There are currently several streaming media devices available on the market, from Roku to Airplay, and now, Amazon has entered the market with their own streaming device: Fire. Amazon Fire TV is a streaming media set-top box that lets you watch video from Amazon Instant Video, Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, Crackle, and a few other sources. It also lets you play games, with or without a controller (which is sold separately).
Fire TV is easy to set up and use, and offers voice integration.
The Fire TV is very simple. Just plug it in to the wall, install the batteries in the remote, and you are ready to go. It quickly pairs with the included Bluetooth remote: simply hold down the “home” button on the remote for a few seconds, and you are ready to use it. The Fire is different from devices currently on the market because it offers voice integration. This allows you to search for content by speaking aloud, rather than tediously typing in your selection. Also, you can use the remote microphone to begin a series of voice commands, such as, “launch Netflix,” “search new movies,” or “Rocky” if you want a specific title, but you will need to hold down the button the entire time you are speaking so the Fire can pick up your voice. Also, be aware that the box will return results from the Amazon catalog only, even if you are signed in to your other accounts. This means if you want to search through the Netflix catalog, you will have to do so manually.
Fire TV has better hardware than its competitors.
The Fire is different from the competitors because it gives users the ability to play games. Because of this, it offers a surprising amount of power for such a small box. It utilizes a quad core processor, 2GB of RAM, and a dedicated GPU for playing games. This is the same chipset used in the Galaxy S4 and the 2013 HTC One. But, it is not quite as high-end as the Snapdragon 800 found in the Kindle Fire HDX. It is considerably more powerful than any of the other current crop of set-top box or low-end gaming systems on the market.
The games portion of the box was heavily rumored leading up to the event, and it turns out they were spot on, as the aforementioned controller costs $40 in addition to the $99 box itself. Amazon has stated, however, that many games can be played using the media player remote that comes packaged in the box, so there may be no need for the separate controller if your favorite game can be played using the remote.
Fire TV’s internal memory is limited.
The box does not offer a way to expand the internal memory. This is something I hope they will remedy in later versions of the box, because if you are choosing the Fire over the Roku simply because of the gaming capabilities, games can quickly eat away at your memory storage. One game can be well over 1GB, so if you are an avid gamer, this may not house all of your games. If you are a lightweight gamer, however, this could be a great feature in addition to the streaming media capabilities.
Fire TV is compatible with HDMI only.
Fire does offer an HDMI port, optical audio output and Ethernet. There is also a USB 2.0 port, although that isn’t enabled to do anything at the moment, except for debugging and interfacing in developer mode. Similar to Apple TV and Roku 3, the Fire TV is HDMI only, so if you have an older TV without an HDMI port, it will not work. By and large this is a great addition to the streaming media products currently on the market, especially given that the Fire offers voice controls and gaming fun.
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