Hot on the heels of the new Apple TV announcement is a return-fire shot from Amazon. There have been rumors of a new Amazon Fire TV coming for several months. Now it’s here, and just in time for the holiday season.
Amazon announced not one, but two versions of it’s Fire TV streaming device. One aimed at general streamers and a special Gaming Edition aimed squarely at casual gamers.
What’s special about the new Amazon Fire TV?
Amazon already had a great streaming device on their hands, but they’ve made some improvements that are sure to impress cord-cutters. Even those that might have been looking at the “other box” that just came out.
4K Video Streaming
Amazon is really pitching 4K UHD support in the Fire TV, and with good reason. Apple left that feature off of their new device, which left most of the tech world scratching our heads.
Even if you don’t have a 4K UHD TV right now, you’ll probably get one in the near future. It’s hard to walk into a Best Buy, or any other consumer electronics store, without stopping to watch those beautiful TV’s and imagine how they’d look in our living rooms.
I know I’m guilty of that every time I walk in the store.
Even though there’s very little 4K content right now, It’s coming. We all know it.
So did Apple miss the memo?
According to MacWorld, “packing in new technology simply for the sake of future-proofing isn’t really Apple’s style.”
That’s OK. Amazon, and every other device that we review here, are more than willing to pick up the 4K UHD banner.
Improved voice search…
Amazon already had one of the best voice searches in streaming devices. I loved it in the original Fire TV, although I didn’t like the limitations that Amazon designed into the device.
Although voice search still can’t work within individual apps like Netflix or Hulu, you’ll still be able to search all of the content across those apps with one command.
Who is Alexa? Think of her like Amazon’s Siri or Cortana, only younger and less intelligent.
OK, that was a bit harsh. But take a look at her competition. Siri is the gold standard for voice commanded virtual assistants – at least those with a name. She can’t get as detailed as “OK Google”, but she does have a distinct personality. The same goes for Cortana, although fans of the Halo game series were probably wishing for something more like her namesake.
Alexa will get better with time. I have no doubts of that. But right now, she’s as much a novelty as Siri was in her early days too.
Better 1080p streaming too
Amazon will finally support HEVC (High Efficiency Video Coding), as well as hardware decoding for the H.264 codec. This means that you’ll be able to get better, smoother streaming of 1080p content using less bandwidth- about half as much, actually.
The older Fire TV supported H.264 as well, but the new CPU now running the Fire TV will be able to run 4K UHD content at 30 fps (frames per second).
Speaking of the CPU…
The new Amazon Fire TV has been seriously upgraded under the hood.
The old Snapdragon 600 CPU is replaced by the new MediaTek MT8173 which was announced earlier this year. Amazon is saying this will give the new Fire TV over 75% more processing power than it’s predecessor.
Amazon knows that a slow network can kill your streaming, so it also now supports 802.11 a/ac as well as b/g/n. Bluetooth is improved as well and supports Bluetooth 4.1. No word yet on when the Fire TV Stick will make the leap, though. It still only supports Bluetooth 3.0.
Finally, there’s a new version of the Amazon Fire OS. Version 5 will release with the new Fire TV, but be available to download on older devices shortly thereafter.
Amazon Fire TV Gaming Edition
We’ll have a full review of the new Amazon Fire TV shortly after it’s official release, but my initial impression is pretty good.
The internal improvements are sure to make an already good streaming experience even better. The addition of 4K UHD streaming support is an obvious win, even if it’s not obvious to Apple fans.
Of course, you’re not going to get the most benefit of the Amazon Fire TV if you’re not already a Prime subscriber. Sure, you can still use Netflix, Hulu, HBO Now and a ton of other streaming services, but Amazon really wants you to use their service, which makes sense.
Like Apple, the hardware is really secondary to the service itself. Unlike Apple, though, Amazon actually put a little more thought into it’s hardware.
Both devices are available for pre-order now and will release on October 5th, 2015.