Amazon's Fire TV Makes it Clear: It's Time for a New Apple TV

All the details about Amazon's new Fire TV set top box are out, it looks like the company is packing a lot into its US$99 device. It ramps up the competition for Apple and Roku, and based on price, leaves Apple TV somewhat lacking.

Fire TV give Apple TV a run for its moneyFire TV give Apple TV a run for its money

Amazon packed a quad-core processor, and dedicated graphics engine into its Fire TV. It supports 1080p video and Dolby Digital Plus Surround Sound, includes 2GB RAM, dual-band Wi-Fi, and comes with a remote that supports voice commands. In comparison, Apple TV offers only 512MB RAM, and voice control isn't an option.

Fire TV's voice control feature is described like this:

Gone are the days of searching for a movie or TV show by left-left-down-right-ing through an on-screen alphabet grid using your remote. Simply speak the name of a movie, TV show, actor, director, genre, app, or game into the remote, and the results will appear instantly. Voice search leverages the search data and expertise of and IMDb, and is optimized to understand Amazon's video, app, and game catalog.

Fire TV predicts which shows you want to watch and preloads them to cut down on buffering wait time, and offers second screen support, meaning you can use your Kindle tablet to get additional information and behind the scenes info on the shows and movies you're watching. It includes built-in Hulu Plus, Netflix, YouTube, Amazon Instant Video, Amazon MP3, Pandora, iHeartRadio, and TuneIn support, and even Plex, too. Apple TV is on board will the same services, but doesn't offer Amazon Instant Video or Plex support.

Amazon's set top box also support gaming with titles such as Minecraft, The Walking Dead, Despicable Me: Minion Rush, Asphalt 8, and more available now. You can control games via the Fire TV remote, a companion app for smartphones and tablets, or Amazon's own Fire game controller accessory. Apple TV? Gaming support isn't even an option.

According to Amazon, over 200,000 movies and TV shows are available for Fire TV today, plus the device includes built-in parental controls. That's inline with Apple TV, but doesn't seem like much of a consolation considering the other features packed into Fire TV.

All of Amazon's own content is available through your Amazon Prime subscription, which costs US$99 a year, and  FreeTime Unlimited kid-specific content starts at $2.99 a month. FreeTime, not to be confused with FreeTime Unlimited, is Fire TV's parental control feature that lets you set up profiles for each child, control when and how long they watch TV, what shows they can watch, and includes what Amazon calls a "kid friendly" interface. Apple TV does offer parental controls, but not on the same scale as Fire TV.

At $99, the same price as Apple TV, Fire TV is a pretty compelling competitor in the set top streaming device market. While Apple TV is still a great device, as of today its true distinguishing factor is that it supports Apple's iTunes Store and iTunes Radio. Everything else it offers, and more, is available in Fire TV for the same price. Looks like it's time for a big Apple TV update.

Fire TV looks like a very compelling purchase option. The ball is in your court, Apple.