Amazon has finally entered the set-top box space with its newly-announced Fire TV. And it can do everything, including stream movies and television shows, displaying photos, and allow users to game - directly from their television sets.
The actual Fire TV device is a thin, square box that's all black. It connects to your television and works with a small remote. Once turned on, the Fire TV brings up a main screen and a catalog of new movies and shows. The user-interface, which is very Kindle Fire-like, has categories on the left-hand side for Home, Movies, TV, Watchlist, Video Library, Games, Apps, Photos, Settings, FreeTime, and much more.
One of the family-friendliest features within Fire TV and its UI is FreeTime. It's a spot for kids and looks completely different from the main screen. It has a blue background, as well as a name, avatar, etc. Parents can "whitelist" content into FreeTime and designate time limits, while children can't get out of it without entering a parent-set password. Nifty, right?
Another cool feature within Fire TV is voice search, and it requires the Fire TV remote. The remote has a built-in mic, which you can use to sift through Prime Instant Video, as well as third-party services like Netflix and Hulu. You can search for an actor's name, movie titles, genres, etc. Voice search will browse over 200,000 titles available on Fire TV, which Amazon said is the biggest offering available.
Voice search also works impressively fast. That's probably because the Fire TV is a powerful streaming box, thanks to its quad-core processor, 2GB of RAM, and a dedicated GPU. In fact, Amazon said the Fire TV is three times more powerful than a Roku, Chromecast, and Apple TV. That means browsing and video playback, not to mention gaming, should be ultra-speedy and in 1080p.
Speaking of gaming, Amazon has brought a lot to the table. It is promising support for thousands of games from Disney, EA, and other big publishers, but it also has an in-house arm called Amazon Games Studios that's currently developing original Amazon games. The first game, called SEV Zero, is a tower defense/shooter with a multi-player mode. It looks pretty cool. And you can start playing it today.
All of these games will work with a game controller called the Fire game controller. It has a layout similar to an Xbox controller or, more specifically, an OnLive controller. It's black, like the Fire TV, and feels pretty sleek. That said, Amazon's entire Fire TV setup looks rather slick. Nothing is too big or bulky. It's all small and cutting-edge in appearance.
Beyond video and games, Fire TV is chock-full of cool features. The Fire TV will include access to Amazon's X-ray service, for instance. It allows users to pull up IMDB info about a video from within the actual video (like an actor's name and credit history). Fire TV will also include access to Amazon's music service, and it'll display any photos backed up in Amazon Cloud Drive.
Moving onto pricing - Amazon said the Fire TV and remote will launch on 2 April for $99 in the US. An Amazon representative told Pocket-lint that global availability is in the works, though that might not happen immediately. The Fire game controller costs $39.99.