4K video output not available to Fire TV app developers

4k-light-logo-fire-tv

The second generation Fire TV has been out for over a month now, yet there haven’t been any 4K capable video apps other than the ones from big names like Netflix. Amazon’s Media Specifications page for developers lists the Fire TV platform as only being capable of “up to 1080p” with no mention of 2160p (4K) capabilities or the newer h.265 codec used by the 2nd-gen Fire TV. I inquired about 4K playback on Amazon’s developer forum and was told that “at this time, 2160p output is not available to developers on the 2nd-gen Fire TV” by an Amazon representative.

It appears an app needs special consideration and/or approval from Amazon to initiate 4K video playback. It’s not clear what it takes for an app to be allowed 4K playback, like with the Netflix app, but an average developer cannot simply create an app that takes a 4K video file or stream and play it back at full resolution on the new Fire TV. This means it’s unlikely for media player apps like VLC or Kodi to be able to play local 4K video files until this policy changes. It may be possible for unofficial apps that require sideloading, like Kodi, to reverse engineer the Fire TVs 4K playback capabilities and support the feature. Official apps in the Fire TV appstore, however, have an extra hurdle to overcome if they want to be granted 4K video playback privileges.

The decision to limit 4K video on the Fire TV to approved partners is likely related to the new Fire TV’s need to switch the device’s output resolution from 1080p to 2160p before playing 4K video, and then back again once video playback has ended. The Fire TV’s processor is not capable of displaying its user interface or apps at 4K resolutions, so that output must be reserved for specific h.265 encoded video only. Amazon may not be ready to give all developers the ability to switch the Fire TV’s output resolution at will.

With 4K video still being a relatively new advancement, and 4K video sources being far and few between, there are bound to be hiccups and limitations for early adopters. For the time being, 4K video playback on the 2nd-gen Fire TV will likely be limited to big names like Netflix who can work closer with Amazon’s Fire TV team than most developers.

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16 comments on “4K video output not available to Fire TV app developers
  1. Koying says:

    Err… I don’t get it.
    Nvidia Shield is at a constant 4K, with the app available resolution to apps being 1080p, upscaled to 4K, and videos rendered at 4k.

    What’s this thing about switching resolution? Is the SoC too lame to do simple 1080p -> 4k upscaling of the UI?

  2. Koying says:

    Ah, right. I forgot AFTV2 is 4K@30 only.
    Indeed, wouldn’t make sense to limit UI to 30fps constantly.

    • AFTVnews says:

      Correct. The Fire TV 2 does not upscale anything to 4K. Apps and UI are always at 1080p60 or less, and only 4K video will cause a temporary resolution change to 2160p30.

  3. xnamkcor says:

    This isn’t the first time I’ve seen this sort of limitation on a “4K” device and it probably won’t be the last. I hope Android M adds resolution output as a standardized setting. Letting the user buy a 4K capable device, but have the option to output at 1080p or lower would be nice. And it’s not like Android apps aren’t already programmed with many resolutions in mind.

    I’ll have to be more careful of manufacturers putting “4K” in the spec.

  4. CK says:

    so in this video, is the video playback being limited to 1080p? just wondering in relation to what you said, my reason for upgrading to the 2nd gen is to watch stream in hd using p2pstreams, but some live content stutters on the 1st gen. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HcoQoDE44jg

  5. Alexander says:

    I wonder, how does Amazon’s (or Netflix) playback UI works when you play 4K video?
    I mean they should have some playback controls or info drawn over the video. So, they need at least some kind of UI in 4k mode.

    • Michael says:

      I think that you’re a bit confused. What Elias is saying (anybody can correct me if I’m wrong) is that when it comes to outputting genuine 4K content onto a 4K TV, Amazon has restricted that to a short list of developers (themselves, Netflix, maybe HBO, who knows else). So if I make a game that could use 4K output (say Hi-res pacman or Pong), I won’t be able to make that for AFTV 2. Or, if I have a 4K media file on a USB drive, plug it it into the AFTV 2, I cannot actually enjoy that 4K video in 4K (perhaps downscaled to 1080P on AFTV2 and then upscaled on TV’s internal 4K upscaler, but you just gimped and negated the benefits of 4K).

      In terms of Netflix, yes, the User Interface overlaying the Netflix AFTV 2 app would be in 4k.

      • Michael says:

        replying as my last sentence may be incorrect. Per the notes above, I guess the UI would be in 1080p. Regardless, I’m holding my breath if anybody like Kodi or Plex will get 4K output.

  6. Drumst1x says:

    A couple issues with calling it 4K

    1) We call 1080p 1080p because it’s the number of pixels vertically in the video (and p for progressive). Why don’t we call 2160p 2160p, and instead call it 4K?
    2) 1080p is verticaly pixels, why is 4K jumping to horizontal decision? 2K would make more sense….
    3) (and this one I’ll be flexible on) why 4K? It’s 3840 pixels across….. Granted, 3840 doesn’t sound great….

    Obviously it all comes down to marketability.. 4K is catchier, quicker to say (2 syllables vs 6 for 2160p (and 4 for 1080p)), and has a certain pizzaz to it.

    Still, i hate it.

    • xnamkcor says:

      1) Some do, but “UHD” and “4K” are perfectly cromulent names. And the “correct” name for “1080p” is “FHD” anyway.

      2) 2K is 2048×1080, as defined by DCI

      3) 3840 is UHD, which is 1920. “4K” as defined by DCI is 4096.

      • Drumst1x says:

        I never knew any of that! I guess “720p” is “HD”, 1080p is “FHD” (full hd?), and 2160p is “UHD” (but i thought uhd was a samsung-specific thing?)

        Thanks for filling me in!!

        I don’t like HD/FHD/UHD, since Full and Ultra are great for now, but in another 10 years when we have 8K tv’s, it’ll seem silly that we once called 720p HD, no?

  7. Guy says:

    Hi, is there any update on when the AFTV 2 will support hardware HEVC through Kodi? I’m only interested in 1080p at this point.

    Thanks

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