Amazon today launched Fire TV, its streaming TV box that competes with the Apple TV, Chromecast and all the other HDMI TV accessories available in the market. Given all these choices, which one should you buy? Here’s a comparison of how the Amazon’s Fire TV compares to rival devices.
First Party apps and content
Apple and Amazon’s primary motivation to make connected TV devices is to push their own services to the living room.
Amazon’s Instant Video library costs $99/year and lets you view content from a variety of sources, and has a few exclusives too (like Fox’s 24). The company also has an MP3 store to let users buy songs, or upload their own library to the cloud.
Apple’s iTunes Store also has a broad array of video, music and TV content which users can rent or buy. Unlike Amazon, however, there’s no monthly or yearly subscription, where you’re able to stream any video from the iTunes catalog at no additional cost.
Google runs the Play Music and Movies store, but it doesn’t have a wide variety of content compared to Apple or Amazon. Roku doesn’t have a first-party service at all, and instead relies on third-party services.
Third Party Services
Third-party content is critical to ensure that all types of video and media content are available on a device, and Amazon’s Fire TV has a number of partnerships already on launch, and has an SDK available too, for developers to integrate their services with the device. Fire TV runs on Android, which a huge number of developers already develop for. You can use Hulu, Netflix, Vimeo, Plex and a number of other services.
Apple has long been rumored to launch an Apple TV SDK for third-party developers to bring apps to the Apple TV, but there’s no such thing as of now. Apple is instead selectively partnering with companies like Netflix, Hulu, Bloomberg etc. to bring their video services or TV programming to the Apple TV. Users however have the option of seeing any video on the iPhone or iPad on their Apple TV as well, through AirPlay.
While Chromcast initially took the Apple TV approach of partnering with select companies, it soon opened up its SDK to all developers, and the number of apps supporting Chromecast has shot up quite a bit since then. Chromecast works a little differently, in that you’ll need a phone, tablet or PC to initiate a video/audio stream on your TV, but after that, the stream plays independently of what is going on your device.
Roku’s strength is its third-party app and service catalog, with apps like Netflix, Amazon Instant Video and more.
Gaming is said to be a big market for these contacted TV devices, but as of now there’s no formal support for gaming on the Apple TV. Users can use AirPlay to play iOS games on the big screen, but there’s no support for controllers, and you can’t play games if you don’t have an iOS device.
Chromecast is still in its early stages, but as of now there isn’t much you can do on the gaming front with the device.
Amazon has made gaming a main selling point of the Fire TV, with titles like Minecraft-Pocket Edition, Asphalt 8 etc. already available for the device. There’s an optional $40 wireless game controller you can buy to enhance your gaming experience.
Roku has a number of games like Angry Birds, Poker, Bowling etc., but most of the games are just mobile ports.
Out of all the four devices, the Chromecast is the most compact, with its dongle structure that goes right into the HDMI port of your TV. The Fire TV, Apple TV and Roku are all boxes that might clutter your already cluttered drawing room table.
Like size, Chromecast emerges at the top here too, with its cheap price of $35. The Roku starts at $49 and goes up to $99, while the Apple TV and Fire TV are both $99.
What do you think of these four streaming media devices? Would you buy any of these, or are you waiting for the rumored Apple TV refresh?