Amazon has just announced its much-rumored television product at its event in New York. The set-top streamer is the company’s attempt to take over the booming connected-TV market and the new device is packed with interesting features. From what we know so far, let’s take a look at how the Amazon fireTV stacks up against Apple TV and Google’s Chromecast…
Apple TV has a single-core A5 chip inside, outputs to your TV via HDMI and connects to dual-band Wi-Fi (or ethernet if you’re so inclined). As well as the round-rect set-top box, you’ll also a get a small, brushed aluminium remote control in the box.
fireTV is a small black box, not dissimilar in appearance to the Apple TV, albeit with sharper corners. It has a quad-core processor and 2GB of RAM. Amazon claims it is 3x faster than Apple TV. The accompanying remote control looks a little like Apple’s too but has a neat built-in mic for voice search (which saves you shouting across your living room). Amazon is also offering a Fire game controller, which looks a lot like Xbox’s. It is sold separately and hooks up nicely with the gaming offerings Amazon will be offering (more on this later). fireTV connects to dual-band Wi-Fi (with MIMO) or ethernet and has 8GB of internal storage.
Chromecast is physically the smallest of the three TV devices and is essentially a thumb-sized device that plugs directly into your TV’s HDMI port, supports single-band Wi-Fi and is charge via mini-USB.
Apple TV runs a form of iOS with a familiar grid interface. As you’d expect, it has support for Apple services like AirPlay and iCloud and you can view your photos and videos on the TV. Of course, iTunes and iTunes Radio are present as well as a bunch of pre-installed, third-party options (although there is no App Store). Apple offers a Remote app on iOS for controlling Apple TV directly through your iPhone or iPad.
fireTV has an Android-based UI (which should come as no surprise given the precedent set by the company’s Fire tablets) that is very visual. The set-top box offers integration with Amazon services like Prime Instant Video, Cloud Drive, Amazon MP3 music as well as third-party services. There is system-wide voice search using the hardware remote, which is pretty cool. The FreeTime feature offers parental controls and a big part of the fireTV is gaming. Partners Disney, Gameloft, EA, Sega, Ubisoft, Double Fine are said to be bringing “thousands of games” by next month and some of the demo versions looked awesome.
Chromecast is the most stripped back again in terms of software as it essentially has no interface. Instead, supported content is ‘casted’ to your TV from your phone, tablet or computer through the Chromecast. All media controlling is done on your device rather than the Chromecast.
iTunes (plus iTunes Radio) content is obviously front and center on Apple TV but there are a number of other content providers on Apple TV:
- Hulu Plus
- HBO Go
- Disney Channel (plus Disney XD, Disney Junior)
- Sky News
- The Weather Channel
- Wall Street Journal
As well as the above content on the TV itself, anything that can be sent over AirPlay (including iPhone and iPad apps, as well as Mac content) can be viewed on Apple TV.
Amazon Prime Instant Video and Amazon MP3 music takes center stage, with Hulu Plus also on board at launch.
More video providers to come in the future such as:
Plus music coming next month from Pandora, iHeartRadio and TuneIn.
Downloadable games will also be coming in the next month with the average price per game said to be $1.85, with many being free to play positioning the fireTV against a rumored game-centric Apple TV update perhaps…
Chromecast has the obvious support for Google services like Google Play Moves and TV, Google Play Music, and YouTube. the following third-party services have compatible apps:
- Hulu Plus
- HBO Go
- Red Bull TV
- RealPlayer Cloud
Plus, you can cast anything from a Chrome web browser tab to your TV too.
Being Apple, the Apple TV only really plays nicely with Apple devices. You can access content from the above services directly on the Apple TV or AirPlay content from your iPhone, iPod touch, iPad or Mac.
Similarly, the Amazon fireTV gives preferential treatment to the company’s own tablet offerings with companion features such as an upcoming gaming app, X-Ray and media controls all being present on the Kindle Fire HDX.
Content can be ‘casted’ from compatible apps on Android or iOS as well as the Chrome web browser for Mac and Windows, and the Chromebook Pixel.
Price and availability
Apple TV — $99 — Available now
Amazon fireTV — $99 (plus $39.99 for each optional fire game controller) — Available now
Google Chromecast — $34.99 — Available now
Has the Amazon fireTV heated up the battle for the living room? Which is your favorite connected-TV device and why? What does Apple need to do for the next-gen Apple TV to keep up? Let us know your thoughts in the comments or get in touch on Twitter: @TiP_AdamO.