Online retail giant Amazon has unveiled it's long-rumoured set top box/home console, with the Fire TV device hitting its store
for North American customers today for $99. No word yet on potential Australian available, but Amazon's previous hardware releases have generally arrived here several months after their US launch.
Defying some of the recent rumours, the Fire TV takes the form of a slimline box similar to Apple TV, rather than the diminutive HDMI dongle style of other competitors like the Google Chromecast and Roku Streaming Stick. There's also no sign of the rumoured cloud streaming games on offer.
Amazon Fire TV is a tiny box that connects your HDTV to a world of online entertainment. With a huge selection of TV episodes and movies, voice search that actually works, plus exclusive features like ASAP and Amazon FreeTime, it’s the easiest way to enjoy Netflix, Prime Instant Video, Hulu Plus, low-cost movie rentals, music, photos, games, and more.
Hardware wise, the Amazon Fire TV looks to be packing quite a bit of grunt for its size. It's Qualcomm Snapdragon 8064 SOC platform contains a Qualcomm Krait 300 1.7 Ghz quad core CPU and dedicated Qualcomm Adreno 320 GPU as well as 2GB of 533MHZ LPDDR2 RAM, which dwarfs the performance capabilities of the likes of Chromecast and Apple TV. The Bluetooth remote control includes a microphone for voice-search functionality.
The device's primary function is as a streaming music and video player, but videogaming is also a central feature. Fire TV owners have the option of playing games with either the media remote, linking up an on-screen controller in a custom-built Smartphone app, or purchasing a more traditional Xbox-like game controller separately for US$39.99
While Amazon seemed to avoid mention of it in its announcement, much like the Kindle Fire tablet range, the Fire TV appears to be built on a custom fork of the Android platform, and the apps and games shown so far are all what you might expect on a mobile platform rather than a specialised games console or PC.
According to Amazon, thousands of games will be available from the Fire TV's app store by May, with an average price around $1.85 and a great many free-to-play. The vast majority of these are expected to be ports of Android mobile games, already counting the likes of Minecraft Pocket Edition, Asphalt 8 and Telltale's The Walking Dead among them, but Amazon also appears to be heavily investing in its own games content for the device, announcing a tower defence title Sev Zero and showing a demo reel of other works in progress.
Amazon Games Studios recently acquired Killer Instinct developer Double Helix Games, and notable games industry figures Clint Hocking (Far Cry 2 Creative Director), and Kim Swift (Portal Co-Creator) have since revealed their new roles at the company