I have learned that Amazon is working on two new Fire TV models which will both be capable of 4K HDR video at 60 fps. The first new model uses a dongle form factor that hangs off of a permanently attached HDMI cable, similar to the Google Chromecast. It will be a mid-tier model positioned between the existing Fire TV Stick and a new top-tier model. The second new Fire TV is a cube shaped set-top box that will be Amazon’s new flagship model. It has far-field microphones, a built-in speaker, and an LED light bar that give it the same functionality as an Amazon Echo Dot for hands-free Alexa interaction and control. It also has an IR emitter which allows it to control your television and other A/V equipment.
The new mid-tier Fire TV, which is the unreleased “AFTN” device whose leaked benchmark I discovered earlier this year, will join the Fire TV lineup as a new third model. It will not replace the existing Fire TV Stick, which will remain as the budget-friendly model for those who don’t need support for 4K or HDR video. Much like the Fire TV Stick, the new mid-tier Fire TV will only have an HDMI plug and a micro USB port that is used for power.
We know from the aforementioned leaked benchmark that this new Fire TV model has a 1.5 GHz quad-core CPU and Mali-450 MP GPU. It also has 2 GB of RAM and likely has the same 8 GB of internal storage that all past and present Fire TV models have had. Those specs make it slightly more powerful than the current 2nd-gen Fire TV Stick, but still notably less powerful than the current 2nd-gen Fire TV.
The new flagship Fire TV model is the unreleased “AFTA” device that surfaced for the first time last week. Without the luxury of a leaked benchmark, I don’t know anything about its technical specifications, but I have learned that it essentially combines the functionality of a Fire TV, an Echo Dot, and an IR emitter, like the Harmony Hub, into a single device.
The cube-shaped Fire TV has a series of holes on top to accommodate its array of far-field microphones that allow you to talk to Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant without needing to use the voice remote, although one is still included. A speaker built into the Fire TV allows you to hear responses from Alexa if your television is turned off. It is likely that this new top-tier Fire TV model will have additional ports and functionality not found on the new mid-tier model, like Ethernet and expandable storage, but details are unknown.
On top of the device are the exact same buttons found on the Echo Dot. A pair of volume buttons control the built-in speaker, a mute button allows you to disable the microphones, and an action button lets you manually trigger Alexa. The device also includes a familiar blue LED light bar that is common to all of Amazon’s Alexa devices.
Amazon recently made it possible to control their existing Fire TV devices using an external Alexa device, like the Amazon Echo or Echo Dot. With the inclusion of far-field microphones directly in the new Fire TV, an external Alexa device will no longer be necessary to achieve hands-free voice control of your television.
Much like existing Fire TV models, the new Fire TVs will be able to turn on and control newer televisions that support the HDMI-CEC standard. However, most TVs in people’s homes don’t support the standard and those that do often have limited functionality. That is why Amazon is also including an IR emitter in the new flagship Fire TV, which should give it the ability to control the vast majority of televisions and A/V equipment.
With its built-in IR capabilities, the new flagship Fire TV will give most people hands-free voice control of their existing television and media center, without needing any additional equipment. Thanks to Alexa’s newly added entertainment capabilities, you can expect to be able to turn your TV on and off, control the volume, change inputs, and more without needing to pick up a remote for certain tasks.
The new mid-tier Fire TV will be announced this month and released next month. I do not know the exact price, but it’s safe to assume it’ll be priced between the two existing models, so you should expect to pay between $60 and $80. The new top-tier Fire TV will be announced at a later date. It should be released sometime this year but might be delayed into early next year. Considering it adds all the functionality of the $50 Echo Dot on top of being a very capable streaming device, I expect the price to be north of $100.