Amazon Fire Heats Up TV Competition

At $99, Amazon Fire TV has a strong focus on performance. Photo courtesy Amazon

At $99, Amazon Fire TV has a strong focus on performance. Photo courtesy Amazon

A few years ago, Amazon revolutionized reading books with its Kindle tablet, then its Kindle Fire further opened up the possibilities and added on the capabilities to watch your favorite TV shows, listen to your favorite songs and audiobooks, and play games.

Amazon recently took the next step with its Amazon Fire TV.

The Fire TV’s affordable $99 price tag is trying to beat out its competitors with a strong focus on performance. It’s a simple black box etched with a small Amazon logo. It’s a little larger than the Apple TV and only has HDMI, Ethernet, optical audio and a USB socket. The remote uses Bluetooth versus the typical IR, so you can hide the device just about anywhere.

The box plugs into your HDTV (but does not come with an HDMI cable!) and gives you instant access to Netflix, Prime Instant Video, Hulu Plus, WatchESPN, SHOWTIME, video/movie rentals (200,000-plus to choose from) and more. It also brings your photos, music and games to your living room. An intuitive voice search actually works as you speak the name of the movie, TV show, actor, etc., into the remote. No more typing in one letter at a time with your remote’s button!

If you’re into games, Fire TV is no comparison to Xbox One or PlayStation 4, but you’ll still have a blast. Some of the highlighted titles include Minecraft, Monsters University, The Game of Life, The Walking Dead, NBA2K14, Asphalt 8, Rip-tide GP2, Despicable Me: Minion Rush, and more. The average price of a game is $1.85, and you can play the games with an optional $40 controller or use any spare Xbox 360 controllers you may have around. Additionally, you can play these games from the Fire TV app on your smartphone.

It’s a great addition to the Amazon family of products, but Fire TV is yet another competitor in a sea of streaming media products – the most comparable products are Apple TV, Chromecast and Roku 3. Fire TV’s quad core processor makes it run three times faster than all three.

To take a quick look at other options, Apple TV’s same $99 price gives you a very different ecosystem than Fire TV because of the Android software base, but they have similar applications. Of course, you can stream everything over Air-Play with Apple TV, but you’ll still need an iDevice. The content is about the same, but at the end of the day, the decision is between iTunes or Amazon Prime.

Roku 3 also costs $99 and gives you a wide content selection that competitors may not be able to match, along with its own content store and mobile hardware for support, but lacks the media-sync features that Amazon and Apple provide. There are, however, plenty of roku porn sites which you can access should you choose Roku 3.

The cheapest of the competitors is the $35 Chromecast, and it is by far the most accessible. It ties into the major media services (e.g., Netflix, YouTube), but can be frustrating if you’re used to using a remote control since you’ll have to navigate through it with your phone or tablet. The nice thing about Chromecast is that it includes HDMI-CEC, which means it can change your TV into its own input as soon as it’s activated (something Fire TV, Apple TV or Roku 3 cannot do).

The bottom line is, if you’re already tied into Amazon Prime or already own a Kindle, adding on Fire TV makes sense. You’ll still have to pay an extra $40 for the game controller if you’re into the gaming piece, but it’s not necessary. Find it at