Yesterday, Amazon finally took the wraps off its latest bid for living room dominance – the Fire TV – which has launched straight away over in the US. With Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, and a plethora of other media services on tap, Amazon's streaming media box looks as well-equipped as any, but enters a fairly saturated field. Though Apple TV and Google Chromecast have their own following, the big name and long-established leader in the streaming media arena is Roku. So is the Amazon Fire TV ready for primetime and how does it compare with the latest Roku 3? Read on for our comparison of how these two boxes stack up, and how the battle is likely to go when the Fire TV hopefully makes it this side of the pond.
When it comes to streaming media boxes, one of the biggest factors to consider is available content. In the US, the Fire TV will come equipped all the streaming staples like Netflix, Hulu, and, of course, Amazon's Instant Video. The Fire TV will also feature deep integration with Amazon's on-demand media library of music, movies, and TV shows. Then there are apps like YouTube, Crackle, WatchESPN, Pandora, and many more. As we write this, in the States Amazon's Fire TV app page shows 165 total titles, which range from streaming media sources to graphically intensive games like Asphalt 8 and Deer Hunter 2014. Of course, this number is going to grow considerably by the time we see the device in the UK.
Roku's been at it for years, and currently boasts over 1,000 channels to choose from, including 188 Movie & TV, 97 Music, 66 Sports, and 49 Kids & Family channels. And that's only a small snippet of Roku's expansive selection, which also happens to include 77 games. In the US, the big launch day omission for the Fire TV is HBO GO, which Americans do get on the Roku 3.
Powered by a Qualcomm quad-core processor and a dedicated GPU, the Fire TV is primed for big-time Android gaming. Amazon also offers a $40 (£24) gaming controller that looks a lot like the Xbox One controller. Roku's remote is more basic than Amazon's game controller, but it does include motion control for Wii-like controls. Amazon already has Roku beat on game selection, though, boasting over 100 supported Android games. Roku's got a pretty large selection of games, but they range from popular titles like Angry Birds to basic titles like Tic Tac Toe, and they're typically not as full featured as Android titles. More than the Roku, Apple TV, or Chromecast, the Fire TV will present an accessible way to get your Android games onto your big HDTV screen.
Both the Roku 3 and Fire TV feature Ethernet and dual-band Wi-Fi connections for speedy streaming. With the Roku 3 and its iOS and Android apps, you can stream local photos, videos, and music from your mobile device to your home cinema setup. Thanks to tight Kindle Fire integration, the Fire TV will be able to mirror media content and anything else on your tablet's display to your HDTV. You can also use Amazon X-Ray on your Kindle Fire to look up in-depth information about media content playing on the Fire TV, offering a second-screen experience that Roku can't match. The Roku 3 remote has a built-in headphone jack, which is a nifty feature for late-night TV binging without disturbing your roommates, but Amazon's basic remote comes equipped with a mic for voice controls.
All told, the Amazon Fire TV definitely looks ready to take on Roku, Apple TV, and Google Chromecast. At $99, it's the same price as the Roku 3 and Apple TV in the US – and we can expect it to be roughly the same price as them, namely £100, when it (hopefully) arrives in the UK. However, it could be a tough sell compared to the $35/£30 Chromecast. You can also get many of Roku's best features for only £50 using the Roku Streaming Stick – but when it comes to gaming, the Fire TV looks to be the best of the bunch. So which streaming media box do you think will reign supreme? Let us know in the comments below.
For more on the Fire TV, see our closer look at the hardware side of Amazon's Fire TV streaming box.