Amazon’s new 4K-ready Fire TV box hit the wires at the right time, just days after Apple unveiled its new Apple TV device at WWDC ‘15. Aside from UHD, how do the two measure up?
Bearing in mind we’ve not got hands-on time with either device yet (something which we’re hoping to rectify very soon), here’s how we think the two devices will fare against one another, plus how they could both shake up the mini streamer market.
New Apple TV (2015) vs 4K Amazon Fire TV: Search functions and voice controls
Let’s recount what we know about both devices; the new Apple TV and Fire TV boxes are upgrades to older models, bringing some new tricks to the table.
Apple’s new TV device boasts a fresh new-look OS called tvOS. If you’re running a Mac running Yosemite or El Capitan, you’ll notice some stylistic similarities. A lot of tvOS’s appeal can be found in visual bells and whistles like the animated DVD art that flexes and twists depending on whether you’re hovering over it in iTunes or not.
Aside from looking very sharp, there’s a bunch of new features such as improved Siri-powered search which lets you do a ton of things. As well as combing the iTunes library for content based on title, actor and director, you can also do neat things like ask Siri to pause whatever you’re watching and skip back ten seconds.
Related: How can I watch Amazon Prime on TV? and Sony’s high-end Android TVs to support HDR 4K Netflix and Amazon contentThis feature’s been introduced to help you rewatch what could be a key line of dialogue. What’s more, it’ll automatically engage the subtitles temporarily (unless you’ve got them on already), ensuring that you won’t miss out. This, for us, is a key feature that’ll greatly enhance the viewing experience. How many of you watched True Detective or Top of the Lake and wondered what the hell Matthew McConaughey and Holly Hunter were mumbling? The new Apple TV fixes this.
In many ways, it builds on very similar services already available on Amazon’s Fire TV. Amazon has baked voice search tools and added a comprehensive IMDb-powered search tool to Fire TV, which lets you easily find what you want to watch.
Fire TV also comes with a feature called X-Ray; this lets you pause a show or movie and find out the names of the actors and get extra information about the current scene – you can even find out the name of the background music that’s playing, Shazam-style, if the information’s available. X-Ray leverages the same IMDb database, so it’s a nice counterpoint to the voice search tool.
New Apple TV (2015) vs 4K Amazon Fire TV: Full HD and 4K Ultra HD resolutions
While the new Apple TV will be delivering 1080p Full HD content at up to 60fps, which will look incredible, the new Amazon Fire TV box will let buyers tap into Amazon’s growing library of 4K Ultra HD content. This makes it more of an attractive buy to owners of a 4K TV which doesn’t yet have the Amazon Prime Instant Video app built in.
It’s currently unclear whether or not the new Amazon Fire TV box will let you access 4K content from Netflix and – when the BBC finally gets round to it – Ultra HD content as well.
As well as Amazon’s Full HD streams matching those of Apple’s frame rate-wise, HEVC (H.265) compatibility means that bandwidth requirements for HD streams will also be less with the new Fire TV box. This is good news if you live in a busy household and/or your internet service is slow and creaky.
New Apple TV (2015) vs 4K Amazon Fire TV: Game changers
One area where the new Apple TV streamer seems fit to reign supreme is in gaming.
It’s already been confirmed by Activision that the new Apple TV will work with existing Guitar Hero Live guitars and Skylanders Trap Team for iPad. On top of that, Apple’s said that select iOS games will feature bookmarking. This will let you start a game on your phone and pick up where you left off on the big screen at home.
Then there’s a multiplayer version of Crossy Road, which will no doubt end in many living room fisticuffs plus Beat Sports, an Apple-exclusive title that’s a blend of beatmatching rhythm games and motion-based sports sims.
Amazon’s Fire TV devices aren’t strangers to the casual gaming world either, though it’s the higher-end boxes that boast better gaming creds compared to the cheaper Fire TV Sticks, which are more geared towards TV and movies.
While there’s no new launch titles for the new Fire TV box, Amazon has announced a new Fire TV controller which includes voice search and a headpone jack for private listening. Minecraft: Pocket Edition, Goat Simulator and TellTale’s The Walking Dead are just a handful of the titles already available. While motion controls are fine, we think some players will prefer the responses of an actual game controller – you can order Amazon’s new controller for £40 now.
It should perhaps go without saying, but whichever way you cut it, neither option is going to compete with the Xbox One or PlayStation 4 in terms of gaming and both of those consoles come with access to things like Netflix and Now TV as well. If gaming is more important to you than streaming media, then you might be better off saving your pennies for one of these, unless you’ve already got a console.
New Apple TV (2015) vs 4K Amazon Fire TV: Specifications
A lot of these specs are TBC at the moment – we will update this once we have more information.
New Apple TV (2015) specifications
- Dimensions: TBC
- Weight: TBC
- Storage: 32GB/64GB
- Processor: TBC
- Memory: TBC
- OS: tvOS
- Inputs: HDMI, Ethernet, USB
- Max output resolution: 1080p, up to 60fps
- Connectivity: TBC
4K Amazon Fire TV specifications
- Dimensions: 115 mm x 115 mm x 17.8 mm
- Weight: 270 grams
- Storage: 8GB
- Processor: MediaTek Quad-Core up to 2 GHz, Dual-Core 2.0 GHz, Dual-Core 1.6 GHz.
- Memory: 2 GB
- OS: Fire TV OS
- Inputs: HDMI (dongle), USB
- Max output resolution: 2160p up to 30fps; 720p and 1080p up to 60fps
- Connectivity: WiFi ac, dual-band, dual-antenna WiFi (MIMO)
New Apple TV (2015) vs 4K Amazon Fire TV: Price and release date
UK prices for the new Apple TV device are still to be confirmed, but Apple has priced the 32GB and 64GB editions at $149 and $199 respectively.
Based on current conversions, this works out at £97 and £130 each.
This is purely speculation though – we’ve not received or heard of official word from Apple about the pricing for the new Apple TV.
Amazon has already confirmed that the new Fire TV box will go on sale from October 22 onwards for £80.
New Apple TV (2015) vs 4K Amazon Fire TV: Verdict
It’s impossible to say right now as we’ve not even seen either device, let alone reviewed them both.
Based on what we know right now, it looks to be something of a toss up between 4K streaming and casual gaming – which do you value more? Then you’ve got to factor in the age-old question of whose ecosystem are you the most invested in, Apple’s or Amazon’s. Chances, based on this point alone, some will have already made their choice.
Once we’ve had some hands-on time and reviewed both devices we’ll update this section and our verdict accordingly.
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