Finally ending months of speculation, Amazon has unveiled its own media-streaming device, Amazon Fire TV. Armed with 2GB of RAM, a quad-core processor, and a dedicated GPU, the Fire TV box is a teeny-tiny rectangle that’s poised to be your all-in-one media streaming device, giving users the opportunity to access Amazon Prime, Netflix, Vimeo, YouTube, Hulu, and all the rest of the usual suspects, including music-streaming options that include songs you’ve bought on Amazon, not to mention Pandora, TuneIn, and more. Best of all, Amazon Fire TV is available today, and at the ridiculously affordable price of only $99.
Amazon’s Peter Larson took to the stage at the event to discuss the problems people have with media-streaming devices these days—searching, laggy performance, and closed ecosystems. The Android-based Amazon Fire TV aims to solve those problems with the above-listed specs that should let the box move super-fast. And while it comes with a remote with the usual batch of buttons, it’s also got a built-in microphone that lets users perform voice searches, ending users’ frustrations in typing searches one letter at a time. It also connects to the box via Bluetooth, meaning you won’t have to point your remote directly at the box to make it work, just like the PS3 media remote.
As for how you’ll connect the Fire TV to your television set and network, it’s armed with dual-band, dual-antenna Wi-Fi with MIMO (multiple-input and multiple-output) for fast downloading. It also has a port for your ethernet cable if you’d prefer to keep the thing wired. Fire TV also sports an HDMI or optical out for 1080p visuals and Dolby Digital Surround sound. All in all, that’s a lot of power in a black rectangle no taller than a US dime.
What other features are packed into Amazon Fire TV? There’s a photo-syncing feature, so when you take a photo with your smartphone, it’ll go right up to Amazon via the Cloud App, letting you display them on your television via Fire TV right then and there. “X-Ray” is a feature that will sync up background data on actors and other creative people involved in whatever media you’re watching right on your tablet. So if you’re watching Barton Fink and want to know more about John Goodman, or if you’re listening to a song and want the lyrics, X-Ray will shove that feature onto your Kindle Fire tablet, provided it’s armed with the right app, I presume.
Fire TV will also feature games you can play on your television screen. According to Mike Frazzini from Amazon Game Studios, developers and publishers including Disney, Gameloft, EA, 2K, Telltale, Sega, Ubisoft, and even Double Fine will have “thousands” of games on Fire TV by next month. Games are playable using the remote, or an app to allow for tablet-based play. Frazzini also confirmed the Fire controller, which will cost $39.99, and will come with “1000 Amazon Coins” with which you can buy games. The presentation included some time spent playing—what else?—Minecraft. Clearly, Amazon’s looking to make sure that the Fire TV is not simply “Ouya 2.0,” despite being little more than an Android-powered box.
Amazon Game Studios is also going to be pumping its own games into the Fire TV, presumably taking advantage of its recent acquisition of game developer Double Helix. The first title will be called Sev Zero, a multiplayer, tower-defense/shooter hybrid.
Amazon just fired a broadside against every Android gaming console on the market, not to mention against the big boys like Apple with Apple TV, Google’s Chromecast, and Roku. In short, things are going to change. A hundred dollar, super-powerful media streaming device with solid game support and a $40 controller? Sign me up.