Just days after Apple unveiled the next version of its Apple TV, incorporating Siri voice control and other iPhone-like applications, Amazon introduced a trio of new Fire TV add-on smart media adapters, including one of the first external multimedia streaming adapters to support 4K Ultra HDTV over-the-top streaming services.
The introduction brings 4K streaming from Netflix and Amazon Video to the latest class of high-resolution TVs, but on the surface, the need for the application seems somewhat limited. Most 4K Ultra HDTVs in the market already include extensive built-in smart TV platforms, many of which support 4K Ultra HD streaming services already.
But the introduction does make way for the possibility of more affordably priced non-smart 4K Ultra HDTVs as well as providing streaming options for high-end video projectors, like Sony’s 4K SXRD models, and current or forthcoming native 4K and pixel-shifting projectors from other manufacturers (see JVC and Epson) that accept 4K signals, all of which lack internal smart TV platforms.
More on the new Amazon 4K Fire TVs after the jump:
The new Amazon 4K Ultra HD Fire TV products also provide an affordable way of adding 4K Ultra HD streaming to early-generation 4K TVs that support video streaming, but did not yet support 4K Ultra HDTV streaming internally at the time they came out. It is also a solution for purchasers of 4K Ultra HDTVs whose brands, for various reasons, did not support the Amazon Instant Video OTT service, like early Sharp 4K UHD TVs and others, when they were released. Other 4K TV owners who might benefit from the product include purchasers of some early 4K TVs from: JVC, Seiki and TCL, among others.
Amazon’s three new Fire TVs include a new (Full HD 1080p) Fire TV Stick, a Fire TV set-top box that adds 4K Ultra HD streaming, and the first gaming-oriented bundle that includes a 4K UHD Fire TV set-top box and a gaming controller. The new Fire TV Stick will be available in two versions, one with a standard remote for $39.99, and a step-up version that adds the $29.99-value remote with voice-control capabilities for $49.99. Both versions feature 1GB RAM, a dual-core processor, and 8GB of storage, and will be available for pre-order Sept. 17, with availability on Oct. 22.
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Amazon said it has updated the voice-control capabilities of its new Fire TV 4K devices, using the company’s Alexa voice assistant which has been designed broadly reach out to the Web to gather information and selections for streaming songs. The system has been enhanced to provide a natural-language response. Voice control is delivered via an app or voice-enabled remote. Include searching for and playing movies and TV shows, and launching apps in addition to navigating offerings available on the Amazon Fire TV.
The Fire TV set-top box with 4K 30 fps streaming is available for pre-order now at $99 and will ship Oct. 5. Processing power in the new 4K Fire TV set-top has been stepped up 75 percent from the 1.7GHz original version to 2x2GHz plus 2×1.6GHz. The new models more than double the graphics capabilities, add expandable microSD storage with total capacity for up to 128GB, and 8GB of internal storage. It also includes 2GB or RAM.
The 4K Fire TV will add 4K streaming titles from: Amazon Video and Prime Video and Netflix. Amazon said the device will access more 4K “than any other streaming-media player.” No mention was made of the M-GO 4K download service as yet, or YouTube’s 4K service, which requires VP-9 video decoding.
Other enhancements in the new 4K Fire TV is 802.11ac Wi-Fi, and support for HEVC video decoding, which is used with most streaming 4K video streaming services.
The gaming edition of the Amazon Fire TV Gaming 4K devices is available for pre-order at $139 and will start to ship on Oct. 5. The bundle includes the 4K Fire TV set-top box, a new game controller, an included 32GB MicroSD card, and two games: “Shovel Knight” and “Disney’s Ducktales.”
The new gaming controller will also be available separately for $29.99 and features an ergonomic design, a headphone jack and microphone for voice control support.
Among the more than 3,000 apps and streaming services supported by the Fire TV lineup are: Amazon Video, HBO Now, Hulu, Netflix, Showtime Anytime, Starz Play, and WatchESPN, and live streaming TV from SlingTV, HBO Now and Tennis Channel Everywhere. The devices all access streaming-audio services; and downloadable games. The set-top versions will support more console-like games while the Fire TV Sticks will play more basic-level games.
By Greg Tarr
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