A closer look at the hardware side of Amazon’s Fire TV streaming box

Amazon's long-awaited set-top box was revealed yesterday, and it went on sale over in the US for $99 (£59) shortly after. We've already published a couple of pieces on the device – for one perspective, see our article on why Fire TV is a strong competitor for Apple TV, but nothing revolutionary – but we haven't talked about the hardware much. So, we'll do that now...

The box's hardware wasn't the focus of the launch event, nor should it have been. The Fire TV and other media streamers are all about the content they stream and the software they run, while the box is supposed to simply be an enabler of all those things. Most of these boxes are designed to be hidden somewhere behind your television or in the deepest recesses of your entertainment cabinet, only just accessible by its remote control's signal.

The Fire TV is no different: It's a sparse black box with sharp corners, a matte top, glossy sides, and a non-slip underside.

It's as thin as possible – 18mm thick, or barely enough to fit an Ethernet jack – and as small as it can be, at the size of two decks of playing cards placed side-by-side. The box is fanless, so in addition to being tiny, it's also silent.

The only external features on the Fire TV are its ports, which are located on the back. The line-up consists of power, HDMI, optical audio, Ethernet, and then USB.

We haven't yet had the time to see what the USB port is capable of doing, but it's there, and we know the box has a developer mode, so there should be some interesting options coming if people are looking to do some hacking.

The other piece of hardware Amazon announced was the Fire TV controller. It's a controller in the Xbox style that uses four primary buttons, two analogue sticks (one offset), two shoulder buttons, and two triggers. It runs on two AA batteries. The controller is the exact same device which was leaked a couple of weeks back, and got the Amazon set-top box talk really heating up. One thing worth noting, however, is that the controller isn't included in the box. If you want one it's going to cost you an extra $40 (£24).

The Fire TV's hardware is simple, but it gets the job done. The true test of the device will be seeing how the Android-based software holds up to our expectations, and the very high bar Amazon has set after trash-talking the Apple TV, Chromecast, and Roku media players.