Amazon announced and released the Amazon Fire TV Wednesday, a media streaming device that will compete with the likes of Roku, Google Chromecast and Apple TV. According to Amazon’s Peter Larsen, Amazon felt there was a need in the already saturated market of content delivery devices, a need “to invent and simplify on behalf of customers," said Larsen. The Amazon Fire TV will stream Amazon Prime TV as well as popular content services like Netflix and Hulu. But how does it compare to the already existing Apple TV and Roku devices. Here’s the break down.
Price: Winner Chromecast is the most inexpensive
The new Amazon Fire TV is priced at $99 for the box, with an additional game controller for an extra $39, which puts it right in line with the Apple TV and the Roku 3. Roku, however, offers three other models, the Roku 2, Roku 1 and the Streaming Stick for entry level customers and consumers who don’t need all the bells and whistles. However, those other two devices are considerably limited. Google’s Chromecast device is a third of the cost at $35, but lacks some of the hardware features of Roku’s, Apple’s or Amazon’s devices like a wired Ethernet port.
Processors: Winner Amazon Fire TV
Amazon’s new device has the benefit of being the new kid on the block, learning from the ways of Apple and Roku. So it makes sense that the Amazon Fire TV would boast the best specs on the list. Quad-core with 2GB of RAM and a Dual-band MIMO Wi-Fi dual antenna, the Amazon Fire TV looks the best on paper. The Roku 3 comes in close, offering the same specs but only 512MB of RAM. The Apple TV is a single core A5 chip, which is a bit misleading.
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Apple’s A-series processors - which power the iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch as well - are “Systems on a Chip,” which have multi-core CPUs and GPUs all packaged together. The A5 chip in the current Apple TV has a dual-core ARM CortexA9 CPU and a dual-core PowerVR GPU. However, the A5 is several years old already, as it debuted with the iPad 2 in 2011.
Size: Draw, there is no clear winner
Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV and Roku 3 are all set-top boxes and feature similar sizes to each other, while Google’s Chromecast is a dongle designed to plug into your television’s HDMI port. If you are really limited in space, which none of the set-top boxes are all that large, the Chromecast is the way to go. The Amazon Fire TV is the thinnest of them all, standing just 0.7-inches tall. The Apple TV comes in at 0.9-inches, and the Roku 3 tops out at 1-inch. The Amazon Fire TV is the widest at 20 square-inches; Apple TV falls in the middle at 15 square-inches and Roku 3 is only 12 square-inches, making it have the smallest footprint. All in all there isn’t really a clear winner here.
Content: Amazon Fire TV Wins by an inch
Here’s where the rubber meets the road. While all of the devices offer streaming services like Neflix, Hulu Plus and YouTube, other content is a little different. First, Amazon Fire TV obviously streams Amazon Prime which boasts a strong catalog of content, but is missing a huge service by not providing HBO Go, which offers some of the most desired content out there. But Amazon counters by offering Showtime Anywhere. However, the Roku 3 gets all three. Apple TV streams HBO Go, but doesn’t offer Amazon Prime TV or Showtime Anywhere. All in all, the Amazon Fire TV seems to offer the most comprehensive content coverage, but could easily be the best with an HBO partnership.
Device Mirroring: Apple has the best environment
Amazon, Apple and Google all have other devices out in the market and the way they connect is a pretty prime feature. The Amazon Fire TV syncs with the Kindle Fire HDX, allowing customers to view content from the tablet to their TV. Google and Apple do the same thing, but offer streaming from smartphones as well. Apple TV has the strongest pull though considering the market share that Apple’s iPhones and iPads have. One of the strongest benefit that Apple has always held is a seamless device environment, allowing customers to move data between devices effortlessly.
Gaming: Amazon beats its competition
Amazon Fire TV joins Roku in offering a gaming option to the set-top box market, but the Amazon Fire TV is set to launch 1000s of additional games in the near future. Amazon also sets itself apart by offering a standalone game controller, while the Roku just adds gaming buttons to their RF remote. Apple TV has been rumored to be adding gaming capabilities in the next version of their device, speculated to be released as soon as April.
Overall, the newly released Amazon Fire TV is a strong competitor. It would be a clear winner if the price was more competitive and it offered HBO Go. Even without those features it has a good chance of taking some market share. While none of the set-top boxes offer all of the services, there is one device that does: the Playstation 3. It offers HBO Go, Showtime Anywhere, Netflix, Amazon Prime TV, Hulu Plus and Crackle, has a vast catalog of games, and boasts hardware capable of handling anything you throw at it. It’s a bit big comparatively and the price is almost double, but if you’re looking for content and engagement it satisfies both in spades.