Amazon Fire TV Versus Apple TV, Roku And Chromecast

Apr 2 2014, 4:20pm CDT | by

Amazon Fire TV Versus Apple TV, Roku And Chromecast
Photo Credit: Forbes Apple

With the announcement of its Fire TV set-top box, Amazon finally breaks into the streaming video player market. The $99 Fire TV faces strong competition for living room dominance, however. The increasingly crowded marketplace includes the top-selling Apple TV, Roku’s well-regarded lineup of players, and Google's budget-priced Chromecast.

Full disclosure: As a former employee of an Amazon subsidiary, I own shares in Amazon.

Roku, a company originally spun off from Netflix, essentially created the set-top market, and its lineup of players offer the widest selection of “channels”, including Amazon Instant Video. The Apple TV, despite very little promotion, still managed  to generate $1 billion in sales (including downloads) last year, according to Apple. And Google’s Chromecast, released last summer, has regularly been the top seller in the electronics category on Amazon’s own site.

null

While all of these devices cover the basics, letting you watch on-demand content on your TV in full HD, there are some important distinctions to be aware of. You can watch Netflix, Hulu Plus and some pro sports leagues on all of them. One big limitation of the Apple TV, however, is that you can’t access the Amazon Instant Video library. Instead you’re offered access to the iTunes Store, which is in turn unavailable on non-Apple set-top boxes. The two dongle devices from Roku and Google, while lower in price and able to be hidden away behind your TV, do entail compromises. The most obvious being the lack of a wired Ethernet option and other external ports. The more expensive set-top boxes offer more flexibility in this regard. Both the Amazon Fire TV and Apple TV offer optical connections for audio devices and the Fire TV and Roku 3 have a USB port.

In terms of user experience and core features, it’s become increasingly difficult for Apple and Roku to differentiate their products. But Amazon offers some useful features that its competitors lack. The most impressive is Voice Search, in which you use the remote’s built-in microphone to say the name of a movie, actor or genre and see an immediate list of matching options to choose from. Users have always been frustrated by the arrow/OK button dance required to type in a search query. Roku does offer the option of using the virtual keypad of your mobile device, but that means one more device to keep track of when you sit down to watch a movie. The Voice Search presentation at Amazon’s demo was impressive. We’ll have to see how it performs in the real world, of course. But this could be a real breakthrough if it’s consistently accurate.

Amazon has chosen to push content to the forefront, so instead of a list of apps on the homescreen, you see large thumbnails of movies and TV shows. Select one, and you’re presented with all of the options for watching it. Amazon, I’m sure would prefer you to watch it from their library, but if its available as part of your Netflix or Hulu Plus subscription, for example, you’ll find those options displayed prominently as well.

Amazon credits its quad-core processor for an impressively responsive interface. And the hefty 2GB of RAM helps eliminate the few seconds of buffering at the start of streaming movies. While the immediate start to movies was impressive in the on-stage demo, I’m not sure just how many users are overly bothered by waiting a moment for their movie to start. Buffering during a show is another matter, of course, but that’s typically due to poor broadband performance.

Amazon’s other big advantage lies with the casual gamer. Amazon has no illusions about peeling off hard-core PS4 or Xbox users. But providing access to a reasonably varied, and inexpensive selection of games could make the Fire TV a very attractive option for families. And speaking of families, Amazon’s new FreeTime feature that allows parents to give their kids a customized subset of content to watch, and set daily time limits will be appreciated (at least by the adults) in my household.

What really works in Amazon’s favor is that even if gaming or parental controls aren’t your thing, you’re not paying any extra for them. At the same price as an Apple TV or Roku 3, you’re getting a potentially much better search experience a sleek, responsive interface, and a solid lineup of content providers. (HBO Go is conspicuous by its absence, but Amazon says it is still talking with potential partners). Add it all up and it’s hard to make a case against the strong value that the Fire TV presents over its rivals.


You can follow me on TwitterFacebook, and subscribe to my Forbes feed./>

 
 

Don't miss ...

 

<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/30" rel="author">Forbes</a>
Forbes is among the most trusted resources for the world's business and investment leaders, providing them the uncompromising commentary, concise analysis, relevant tools and real-time reporting they need to succeed at work, profit from investing and have fun with the rewards of winning.

 

blog comments powered by Disqus

Latest stories

Walmart Black Friday November 21 Sale is Live Online
Walmart Black Friday November 21 Sale is Live Online
The Walmart Pre-Black Friday 2014 sale has launched online at walmart.
 
 
Why tech companies are going for mobile payments
Why tech companies are going for mobile payments
Consumers are slowly embracing mobile payments
 
 
Apple launches Apple Pay
Apple launches Apple Pay
You can now pay your parking using Apple Pay
 
 
iPhone 6 Outsmarting iPhone 6 Plus with Respect to the Market Share
iPhone 6 Outsmarting iPhone 6 Plus with Respect to the Market Share
The iPhone 6 Plus occupies 68 percent of overall Apple smartphone market share
 
 
 

Latest from the Network

O'Keeffe painting sells for $44.4 mn, new record for female artist
New York, Nov 21 (IANS/EFE) American Georgia O'Keeffe's "Jimson Weed/White Flower No. 1" has been sold at a Sotheby's auction in New York for $44.4 million, a new record for a female artist. The iconic work by the...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
Invoking John Lennon, UN imagines better world for children
United Nations, Nov 21 (IANS/EFE) The UN General Assembly took a break from politics as diplomats celebrated the 25th anniversary of the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the launch of the "...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
Unravelling the process of going to sleep
New York, Nov 21 (IANS) Sleeping is a gradual process and researchers have now developed a method to estimate the dynamic changes in brain activity and behaviour during the transition from wakefulness to sleep. The...
Read more on Business Balla
 
LiDAR laser technology discovers Roman gold mines in Spain
London, Nov 21 (IANS) With the help of a laser system called the Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) technology that is attached to an aircraft, archaeologists discovered a vast gold mining network created by the...
Read more on Business Balla
 
Male hormone does not hamper women's libido
New York, Nov 21 (IANS) Failed relationships and emotional health threaten menopausal women's interest in sex more than levels of the male hormone testosterone and other naturally-occurring reproductive hormones, a...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
Afghanistan signals Kabul's focus on ties with Pakistan, China
United Nations, Nov 21 (IANS) Reflecting the new Afghanistan government's high priority on reconciliation with the Taliban, ending conflicts and curbing terrorism, Kabul's Ambassador to the UN Zahir Tanin signalled...
Read more on Politics Balla
 
Syrian wine defies war to reach the most lavish tables
Beirut, Nov 21 (IANS/EFE) It is probably one of the most difficult and expensive-to-produce wines in the world, but its creators, brothers Karim and Sandro Saade, have decided to go on producing Domaine de Bargylus,...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
Charlie Hunnam's 'awkward' life
Charlie Hunnam always feels ''awkward''. The 'Sons of Anarchy' actor has confessed he struggled to feel completely comfortable with himself growing up and sees his life as ''a long succession of awkward phases''. He...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
The Kardashians put Dave Grohl off marijuana
The Kardashians put Dave Grohl off smoking marijuana. The Foo Fighters frontman has confessed watching the E! reality TV series 'Keeping Up With The Kardashians' - which stars famous siblings Kim, Kourtney and Khloe -...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
Tribute to women entrepreneurs marks global summit
Marrakech, Nov 21 (IANS) The 5th annual Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES 2014) opened in Marrakesh with a special tribute to women entrepreneurs by celebrating the "Women's Entrepreneurship Day" (WED/Nov.19), a...
Read more on Business Balla