'What is Amazon Fire TV?': Everything you need to know about Amazon's media streaming devices

AmazonThe Amazon Fire TV comes in a few different models, including the Fire TV Cube (pictured).

Amazon Fire TV is a video streaming device created by Amazon.

Amazon released the first version of the Fire TV in 2014, and since that time has sold several different versions and models.

What Amazon Fire TV can do

The Fire TV is similar to other media players, like the Roku family of streaming boxes, Google Chromecast, and the Apple TV. It is a device that connects to a TV via an HDMI port and lets you choose from among thousands of streaming channels (like Netflix, Hulu, HBO Now, Amazon Prime, YouTube, and many others).

In that way, the Fire TV turns an ordinary TV into a “smart” TV. You can also connect Fire TV to a smart TV, though the benefits won’t be as significant, since the TV can already do at least some of the things Fire TV can do.

Amazon fire homeAmazonThe Fire TV family of media players streams video from the internet to your TV.

How Amazon Fire TV differs from its competitors

The Fire TV line of streaming devices stands out from competing products in a couple of important ways.

First and foremost, since it’s an Amazon product, it emphasises Amazon services in its menus. Of course, you have access to a vast array of channels, but Amazon makes sure you can’t miss Prime Video and Prime Music.

In addition, while some other streamers include voice control, Fire TV relies on Alexa, the same personal assistant found in Echo smart speakers.

It comes in three models

The Fire TV comes in three models: The Fire TV Stick, the Fire TV Stick 4K, and the Fire TV Cube. All three products work basically the same way.

They include a library of tens of thousands of streaming channels, work with Amazon Alexa for voice control of the TV and media functions, and also include music (via services like Amazon Prime Music and Spotify) and a large selection of games.

The Fire TV Stick is the least expensive at $US40 and is a good choice if you don’t need 4K video (it delivers 1080P high definition resolution). Like the Roku Stick, it’s a self-contained media player that looks like a USB flash drive and plugs directly into the HDMI port of your TV.

Amazon fire stickAmazonThe Amazon Fire Stick looks like a USB flash drive but connects your TV to a vast library of video content online.

The Fire TV Stick 4K is a step up. At $US50, it upgrades the video resolution to 4K, but is otherwise the same. It’s a good choice if you have a 4K TV.

Amazon’s Fire TV Cube costs $US120 and is, as the name suggests, cube-shaped. It sits on your media console and includes a built-in speaker. And while Fire TV Sticks require the remote control for Alexa voice control (there is a microphone built into the remote), the Cube understands your voice from across the room, without the need to speak into the remote. The Cube also has built-in Ethernet support, so you can wire it directly to your internet router if you want to; the Fire TV Sticks require Wi-Fi or an optional Ethernet adaptor.

Amazon fire cubeAmazonThe Fire TV Cube is Amazon’s premium media player. It includes an Ethernet port in case you have sluggish Wi-Fi, built-in speakers, and Alexa voice control.

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