Amazon Unveils The $99 Amazon Fire TV Streaming Set-Top Box

Amazon announced the Fire TV today. Amazon started out the announcement by emphasizing three deficiencies in all of its competitor’s products: search, performance, and the lack of an open ecosystem for apps and services. They used those problems to show how their Fire TV excels: it has easy to use voice-based search “that actually works,” fast performance, and an open app and services ecosystem.

The Fire TV is a 4.5 x 4.5 inch box, less than an inch tall, and sports power, HDMI, optical audio out, Ethernet, and a USB ports on the back. The remote is small and simple with the obvious emphasis on voice search for everything but basic navigation.

The specs include a quad-core processor clocked at 1.7 GHz, 2 GB of RAM, an Adreno 320 GPU, and 8 GB of onboard storage. It supports Bluetooth 4.0, dual band wireless-N WiFi, and up to 7.1 channel Dolby Digital Plus sound. For video you get the standard 1080p HDMI out with up to 60 frames per second.

For movies and TV shows Amazon Fire TV supports Amazon’s Prime Instant Video, Netflix, Hulu Plus, Youtube, Plex, and more. Unfortunately there is no HBO Go or Vudu at this point. The Fire TV also supports music streaming of anything you have purchased through AmazonMP3 music as well as Pandora, iHeartRadio, and TuneIn.

Amazon FireTV Game Controller

There are a number of other features including parental controls call “FreeTime,” the ability to see Movie/TV/Actor information from IMDB either on the TV or your tablet called “X-ray,” but the major differentiating factor is that the Fire TV doubles as a Android gaming console. You can buy a Amazon game controller that looks very similar to a Xbox controller. Amazon says they will have “1000s of games” in the coming months that are being ported over to the Fire TV and that they will be inexpensive – I expect these to be many of the popular Android games already out there. Amazon also has created its own game development studio and has some original gaming content available now – a new shooter called Sev Zero – plus more on the way. Note that this is not intended for console gamers – this is for people who like to play mobile games on their phones or tablets, providing a way to play those games on a bigger screen.

Overall, I like that Amazon has made a relatively powerful streaming device for a reasonable price, but I do not see a reason to upgrade right now if you have already have a Roku or Blu-ray player that handles streaming video relatively well. However, if you do not yet have a streaming device and plan to use Amazon Instant Video or Netflix, the Fire TV is a very attractive option. What do you all think? Do you plan to buy a Fire TV?