Product Launch by Andrew Kameka on Wednesday April 02, 2014.
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Amazon today took the first step toward delivering its media library in the living room by announcing the release of Amazon Fire TV, a small black set-top box running a version of Android and HTML. Fire TV has a quad-core processor, 2GB of RAM, and a dedicated GPU in order to make sure that the device never feels slow. Amazon says it was built to ensure smoothness and avoid the laggy response times of its competitors.
Fire TV costs $99 and is shorter than a dime. It comes with a remote shorter than a piece of popcorn, and it has a microphone for voice controls, so someone search for Bradley Cooper and have his films appear in the results. Searching for a specific movie title or genre can also yield results. The software includes some of the features found on the Kindle Fire, including child protection features to limit what children are able to search for and let parents control what they can see. It also includes the X-Ray feature for getting additional information on movies and television episodes. As a result, someone can use the Kindle Fire as a second screen assistant to get more information without disturbing playback.
Amazon has brought gaming into the fold. A gaming controller works with Fire TV, and games from Ubisoft, Gameloft, Disney, Take-Two, and others contribute games to the system. You won't experience console-level graphics, but it will offer simple gaming for kids and some action gaming on par with Ouya. The controller is sold separately for $40.
Other features include:
- ASAP, a prediction engine that guesses what someone will want to watch and then begins pre-buffering in order to start playback faster.
- Second Screen can fling Amazon TV shows from a Fire HDX or mirror the display. Amazon will add Miracast/DIAL mirroring to supported Android devices and iPad/iPhone later.
- Lowest Price will find the cheapest place to get content, whether it's included in your Hulu Plus or Prime Instant Video subscription or if it's better to purchase from Amazon Instant.
- Amazon Cloud Drive shows cloud-stored photos on the TV, including galleries as a screensaver.
- Whispersync to save last viewing point whether watching on a computer, tablet, phone, or Fire TV, and synchronizing that state across devices.
Of course, content is key to Amazon's strategy, and the company will continue promoting its original content with shows like Alpha House and 10 new shows available exclusively on Prime TV. Hulu Plus and Amazon Instant Video will be the first media service available at launch, but other companies will arrive later. Amazon confirmed that HBO Go, MLB.tv, Netflix, YouTube, NBA, TuneIn, WatchESPN, RedBullTV, Crackle, Vimeo, Pandora, iHeartRadio, and TED are among the media partners slated to support Fire TV.
Andrew is MobileBurn.com's managing editor. He is based in Miami, Florida.