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Amazon Fire TV refers to two generations of digital media players and microconsoles developed by Amazon.com. It is a small network appliance and entertainment device designed to stream digital audio/video content to a high-definition television. The device also allows users to play video games with the included remote, via a mobile app, or with an optional game controller. The first-generation device featured 2 GB of RAM, MIMO dual-band Wi-Fi, and a Bluetooth remote control with a microphone for voice search. It supported 1080p streaming and Dolby Digital Plus 7.1 surround sound but was dependent on internet bandwidth of the user. Unveiled on April 2, 2014, the Amazon Fire TV (1st Generation) was made available for purchase in the US the same day for US$99 and was launched with a video game called Sev Zero. In 2015, the Amazon Fire TV (2nd Generation) was released with improved processor speed and 4K UHD support. Amazon Fire TV is also available in the United Kingdom, Germany, and Japan.
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The device initially ran Fire OS 3.0, based on Android Jelly Bean 4.2. According to Amazon, that made it “simple for developers to port their services and games over to Fire TV.”
On March 24, 2015, Amazon announced an update to the Fire TV software to provide the following additional features which address some of the concerns raised in early reviews:
- Expandable USB storage on Amazon Fire TV; the user can connect a USB mass storage device to expand the Fire TV storage.
- Connect to the user’s hotel or dorm room Wi-Fi with captive portal support, which enables the user to connect to Wi-Fi that requires web authentication—this includes Wi-Fi at most major hotels, as well as some universities.
- Private listening on Fire TV, adds support for wireless Bluetooth headphones to Fire TV.
- Browse and search Prime Playlists: Prime members can now take advantage of Prime Music playlists from Fire TV with hundreds of expertly curated Prime Playlists to pick from.
- Hidden PIN entry, the PIN entry screen hides the numbers selected.
- New shortcuts put the user’s Fire TV to sleep or enable display mirroring by pressing and holding the Home button on the remote.
Dan Seifert from The Verge reviewed Fire TV on April 4, 2014, giving it an 8.8/10 and largely praising its current functionality and future potential. Dave Smith from ReadWrite wrote: “Fire TV aims to be the cure for what ails TV set-top boxes.” GeekWire editor Andy Liu’s review is headlined “Amazon’s Fire TV sets a new bar for streaming boxes.” Ars Technica praised the device specs that are better than the competition, the build quality was high, and if you use Amazon content, the microphone works very well. However, the reviewer did not like that media browsing puts Amazon content in the front thus making other apps less convenient, the game selection is limited and many games are unoptimized, and its free space is only 5.16GB, limiting the amount of games that can be installed.