Amazon Flips On $99 Fire TV Connected Set-Top Box

Fire TV, aimed directly at Apple TV and Roku 3, will cost $99 for the set-top unit. A new video-game controller costs an extra $39.99.

Amazon joined the crowded television set-top-box market April 2 when it introduced Fire TV, a video-streaming device that will compete with established Internet-connected hardware makers Apple (Apple TV), Roku, Xbox One and several others.

Fire TV will cost $99 for the set-top unit. For video-game players, a customized controller is available as an accessory for an extra $39.99.

In addition to Amazon's existing streaming video from its Prime cloud television service, Fire TV will also present programming from Netflix, Hulu and others, Amazon executive Peter Larsen (pictured) told a packed conference at a media event in New York City.

"It's the easiest place to watch Netflix," Larsen said. "You can watch 'Alpha House' and you can watch 'House of Cards', for example."

Fire TV has a new feature that can predict what the user will watch and cue it up instantly, Larsen said. There is also a microphone in the Bluetooth-enabled remote for voice-activated search.

List of Key Features

Key new features include:

--instant video start (Amazon calls it ASAP);

--voice-enabled search for movies, television shows and music included in the Bluetooth remote control;

--music player and still photo display;

--"X-ray"-type overlay of music lyrics on videos; and

--high-end video-gaming capabilities.

What else can viewers watch on Fire TV? Besides Amazon video, they can access Hulu Plus, ESPN, Showtime, MLB (Major League Baseball's channel), Disney networks, YouTube and Netflix, among others. At this point, HBO Go is a no-go.

For developers, a notable point is that Fire TV is coupled with the Android community in that is it an open-source, open-standards development environment, unlike that of Apple's closed iOS shop.

Amazon also announced that it will be creating and producing its own television shows at Amazon Studios. The network said it will be sanctioning six pilots to become full original series next fall—four "prime-time" type shows for adults and two children's series.

Unnamed Quad-Core 'Best in Class' Processor

"Fire TV," Larsen said, "has a quad-core 'best in class' processor"—which he did not name— "with a dedicated GPU usually found in high-end smartphones, and 2GB of RAM. This gives it three times the performance power of Apple TV, Roku [and] Chromecast and is thinner than a dime ... a dime standing on its edge.

"You got all the content, it's not a closed ecosystem, voice search that actually works, state-of-the-art performance, great extras like ASAP that makes video start instantly," Larsen said. "FreeTime for kids [a new feature that lets parents select time windows of TV watching for their children], X-Ray [lyric overlays] for movies and shows, a great photos experience, and all the music apps and X-Ray for music lyrics."

Fire TV is available now. Go here for sales and more information.

Chris Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger is Editor-in-Chief of eWEEK and responsible for all the publication's coverage. In his 15 years and more than 4,000 articles at eWEEK, he has distinguished himself in reporting...