As most know, I’ve been tracking the Amazon streamer for some time — turning up a Best Buy planogram as the first hard proof of its existence, followed by regulatory filings of the dual-band box itself and curious Bluetooth gaming controller. Of course, the devil is in the details, with complete capabilities and pricing eluding us until launch. Fortunately, Amazon has moved on from the awful “Firetube” and settled on the much more palatable Fire TV. And the $99 box is shipping now! (Which is really how all product announcements should go.)
While Fire TV lands at the higher end of category pricing (for 2014), Amazon touts voice search of Amazon content via remote along with quad core processing and dedicated GPU, suitable for handling Android gaming via the aforementioned controller accessory ($40). Dozens of apps are available immediately, including Netflix, Pandora, and Plex, yet we can expect many more making an appearance over the next few months. Further, Amazon Instant is present and features pre-caching to speed up access via something they’re calling ASAP – Advanced Streaming and Prediction. Additionally, Kindle Fire HDX screen mirroring is built-in - assuming it performs well, this functionality will help overcome any initial app limitations by beaming both visuals and audio from one’s Amazon tablet to the television. Sadly, the Fire TV doesn’t appear to be an agnostic Miracast endpoint.
As to other features that might set Fire TV apart from the Chromecast, Roku, and Apple TV, Amazon’s entrant is the first to truly provide a dedicated kids area. And, while maybe a small detail, like Amazon’s like of Kindle e-readers, Fire TV comes pre-linked to one’s Amazon account.
Is Fire TV worth $99? Does it supplant the competition? I don’t have those answers yet. But you best believe I gots one on order and intend to put it thru its paces.