Rumors have been pointing to an Amazon TV set-top box for quite some time. Today the company pulled the cat out of the bag, and its name is Fire TV.
If you've ever used an Apple TV or Roku set-top box, then Fire TV is going to look very familiar. Like those entertainment devices, it's a small, flattish little box that connects to your TV via HDMI. It naturally has Amazon Prime and Instant Video services on board, but third-party services like Netflix, Hulu Plus, Watch ESPN, and Showtime Anytime are all in the mix as well.
Sounds very by-the-book so far, eh? Well, one of the most interesting features of Fire TV is its remote control. It has the standard directional and navigation buttons, but it also has a voice control button. Tap that, speak into your remote, and (supposedly) instantly navigate to whatever content you want to watch. Having the mic right on the remote should, at least in theory, be more accurate than the voice control clunkiness that plagues the Xbox One (its microphone sits by your TV). The Fire TV remote connects via Bluetooth, rather than infrared, so it doesn't need a clear line-of-sight with the set-top box.
Amazon's other big differentiating feature here is gaming. The company is selling a separate US$40 game controller that plays nicely with the Fire TV. Content looks a little slim at the moment, and we're definitely looking at mobile games blown up for your TV (a la Ouya). But the company did line up participation from 2012 Game of the Year The Walking Dead, as well as Minecraft and an Amazon exclusive, Sev Zero.
To run games natively, a set-top box is going to need beefier specs than we've seen from the previous players. So Amazon threw in a quad core processor, dedicated GPU, and 2 GB of RAM. As you might expect, its maximum output is 1080p.
The Fire TV retails for the same $100 as Apple TV (which is $65 more than Google's Chromecast). It's available today from the product page below.
Product page: Amazon