Following months of rumors and speculation, Amazon on Wednesday revealed a TV-connected video streaming and gaming device called the Amazon Fire TV that will face off with a batch of competitors that includes Apple TV, the Google Chromecast, and Roku’s device lineup.
Shipping now, the Amazon Fire TV sells for $99. Amazon is selling a separate, optional game controller for $39 that can also double as a remote control.
While earlier reports suggested that Amazon would launch a Chromecast-like HDMI “stick,” the Amazon Fire TV is a compact (0.7-inch-thin) yet powerful box outfitted with a dedicated GPU and a quad-core CPU that, the company claims, will provide more than three times the processing power of the Apple TV, Chromecast or Roku 3.
The device, which connects to TVs via HDMI, also supports 1080p video, 7.1 Dolby Digital Plus surround sound, and runs on a “forked” version of the Android OS. Amazon is pairing the Fire TV with a remote control that includes voice-based search capabilities. A feature exclusive to the product called ASAP (Advanced Streaming and Prediction) is designed to recommend movies and TV shows users will want to watch, buffering those video titles for playback before the user presses play. Amazon has also optimized the search feature to obtain data from IMDb, the Amazon-owned online entertainment database.
On the content end, Amazon’s new product offers more than 200,000 movies and TV episodes from its own Amazon Instant Video service, and is “seamlessly integrated” with Prime Instant Video, Amazon’s subscription-based streaming service that runs $99 per year following a recent price increase.
Out of the chute, Fire TV also supports a wide range of video and media applications outside of the Amazon sphere, including Netflix, Crackle, Hulu Plus, Flixster, iHeartRadio, Vevo, YouTube and authenticated TV Everywhere services such as Showtime Anytime and WatchESPN.
Video apps on Fire TV’s “coming soon” list include MLB.TV, WATCH Disney Channel, WATCH ABC, Twitch, and the recently launched WWE Network OTT subscription video service. It was not immediately known when Amazon Fire TV would add support for HBO GO.
Amazon said the new device will also offer a library of games, including Minecraft, Monsters University, and NBA2K14, noting that the average paid game for the Fire TV will sell for $1.85.
Amazon also has plans later this year to enable features that will allow users to fling video and other content from smartphones and tablets to the TV via the Fire TV.
To help it prime the pump, “eligible” consumers will get a free 30-day trial of Netflix and Amazon Prime when they purchase the Fire TV.