As expected, Amazon on Wednesday unveiled its living room set-top box, officially called Fire TV. The $99 box aims to compete directly with offerings from companies like Apple, Google, and Roku, and gives customers access to a wide range of entertainment content from both Amazon and third parties.
In addition to the expected 1080p and multichannel audio support (up to 7.1 Dolby Digital Plus), the Fire TV features a quad-core processor, a dedicated GPU, dual-band and dual-antenna Wi-Fi with MIMO support, 2GB of memory, and support for Bluetooth remotes and game controllers. Most of these specs easily beat the current competition, although companies like Apple are expected to update their own hardware soon.
Beyond the hardware, Amazon hopes that custom software will be the true advantage of Fire TV. A new ‘Advanced Streaming and Prediction’ (ASAP) feature learns which movies and TV shows a user prefers and automatically queues content to prevent buffering when watching a subsequent episode or re-watching a film. The company is also integrating built-in voice control via a microphone on the included remote.
Amazon-exclusive features such as X-Ray, which provides users with IMDB information on the actors and events in eligible movies and TV shows, and FreeTime, which lets parents set content and usage limits for their children, are also built-in to Fire TV. Both features made their debut on the company’s Kindle tablet line.
Games will be a major feature of Fire TV. With its Bluetooth controller support and an optional $39 wireless game controller, Fire TV will support hundreds of Android-based games from studios such as Gameloft, EA, Disney, Sega, and Ubisoft. To facilitate the creation of more games optimized for Fire TV, Amazon is launching its own game studio and has created a new developer portal for the device.