perfectly at the presentation… which is a bit ominous.
Any other features that are kind of neat but I’ll probably never use?
Yeah, you can instantly upload photos from your phone to Amazon Cloud, and it’ll put photos on your TV. It will also overlay IMDB information on what you’re watching, a feature that sounds incredibly annoying. It’ll do this for music as well, streaming the lyrics so you can stop arguing over what’s actually being said. Oh, and now you buy things with Amazon Coins.
So what can I stream on this thing?
Amazon showed MLB and NBA apps, as well as the usual assortment of streaming video like Netflix and Hulu, online video services such as Vimeo and TED Talks, and so on. It looks like they’re quite serious about getting as much content on there as possible. Music is apparently going to be added next month, with a similarly robust set of streaming options.
You’ve been talking a lot about this being Amazon’s “game console.” Any word on that?
Yeah, unfortunately it is not what we’ve been hearing via rumor. A lot of the games discussed were just mobile games writ large, and designed to be played with either your tablet or the remote. The controller is a $40 accessory, and considering the rumors of streaming PC games that were flying, this is something of a letdown. But also an upraised middle finger to Apple, which appears to be the real function here.
So what will I pay for this and is it a good deal?
Just $99 for the box and remote, and yeah, I’d say it is if you don’t already own a streaming device. To be honest, as the owner of both a Roku and a PS3 for streaming video, it’s certainly a nice, elegant little device, but even at $100, that’s just not competitive.
And for now, Prime members get absolutely nothing extra. So if you’re looking to replace your video streaming box, this will be a good solution. Otherwise, it’s mostly just Amazon trying to horn in on the space.
Now, allow Gary Busey to try to sell you an Amazon Fire TV…