Amazon is moving into 4K content with a new Fire TV box and ultra-high definition content through its video streaming service.
The new Fire TV builds on the success of last year’s streaming media box, which Amazon claims has been the best selling box on the market in the UK and Germany, beating Apple TV among others.
Amazon is bullish in the face of Apple’s new box, claiming the new Fire TV is 75% faster, handles 4K content, and has a more efficient compression system for full HD content that will allow twice as many of its customers to stream 1080p video over poor broadband connections than the number who currently can.
All of Amazon’s original TV series will be available in 4K, as will American TV shows such as Breaking Bad and hundreds of recent movies. Rival service Netflix, which also has a library of 4K content, will be available in ultra HD on the new Fire TV. Connection speeds of at least 15Mbps will be required for 4K content.
Streaming media will also use what Amazon calls “ASAP”, which predicts what users are likely to want to see and caches a portion of the show or movie on the device in the background so that it starts instantly rather than having to buffer. The Fire TV can also use microSD cards to add further storage or for local media playback.
The company released a new games controller with a headphones port and voice search support, claiming to have the largest games library of any media streaming service, with over 3,000 apps, games and channels available through its Amazon app store.
Amazon’s announcement comes in the wake of Apple’s reinvigoration of the Apple TV, which has new features such as voice search, and is bringing the company’s App Store into the living room.
Fire TV, which has been on sale for a year in the US and Europe, already had suggestions, voice search and the company’s X-ray information system for movies and TV shows, as well as games and apps.
The streaming box also has instruction videos and Amazon’s built-in live-person tech support called MayDay, which can guide users through features and settings via the phone and with remote control.
The new Fire TV will cost £79.99, with pre-orders starting today and shipping from 5 October. Whether it will be as popular as the previous Fire TV, given greater competition in the market from Apple and jack-of-all trades Roku, remains to be seen.
Amazon also released an updated Fire TV stick and several new Fire tablets.
This article was written by Samuel Gibbs, for theguardian.com on Thursday 17th September 2015 14.00 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010