Today Amazon released a refresh of its Fire TV media player and mini-console. The original device was unveiled in April 2014 and the 2015 version sees some upgrades in the internal components and connectivity.
 
The biggest change is the upgrade from the original Snapdragon 600 to MediaTek's new MT8173 SoC. The MT8173 was originally announced at MWC this year and surprised a lot of people as the Taiwanese semiconductor vendor was the first to show off working prototypes with ARM's new Cortex A72 CPU core, and it seems the Fire TV is the first device to ship with the new SoC and CPU architecture. 
 
  Fire TV (2014) Fire TV (2015)
SoC Qualcomm APQ8064
Snapdragon 600
4x Krait 300 @ 1.7GHz

Adreno 320 @ 400MHz
MediaTek MT8173C
2x Cortex A72 @ 1989MHz
2x Cortex A53 @ 1573MHz

Power VR GX6250 600MHz
RAM 2GB
Storage 8GB 8GB + microSD
Connectivity 5.5 mm DC Jack
Type A HDMI 1.4b output, w/HDCP
Optical Audio (TOSLINK)
10/100 Ethernet
USB 2.0 Type A

802.11a/b/g/n
2x2 MIMO
5.5 mm DC Jack
Type A HDMI 2.0 output, w/HDCP 2.2
microSD
10/100 Ethernet
USB 2.0 Type A

802.11a/b/g/n/ac
2x2 MIMO
Launch OS Fire OS 3.0 Fire OS 5.0

The new SoC is a 2x2 big.LITTLE configuration with 2 A72 cores clocked in at 1989MHz and 2 A53 cores at 1573MHz. The new CPUs should give a significant performance boost over the Krait 300 found in the 2014 variant.

The new SoC also allows for hardware HEVC decoding and Amazon is touting this as the main feature of the new SKU as it allows for halving of the required bandwidth to stream 1080p content or allows for 4Kp30 content playback. Alas it seems 4Kp60 decoding is not supported and thus makes new Fire TV not quite as future proof as one would have hoped. The new unit comes with a new HDMI 2.0 port sporting HDCP 2.2 compatibility and allows connecting a TV or monitor at up to 2160p at 24/25/30/50/60Hz.

An important change in the connectivity is the dropping of the TOSLINK optical audio out connector in favour of a microSD slot. Also added is 802.11ac Wi-Fi connectivity, still sporting a 2x2 MIMO antenna configuration.

As an accessory to the Fire TV, Amazon also released a new gaming controller, aptly named the Amazon Fire Game Controller. The controller is equipped with the same voice-control functionality that the Fire Voice Remote comes with, thus being able to use replace it as the main controller/remote.

The new Fire TV starts shipping on the 5th of October for $99.99 without the controller or $139.99 for the Gaming Edition which contains both the media play and the controller. Amazon also now releases the original Fire TV Stick with the Voice Remote for $59.99.

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  • Morawka - Saturday, September 19, 2015 - link

    100 Mbps = 10 MB per sec.

    that's 2 iphone photos a second of bandwidth.. horrible
    Reply
  • Nehemoth - Friday, September 18, 2015 - link

    Hate the missing Optical Audio (TOSLINK), but overall I hate the lack of DTS support. Reply
  • Flunk - Friday, September 18, 2015 - link

    You can't expect high end features on low end devices. Reply
  • npz - Friday, September 18, 2015 - link

    What part of h.265 does it exactly support? Whenever stating it "supports HEVC" in hardware I think it's very important to actually state what part?

    Ok, it doesn't decode 4k 60p. It must be able to decode Main profile, but what about Main10p? Or High 10p? It supports 4:2:0, but what about 4:2:2 or 4:4:4?
    Reply
  • mczak - Friday, September 18, 2015 - link

    Mediatek's site for the MT8371 mentions: "Ultra HD 30fps H.264/HEVC(10-bit)/VP9 hardware video playback". Thus I assume it's able to do Main 10 profile. 4:2:2 etc. are only part of HEVC V2 so probably no. Reply
  • sanf780 - Saturday, September 19, 2015 - link

    From what I know, most comercial video will be presented in a 4:2:0 chroma subsampling in UHD. It looks like we will be keeping HDMI links at 2.97 gigabits per second per HDMI lane (1080p@60 is 1.485 gigabits per second per lane).
    Anyhow, I remember a lot of fuzz when Sin City was the first notorious film recorded and post processed in a 4:4:4 pipeline. However, I do not see a lot of traction since. Something like The Hobbit being recorded and showed at 48Hz.
    Reply
  • Sivar - Friday, September 18, 2015 - link

    I've used a FireTV since release. I don't like it.
    - Amazon makes it intentionally difficult to install and even to run Kodi, whereas it's on nVidia's app store, though It's still slightly tricky to install on Shield.

    - The remote control's buttons wear out quickly. I need to press down the right-arrow part of the circle very hard in order to get it to register.

    - In the FireTV's UI, it is difficult to tell prima facie whether you can watch something as part of your Amazon subscription or whether you have to pay additional money for it.

    - The storage is quite limited, though this is hopefully resolved with the MicroSD card. I had to set up a MySQL database server for Kodi because the FireTV kept running out of space storing media info.

    I don't plan to buy the new version because of most of the above and because it lacks the opticla audio cable. I frequently start music using HDMI and switch to optical for music. If I were to stay on HDMI, I'd have to keep the projector on. If I turn it off, my preamp thinks the HDMI port is no longer in use and stops audio, not just video. This is not Amazon's fault, of course, but it still affects me.

    The FireTV is a nice device for its price with some reasonable trade-offs, but it has too many limitations, some intentional, for my vote.
    Reply
  • Impulses - Monday, September 21, 2015 - link

    No issues with my FireTV Stick remote, and from what I've seen all Prime content has a clearly visible banner on the corner... Half the time I just navigate Amazon content from my TiVo tho, but the Fire Stick is snappier if I'll be watching a few shows off Amazon. Reply
  • roadapathy - Friday, September 18, 2015 - link

    The Fire TV was disappointing when I learned it could not find media on DLNA network. You have to add a stupid app, with a terrible interface, in order for it to work supposedly. I tried several apps to do this and none of them worked. I hope in OS 5 that was all fixed. Otherwise, I love the media player. Super fast menu and everything happens very fast. Reply
  • lagittaja - Saturday, September 19, 2015 - link

    Now we're talking! Good to finally see a HDMI 2.0 equipped media player/console thingydoodler. Personally I was seriously waiting for the 4th gen. Apple TV to have HDMI 2.0, sadly it didn't.
    Now I'll sit back and look forward to Google's announcement, hopefully we'll see the 2nd gen Chromecast. Hoping it to have 802.11ac aswell as HDMI 2.0.
    Reply

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