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Amazon Fire TV Preview: The Set-Top Box That'll Read Your Mind

05/09/2014 10:25 BST | Updated 05/09/2014 10:59 BST
Huffington Post UK

Amazon Fire TV is to launch in the UK with the streaming set-top box costing £49 for customers who have an Amazon Prime membership and £79 for those without.

With products like Now TV, Roku and Chromecast already offering similar products what sets the Amazon Fire TV apart from the competition? We spent some time with the Android-powered device to find out.

Key Features:

  • Quad-core processor with dedicated graphics
  • Voice search via cloud
  • Optional gaming controller
  • Amazon app store

amazon fire tv

Verdict:

Amazon Fire TV seems on the surface to be nothing more than a reactionary product. Internet-based set-top boxes have been in the market for some time so why have Amazon only decided now that they can offer something new?

Amazon says it was simply waiting to see how it'd all pan out. Then, using its database of product reviews it looked at what people liked and didn't like about the competition and then set out to beat them.

It's a ruthless strategy and the finished products speaks volumes for how successful it is.

Fire TV itself is so subtle you'd barely even know it was there, it's literally a black box with a single glowing light. It doesn't need to be anything else because odds are it'll be disappearing behind your TV or next to your Blu-ray player.

amazon fire tv

According to Amazon users felt that the current set-top boxes just weren't quick enough, so to remove any hint of lag Amazon's used a powerful quad-core processor and integrated a dedicated graphics chip.

People didn't like remotes being over complex, so the Fire TV remote screams effeciency. A few backlight buttons adorn the Kindle-inspired design while Bluetooth connectivity to the box means you won't have to worry about aiming it in the right direction.

amazon fire tv

The user experience on the TV continues this trend. It's ultra-slick, there's no lag whatsoever despite the huge array of large HD images that Amazon has plastered all over the UI.

Next up is discovery. Apparently people liked the idea of streaming services but often found them difficult to explore. Well Amazon's solution is a voice search function that might be one of the best we've seen.

You simply hold down the mic button on the remote and say a key phrase from 'Harrison Ford' to 'detective movies'. Fire TV then instantly sends your request to the cloud and voila, you're presented with every film about detectives.

It's scarily effective. It never mis-heard us and it always understood what we wanted to find without overloading us with information.

That's not the only trick up Amazon's sleeve either. The final piece of the puzzle is ASAP.

ASAP or Advanced Streaming and Prediction is Amazon's joker card. It's a technology that intuitively predicts what you're going to watch and the starts pre-loading that content so that when you press play it starts instantly.

It's already available on the Kindle HDX range of tablets and Amazon has now brought it over to the Fire TV and the Fire Phone.

When we tried searching for the TV series 'Justified' the box had already started pre-loading the episodes so when we pressed play on the first one, it played instantly, in HD.

Amazon's keen to point out that ASAP is one of the reasons it has a closed operating system as the only way it can make the tech work is by having complete control over the product ladder.

ASAP will only apply to Amazon Video content, but that doesn't mean you can't download any number of other apps including Netflix, Now TV and 5 OnDemand.

amazon fire tv

Finally there's games. Amazon wants the Fire TV to be as much your Android gaming console as it is your streaming hub.

As such the company has built a controller specially for the Fire TV. It'll cost around £35. It's a solid enough controller and feels great to hold. We're not so sure about the D-Pad buttons which can feel spongey but the triggers and sticks feel really well put together.

Of course whether you'll actually start gaming on the Fire TV over say, a games console, remains to be seen.

Our first impressions of Fire TV are positive. It's unbelievably well priced -- but then every Amazon product is -- and it offers probably one of the most complete streaming experiences making it a true rival to both Apple TV and Chromecast.