10 Reasons to Pick Amazon Fire TV Over Apple TV

By Don Reisinger  |  Posted 2014-04-07 Print this article Print

Amazon on April 2 unveiled Fire TV, a set-top box designed to compete with Roku and Apple TV. Fire TV comes with a quad-core Qualcomm processor that provides enough power to handle a wide range of games. There's also a remote bundled with the device that features full voice commands and a game controller, sold separately, that helps folks play games. Since Amazon has pitted Fire TV, which is available now for $99, squarely against Apple TV, it's time to decide which product to buy. I personally bought Fire TV as soon as it was announced and have been a longtime Apple TV owner, so I'm intimately aware of the two device's strengths and weaknesses. And I can say now, unequivocally, that for the vast majority of folks who don't want to get bogged down in the Apple ecosystem, Fire TV is the product worth buying. This eWEEK slide show provides a look at both Fire TV and Apple TV and identifies what makes Amazon's latest launch a standout in the increasingly crowded home-entertainment space. Hint: It's all about the extras. Read on to learn more:

  • 10 Reasons to Pick Amazon Fire TV Over Apple TV

    By Don Reisinger
    10 Reasons to Pick Amazon Fire TV Over Apple TV
  • It's Better-Looking

    Apple TV is by no means an ugly device, but Fire TV has it beat in the looks department. The device is a small, thin, square box that can be placed just about anywhere in a home-entertainment setup and go practically unnoticed. While Apple TV has a smaller footprint, it's taller and chunky, and looks like a brick in a home-entertainment setup. There's something stylish in Fire TV's simplicity.
    It's Better-Looking
  • More of the Top Services Are There

    If one were to compare all set-top boxes purely based on their support for top services, Fire TV would win. The device comes with support for Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, Hulu Plus, Crackle, YouTube and others. The only meaningful app it's missing is HBO Go, which hopefully will be addressed soon. Apple TV, meanwhile, offers Amazon's Instant Video, Showtime Anytime and Pandora, and does feature HBO. While there are some trade-offs in both respects, Amazon's offering is just a bit better.
    More of the Top Services Are There
  • The Voice Recognition Is Outstanding

    I was more than a little surprised by just how well Fire TV's voice recognition works. Even while the television is on and sound is up, the microphone built into the remote easily picks up requests. Every query I threw at the device was accurately picked up, delivering relevant results. That's a feature Apple TV is sorely missing.
    The Voice Recognition Is Outstanding
  • Gaming

    Apple TV doesn't come with support for games, which makes it a non-starter for casual gamers. Fire TV, on the other hand, ships with well over 100 games available, and more will be added as time goes on. Amazon is now in the console business with Fire TV, and so far, given the breadth of games available, it looks like that move might be a lucrative one. All of the games work well and look great on the big screen.
  • Performance Is Top-Notch

    I was shocked at the quality of Fire TV's performance. The device's quad-core processor provided enough power to jump around from app to app without any delay, and its dual-band, dual-antenna WiFi provided enough bandwidth to limit buffering issues. There's a slight delay with everything when using Apple TV. Fire TV, meanwhile, feels snappier and delivers a much better experience because of it.
    Performance Is Top-Notch
  • Parental Controls

    Amazon's FreeTime service will be making its way to Fire TV in a software update next month. The service allows parents to define how kids can use Fire TV, placing controls on app access, what movies and TV shows kids can view, and more. The feature is already on the Kindle Fire and is beloved among parents. That it's coming to Fire TV is a smart move on Amazon's part, and further separates the device from Apple TV.
    Parental Controls
  • That Game Controller Matters

    Although it's rather unfortunate that Fire TV's game controller is sold separately (for $40, no less), it's a necessity. Amazon has made clear that it wants to bring as many games to the set-top box as possible. Although titles can technically be played with the simple remote, the experience isn't exactly appealing. Despite its price, the Amazon Fire Game Controller is a must-have for gamers, as it will only enhance the gaming experience on Fire TV.
    That Game Controller Matters
  • Free Cloud Storage

    Amazon slipped this feature in without too much fanfare, but it's important nonetheless. Fire TV supports free cloud storage on all Amazon content. So whether it's music, video content or apps, that data is stored in the cloud. Assuming one was to get another Fire TV, all of that content would be accessible on the new device out of the box. That's a great feature.
    Free Cloud Storage
  • It's Not About Turf Wars

    It's nice to see Amazon not trying to fight turf wars with Fire TV. Amazon's Instant Video service is in direct competition with Netflix, and yet, the competitor's service is still running on Fire TV. The same can be said for Crackle and Hulu Plus. Apple has been notorious for its turf wars and desire to keep users locked into its services. Amazon hasn't. And it should be commended for that.
    It's Not About Turf Wars
  • The Promise of Much, Much More

    One of the most important Fire TV features is that it's designed to be improved upon. Amazon says that the current slate of apps is just the beginning, and those developers who have already brought programs to its Amazon Appstore should have no trouble porting those apps to Fire TV. That means many, many more apps will be coming along in the upcoming weeks and months, and could quickly dwarf the number of available programs on Apple TV.
    The Promise of Much, Much More
Don Reisinger is a freelance technology columnist. He started writing about technology for Ziff-Davis' Gearlog.com. Since then, he has written extremely popular columns for CNET.com, Computerworld, InformationWeek, and others. He has appeared numerous times on national television to share his expertise with viewers. You can follow his every move at http://twitter.com/donreisinger.

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