Amazon’s Latest Venture: Fire TV

Amazon started their big innovations with the Kindle eBook reader, which has generated several versions, including the latest Fire HD tablet which rivals the iPad mini. Then they offered Prime, a special membership with perks like free shipping on all orders and the ability to stream movies. The latest offering from the media giant is Amazon Fire TV.

Fire TV is a small box, about the size of a gaming controller that attaches to the television and has a small, thin, Bluetooth remote. Once connected to an HDTV, the Fire TV is similar to a Roku device. It allows users to access Internet channels such as Netflix, Hulu Plus, and their own Prime program. It comes with a free 30 day trial of Prime with access to a library of movies and television shows – including some of their new original programming.

Fire TV also has a voice search that they have advertised with the unlikely spokesperson, Gary Busey, in what is probably the strangest commercial ever seen. Supposedly, the voice search is very accurate and there is no need to go through the process of clicking through letter-by-letter to enter a search term.

Amazon claims that the device is very easy to use. It arrives already connected to the user’s Amazon account to allow the site to provide recommendations and predictions of what movies or shows to load. It buffers the predictions quickly so that they will be ready to play. This may be an issue for those who share their account with their family. Recommendations may be skewed depending on varying purchases/wishlists/likes.

The Fire TV also offers games for free and for purchase to play on the television.

Comparing the device to the latest Roku, Apple TV, and Google Chromecast, the Fire TV is equal in price to the Roku and Apple TV. It is the only device with voice search, Dolby Digital Plus surround sound, a Quad-core processor, 2 GB of memory, access to HBO GO and hundreds of games with an optional (sold separately) game controller.

When you look at the box, it is 4.5″ x 4.5″ x 0.7″, very sleek, but remember that there will be cords for power, HDMI, Optical audio, Ethernet, and USB. None of the pictures show the product with the tangle of required cords attached. It is compatible with high definition televisions with HDMI and fit certain specs. Users should check to make sure their television is compatible prior to purchase.

The Fire TV has a karaoke feature for singing along at home and a parental control for time limits and what content is available for children to watch.

How the Fire TV actually works in comparison to its competitors remains to be seen. As the Amazon reviews roll in, watch for those that are detailed and offer specifics about the features, especially how much you need the $99/year Prime membership to get content and the full experience from the unit. Hopefully, some video reviews will pop up to show us what the experience is really like.

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