Amazon and Apple are battling over gaming, but Amazon has a slight edge

One full year before Apple unveiled a new version of its Apple TV set-top box, Amazon revealed a near-identical device: Fire TV.

Fire TV and the new Apple TV are almost exactly the same box.

  • One is powered by the Android operating system and leans heavily on Amazon. The other is powered by a new version of Apple’s operating system, dubbed “tvOS,” and leans heavily on Apple’s App Store.
  • They both have local storage, meaning you can download apps and other stuff right to the box.
  • They both have snazzy remote controls with microphones built-in, and they both want you to choose voice control over the buttons on the remote.
  • They both have dedicated gaming sections and support third-party Bluetooth game controllers, yet remain focused on more casual, simple fare over more complex games.

On September 17, Amazon unveiled a new version of its Fire TV. It’s like last year’s Fire TV, except it’s capable of outputting video in a super high resolution (“4K”) that most TVs don’t even support yet.

Let’s try that again: it’s like last year’s Fire TV, except it’s got a lot more horsepower. As Amazon describes it: “5x the processing power of the latest generation Roku, and 8x the processing power of Chromecast … a MediaTek 64-bit quad-core processor, a dedicated GPU, plus 4x the memory of the latest generation Chromecast, and Roku.”

Yet it’s not clear what all that extra horsepower is for, outside of streaming 4K video.

When Tech Insider asked an Amazon rep what this horsepower means for the gaming side of Fire TV, we were told it wasn’t intended for use that way. “Fire TV is focused on casual games,” we were told.

Yet Amazon released a new gamepad alongside its new Fire TV box — a replacement for the one released last year (which wasn’t so hot) — that looks dramatically similar to an Xbox 360 gamepad. The new Amazon gamepad looks like this:

The old gamepad looks like this:

Amazon Fire TV gamepadAmazonWoof.

Meanwhile, Apple’s new set-top box comes with a remote control that doubles as a motion controller. It’s a lot like the Fire TV remote, actually, except it has a few extra bells and whistles like a touchpad and a gyrometer. Here they are side-by-side:

Pretty similar, right? Except Apple requires games on its box to function with the remote, whereas Fire TV does not.

That’s a pretty meaningful difference — the kind of difference that inspired Amazon to create a “Gaming Edition” bundle so new Fire TV owners are able to play all the games listed on Amazon’s Fire TV app store.

That bundle costs $US139.99 and comes with an actual gamepad as well as many, many more games due to Fire TV’s one year lead. Both the new Fire TV and the new Apple TV will be available for purchase starting in October.

So, which to choose?

Buy a PlayStation 4.

Neither of these set-top boxes is really meant for gaming. But if you’re looking for a set-top box with a focus on gaming, Amazon’s Fire TV slightly edges out Apple TV in terms of innovation. Not only does it have more games, but it also has a gamepad that looks solid. (We’ve yet to use it, so we’ll reserve full judgment for now). Moreover, Amazon outright purchased a game studio to work on its games initiative, though, admittedly, little has come out of the renamed Amazon Game Studios.

If nothing else, the price is far more agreeable with Amazon’s Fire TV. And that’s something we can all get behind.

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