updated 12:04 pm EDT, Wed April 2, 2014
Fire TV set-top box offers voice search by microphone in remote control
Amazon has launched its new streaming media player, the Fire TV, at its New York media event today. Part of the retailer's push into the streaming video marketplace and building upon the success of its Kindle tablets, the Amazon Fire TV is a small set-top box that allows users access to TV shows and movies watch video from Amazon's Instant Video, as well as other services.
Inside the Fire TV is a quad-core 1.7GHz Qualcomm processor with an Adreno 320 GPU, 2GB of RAM, and 8GB of storage, which is said to be three times as powerful as the Apple TV, Roku, and Chromecast. Capable of displaying 1080p video, it offers Dolby digital surround over HDMI and optical outputs, and includes Bluetooth connectivity and dual-band Wi-Fi with two antennas and MIMO to supplement the Ethernet connection. Weighing 9.9 ounces, the Fire measures 4.5 inches square by 0.7 inches thick, making it slightly larger than an Apple TV in size.
Amazon Fire TV
Accompanying the device is a similarly-small Bluetooth remote control with directions and seven function buttons. One, labeled with a microphone logo, allows for the user to speak into the remote to perform voice searches. Stating an actor's name or a show title will bring up results on the television, with listings able to be viewed straight away or added to a watchlist for later viewing. A text-based search is also available to users as an alternative. Users of a Kindle Fire HDX will be able to use the device as a second screen when watching shows, with X-Ray notifications about the program appearing on its display.
Aside from being able to stream content from Amazon Instant Video, the Fire TV will support a host of other services via apps. Starting with Hulu Plus, the device will also offer apps for Vimeo, Netflix, Ted talks, the NBA, WatchESPN, Youtube, and others. A Photos section will show images saved on the Amazon Cloud Drive.
The Fire TV will also offer music apps, with Pandora, iHeartRadio, and TuneIn arriving next month, and songs bought through Amazon itself playable through the device. X-Ray is also usable through the Fire TV, providing Kararoke-style lyrics to tracks.
Just as with the Kindle Fire tablets, a kid-friendly FreeTime mode is available, limiting younger users to specific whitelisted content. Using a bright blue background to contrast the rest of the darker interface, FreeTime requires a password to exit, and parents can also set time limits for viewing content. The new "FreeTime unlimited" will provide content for kids to watch automatically, including items from PBS Kids, Sesame Street, and Nickelodeon.
Amazon Fire game controller
Gaming will make an appearance on the device, with publishers including Disney, Gameloft, EA, and Ubisoft preparing to provide "thousands" of games for the device next month. Users will be able to use the remote, a tablet, or the previously-leaked Fire game controller to play the games. The Fire game controller will cost $40 on it's own, and will include 1,000 Amazon Coins with the purchase.
Amazon will start selling the Fire TV for $99 today in the United States.