Jan 5, 2015
The past couple of years have definitely been the years of the streaming media unit. All the big players have a hat in the Big C, and with good reason: we like content. Lots of it.
Enter Fire TV, the still-relatively-new offering from Amazon.
Amazon provided us a gaming bundle package to check out, containing the black unit, black remote, power cables, batteries, and the optional bluetooth gamepad (one should ensure one has HDMI cable). It’s fairly svelte, a bit smaller than one would guess, coming in at 4.5 x 4.5 x 0.7 inches and just under 10 oz. It has a quad core processor and 8 GB of storage, and supports output of 720 x 1080p up to 60fps.
Specs aside, there is little to dislike about Amazon Fire TV. It looks good, and is a veritable source of content. It has a lot of the go-to programs that can be downloaded to it: Netflix, WatchESPN, Pandora, Crackle, Showtime Anytime (based on provider) and, of course, Amazon Instant and Amazon Music, among other offerings. Setup is easy, and the included control is definitely a huge positive. On its own, as a streaming accessory, it holds its own against the competition.
What piqued our interest (duh) is the gaming aspect. The Amazon Appstore has grown into a veritable source of Android apps. Buoyed by great publicity, Amazon Coin program and the renown Free App of the Day offerings, it is possible for users to amass quite a trove of apps which can be used on Fire devices and compatible Android hardware in general.
Fire TV gives folks the opportunity to play select games on the TV via the box. The supplied remote can be used with games, but the optional Fire Game Controller can be purchased to really get into wireless gaming. The Controller looks and feels just like a conventional console controller and nothing beats playing Minion Rush on big hi-def screen. I didn’t catch serious lag, and the entire experience was quite enjoyable and shockingly cohesive. there’s also a software app available on the Play Store and Amazon Appstore.
No, not all games are compatible, but more are added everyday. Games that work with Fire TV are marked as such, and for now, there are several dozen available, including Riptide GP2, Prince of Persia, Sonic the Hedgehog, Asphalt 8 and more.
I do find the latent strategy intriguing. On paper, if the catalog of compatible apps continues to increase, it might help the Fire TV overcome any perceived weaknesses when compared to competing streaming hardware; the gaming aspect does take it to a a whole new level. In many ways, because of the things it brings to the table, Fire TV might be able to replicate what the original Nintendo Wii did: create an army of “casual” gamers that are already familiar with Android-based time-wasters.
Ultimately, Fire TV wins because it doesn’t take on too much, and does what it does relatively well. If Amazon keeps its promise to keep up with development, outer space is the limit.