Amazon has announced its new Fire TV set-top box and it’s more powerful than ever – in fact it has 75% more processing power than the previous generation and a GPU that is twice as fast.
So what is Amazon doing with all that power? Well, the Amazon Fire TV is one of the only set-top boxes to support 4K streaming, which is fitting given the wealth of Ultra HD footage available on Amazon’s Instant Video service.
It’s not just 4K TV owners who are set to benefit either, as the new Fire TV also supports HVEC (high efficiency video coding) for higher quality 1080p streams at lower bit rates.
Amazon says that HVEC is roughly two times more efficient than the current standard, h.264.
Streaming media is just one of the features of the Amazon Fire TV however, as gaming content has returned with a much greater focus.
In fact, in the US, Amazon will be selling a $139.99 Fire TV Gaming Edition, which will include a Fire TV, games controller, a 32GB MicroSD card slot and two games (Duck Tales and Shovel Knight).
As part of its focus on gaming, the new Fire TV gaming controller has received some improvements – most notably a more ergonomic design.
It also has a new headphone jack and microphone for voice control – all features expected on modern games consoles.
While the Amazon Fire TV won’t be able to take on the Xbox One and PS4 in terms of power, its specification far surpasses the new Apple TV.
The previous generation Fire TV allowed the user to search for content using their voice, but the new generation goes a step further.
Amazon’s voice-assistant, Alexa, is joining the Fire TV family, having debuted on the company’s Echo Bluetooth speaker.
Alexa will be able to queue up music through the Fire TV, as well as allow for more powerful searches than before.
For instance, users will be able to ask Alexa to ‘play episode three of Alpha House Season 2’. It will also answer questions about the weather, news, sports and traffic.
Currently Alexa is lacking some of the features found on the Echo speaker, such as the ability to interface with smart home objects like lights, but the company says that it sees the Fire TV acting as a hub one day.
While the new hardware features, such as the improved performance, will be available exclusively to those who purchase the new Amazon Fire TV, those who own the existing Fire TV or Fire TV Stick will receive a software update bringing Alexa.