Amazon will be releasing a new Fire TV model which falls in between their current 2nd generation Fire TV Stick and 2nd generation Fire TV. This information is based on a benchmark I’ve discovered and other information I’ve acquired. The new model will support 4K UHD playback at 60 fps and high dynamic range (HDR) video, which is superior to all existing Fire TV models, although I expect the new model to be sold alongside both existing Fire TV models. This will be Amazon’s first HDR capable streaming device and is meant to be an entry-level model for 4K HDR streaming, to compete with the Chromecast Ultra. The new device will run a version of Fire OS that is based on Google’s latest Android 7 Nougat operating system, which is a significant upgrade from their current Fire TV lineup that runs Fire OS 5 based on Android 5.1 Lollipop.
The new Fire TV carries a build model value of “AFTN” which indicates its codename starts with an N. This could be a reference to Android 7 Nougat, since this will be the first Fire TV to ship with the new OS version, but it likely doesn’t exactly share a codename with Google’s latest version of Android.
The system-on-a-chip (SoC) in the new Fire TV model is probably from Amlogic’s S905 line of chips, which are the same chips used in the Xiaomi Mi Box streaming device. The CPU is a quad-core capable of running at 2 GHz, but is limited to 1.5 GHz, either by Amazon for heat reasons or by the SoC kernel. The GPU is a Mali-450 MP, which is the same one in the latest Fire TV Stick.
Gaming benchmark scores for the new Fire TV model fall in between the current 2nd-gen Fire TV Stick and the original 1st-gen Fire TV. While the new model scores about 28% better than the Fire TV Stick, thanks mostly to its more powerful CPU, it is clearly not meant to be a gaming device or a replacement for the 2nd-gen Fire TV set-top box.
System memory for the new Fire TV model is reported as 1.5 GB by the benchmark utility, but there’s a good chance it actually has 2 GB of total memory. Depending on the SoC, some devices don’t report the memory allocated to the GPU when queried. The 2nd-gen Fire TV is such a device. It has 2 GB of RAM, but only reports 1.5 GB when queried by the same benchmark utility because 512 MB is allocated to the GPU. Internal storage of the new Fire TV model likely comes in at 8GB, which matches all other Fire TV models, past and present.
Based on the new Fire TV model’s specs and capabilities, I strongly suspect it will have a dongle form factor with a built in HDMI plug. Like the Fire TV Stick, this new model will plug directly into the back of a TV, instead of being a set-top box. That would place it most directly in competition with Google’s 4K and HDR capable Chromecast Ultra.
Pricing and a release date for the new Fire TV model are unknown. Based on Amazon’s history of aggressively pricing hardware with the expectation of making most of their profit on content sales, and the pricing of its closest competitors, the Chromecast Ultra and the Mi Box, which both retail for $69, I expect the new Fire TV model to be priced at $59 or less.
Apart from the first Fire TV, which was released in April, Amazon has released all subsequent Fire TV models around October, so I expect the new Fire TV model to be released around that time later this year. I don’t expect the new model to replace either of the existing Fire TV models. The 2nd-gen Fire TV Stick still has a place as the budget friendly entry-level device for those who don’t yet own a 4K TV, and the 2nd-gen Fire TV set-top box will continue to have superior gaming capabilities and port selection until it is replaced by a new flagship model.
While the new 4K@60fps and HDR capable Fire TV model has superior video playback capabilities than the existing 2nd-gen Fire TV, which does 4K@30fps and does not support HDR, it is sure to disappoint those who have been eagerly waiting for the arrival of a 3rd-gen Fire TV set-top box. Amazon’s Fire TV Stick outsells the Fire TV set-top box, so its understandable the company would first focus on a new product that appeals to Fire TV Stick buyers, before updating their flagship set-top box. Those wanting the improved video capabilities of the new Fire TV model without sacrificing the gaming capabilities and port selection of the 2nd-gen Fire TV are going to have to hold out a little bit longer.