5 Things You Need to Know About Amazon Fire TV

In Seattle today, Amazon launched their streaming TV solution, called Fire TV. Going head-to-head with Apple, Google and Roku for control of your living room, Amazon is promising a future about more than just streaming TV and movies!

Because the Fire TV runs a modified version of Android (just like Amazon’s Kindle Fire tablets) you’ll be able to use apps, get voice recognition through the remote, and even play games on the big screen.

Before you rush over to Amazon and hand over $99 to get one, here’s 5 things you need to know about the Fire TV.

amazon fire tv channel selection

1. Expect the price to drop

When Amazon launched the first version of their Kindle e-reader in 2007, it cost an incredible $399. Today, a basic Kindle can be had for just $69.

As Amazon is able to sell more of these devices (and perhaps even launch ad-supported versions like they have with other Kindle and Kindle Fire products) expect it to drop in price as well. While $99 is the same price Apple charges for their Apple TV, it’s significantly more than the $49 Roku Streaming Stick or the $35 Google Chromecast.

If you think you can wait, you might be able to save some money by not being the first one on the block with a Fire TV!


2. Parental controls coming soon

One thing Amazon is really known for is their strong parental controls on their Kindle Fire tablets. Although it’s not ready for launch, the company has said they’ll be bringing similar controls, called “Amazon FreeTime,” to their TV box next month.

Parents will be able to create custom profiles for their kids, choosing only the apps, movies, games and TV shows they deem appropriate. Parents will also be able to limit the amount of time their kids are allowed to watch and play each day.

Another feature, FreeTime Unlimited, is a new subscription service Amazon is launching. For just $2.99 per month, parents will be able to load up tons of content designed specifically for children aged 3 to 8. So far details are scarce, but Amazon promises content from Nickelodeon, Sesame Street, PBS Kids, and more.


3. Mirroring for Kindle Fire owners

If you own an iPhone or an iPad, getting an Apple TV makes sense because it’s the easiest way to get pictures, movies and music from your small screen onto the big screen through Airplay, Apple’s wireless screen-sharing technology.

Similarly, Amazon is trying to do the same thing with Fire TV for Kindle Fire owners, making it easy to mirror your tablet on your HDTV or easily access second screen info with X-Ray, which gives you information about the actors on screen in whatever movie or TV you’re currently watching.

amazon fire tv specs

4. Amazon wants you to care about specs

How many Roku, Apple TV or Chromecast owners know how fast the processor in their box is? Or how much RAM they have? Up until now, these specs have been pretty much irrelevant—these devices are all powerful enough to do what they claim, and if they say they support a feature, it generally works the way you’d expect.

Amazon is hoping to differentiate themselves in the market by bringing specs back into the equation. While this might not mean much to the average viewer, they sure do sound impressive:

“Fast quad-core processor, 2 GB of memory, dedicated GPU, plus 1080p HD video and Dolby Digital Plus surround sound”

If anything, these specs will ensure that this box is more of an investment than others on the market, and with the addition of dedicated graphics inside the Fire HD, Amazon is clearly making a commitment to supporting gaming on the device (with additional purchase of a $39 controller, of course).


5. More than just streaming movies

Summarizing his product, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos described it like this:

“Tiny box, huge specs, tons of content, incredible price—people are going to love Fire TV”
—Jeff Bezos

Amazon is clearly hoping that if you want the most powerful Internet-connected TV out there, you’ll be wowed by the Fire TV. Certainly, the ability to turn it into a cheap set-top gaming box is a fun addition, and voice search could prove to be a great new feature, and with all that power under the hood, I’d expect Amazon has more tricks up their sleeve for this box in the coming year.

However, if you’re already using a Roku, Chromecast, or Apple TV, there’s probably not much here to make you want to rush out and buy yet another streaming device. While the benefits of pairing a Fire TV with an Amazon Prime subscription are certainly strong, Amazon Instant Video still lags behind competitors like Netflix and Hulu Plus, which are still available on other devices. While gaming could be a game changer for budget-minded families, it’s unlikely Fire TV will steal any thunder from the PlayStation 4, Xbox One or Wii U and their big-budget games.