Chromecast, Google’s long-awaited TV stick, has gone down a storm in the UK since its release. But now Amazon is preparing to muscle in on the streaming box market with Fire TV.
Amazon’s little black box sits prettily under your TV set and provides buyers with an easy way to get Prime Instant Video on their TV, as well as Netflix. On top of this you’ll also be able to stream your own content through Fire TV thanks to third party services like Plex, as you can on Chromecast.
Sp far only Chromecast is available in the UK and Amazon hasn’t announced its international plans for Fire TV, but if you are really determined to ship one over from the US ($99 plus shipping) here’s how it’ll compare to Google Chromecast. We can’t guarantee that any of the on-demand services will work over here, though.
- Cost: £30
- Dimensions: 72 x 35 x 12mm
- Apps Available: Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Google Play Movies, Chrome browser Beta, Red Bull TV
- Processor: Marvell DE3005-A1, single core
- Memory: 512MB
- Connections: WiFi 802.11b/g/n (2.4GHz only), USB (charging only)
Google Chromecast is small, inexpensive, easy to set up and is being supported by an increasing number of UK broadcasters – the latest of which is BT Sport.
Chromecast’s main selling is the ability to ‘cast’ content from mobile apps. The idea is you’re sat back on your sofa, you’ve got a YouTube clip, or episode of Doctor Who on your iPlayer app ready to go and with the press of a button you can sling the content to your TV.
You’ll need to be connected to the same WiFi network as the Chromecast is connected to, so the second you get through the door, you can tap the app and ping video or music content to your TV.
It’s not all about content either – there’s a growing number of games available for Chromecast and there’s some cool other things you can do with it as well.
Thanks to third party services like Plex, RealPlayer Cloud and Avia Media Player, you can with a little effort, stream your own content via Chromecast too.
However, Chromecast is a single-core, single-antenna device stuck on the crowded 2.4GHz WiFi band, and struggles to reliably stream 1080p Full HD video without buffering.
Amazon Fire TV
- Cost: $99 (currently converts to £59.70)
- Dimensions: 115 x 115 x 17.5mm
- Apps Available: Netflix, Prime Instant Video, Vimeo, Red Bull TV, Plex,
- Processor: Qualcomm Krait 300, quad-core, 1.7GHz
- Memory: 2GB
- Connections: Dual-antenna WiFi (MIMO), 802.11a/b/g/n (2.4GHz, 5GHz), HDMI 1.4
Amazon’s Fire TV does some of the things Chromecast does out of the box, and more. You get Netflix and access to your own media via Plex. You also get Prime Instant Video thrown in, something which Chromecast currently doesn’t have, and you can listen to music with Amazon MP3, Pandora and TuneIn radio.
Whatever you want to watch or listen to, you’ll be able to manually search for titles the old fashioned way, or speak into the microphone of the media remote and have Fire TV look for what you want, Siri-style.
On paper it’s a more powerful device with a faster quad-core processor and a dual-band, dual-antenna WiFi, allowing more more stable streaming and higher bandwidth.
Fire TV uses both the 2.4GHz band and the less busy 5GHz band, meaning you’re less likely to have a problem streaming HD content (if your router is 5GHz compatible).
Amazon has launched Fire TV with an impressive line-up of games including Minecraft, The Walking Dead and Asphalt 8. It’s even got its very own exclusive launch title, third person strategy shooter Sev Zero.
The quad-core chip (1.7GHz Qualcomm Krait 300), graphics card (Qualcomm Adreno 320), and 2GB of RAM puts the Fire TV box on par with mini games consoles like Ouya. Amazon has even developed a gamepad.
What games can you get on Chromecast? The admittedly-fun but hardly cutting-edge MarioPaint-alike app, and NOUGHTS AND CROSSES. No contest. Fire TV offers way more fun out of the box than Chromecast.
Chromecast vs Amazon Fire TV: Verdict
Only one of these devices has been released in the UK market, so a practical comparison will have to wait.
Given Amazon’s UK presence it’s a fairly safe bet that Fire TV will be out over here, it’s just a question of when; Kindle Fire tablets were once US-only but made their way over to these septic and soggy shores.
There’s also the issue of cost. Fire TV costs $99 in the US which roughly converts to about £60, before US sales tax. If it follows the model of similar products we’ll pay £99 – about a third more. However it’s priced, Fire TV will likely be more expensive than Chromecast, and that says a lot about both devices and who they’re aimed at.
If you like the idea of a cheap little stick that’ll pop into the back of your TV and let you sling YouTube clips, iPlayer video and Netflix content from your phone or tablet, get a Chromecast (but not before you’ve read our Chromecast vs Now TV Box feature).
If you want a halfway house between an Apple TV/Roku-style streaming box with some added gaming credentials, then Amazon’s Fire TV may be what you’re after.