The Amazon Fire TV is already capable of talking to the company’s Alexa voice assistant, although the retail giant could go a little further with its next hardware refresh. A leak courtesy of AFTVNews claims that Amazon is working on a larger Fire TV packed with far-field microphones and all the internals one would usually expect from an Echo Dot.
Amazon has placed a lot of its faith in its Alexa voice assistant, which is why it’s currently available on just about any hardware that the retailer creates. The Fire TV can communicate with the Alexa AI, although it can only do so if the user has the voice remote in their hands. The company is now said to be planning an always-listening Fire TV that can listen to commands whether the screen is switched on or not, and the remote doesn’t even need to be in the same room.
The rumoured new Fire TV is definitely drastically different from what is currently available on the market. The current generation Fire TV boasts 4K and HDR content, something that is expected to be replicated on the new model, although it’s a slim device that can easily slip behind a television set. This new model is noticeably bigger, with a square design and some new hardware buttons adorning the top of the device.
A Fire TV Crossed With An Echo Dot
By adding a far-field microphone to the Fire TV, Amazon is attempting to invade the bedroom or living room, without forcing users to buy an Amazon Echo speaker. While the Echo has been an incredibly popular device, many users will be unable to warrant the price for what is essentially a Bluetooth speaker with acceptable, but not great, acoustics. The Fire TV, meanwhile, offers the ability to access hundreds of smart TV apps and games, as well as thousands of hours of on-demand content at the touch of a button. The ability to control home automation devices and ask questions will simply be an additional bonus, not the main selling point.
While using the current generation Fire TV to communicate with Alexa isn’t the most difficult of experiences, it requires the television set to be turned on to see and hear responses. Amazon will supposedly add a speaker into the Fire TV hardware on the new model, enabling it to be used 24 hours a day, seven days a week, without any additional hardware needing to be plugged in or turned on. The new Amazon Fire TV should also make it easy to turn on and off the TV, change channels and volume, and search for content without needing to pick up a remote.
To boost its smart home potential, the new Amazon Fire TV will reportedly boast an IR blaster to control TVs that don’t support the HDMI-CEC standard. This is hardly the first voice controlled media centre to be able to turn on an IR TV, however, as this was a feature that launched with the new Xbox One.
Chromecast Ultra Competitor
On top of the new flagship Fire TV, Amazon is also said to be prepping a competitor to the Chromecast Ultra. Having achieved great success with the Fire TV Stick, the new mid-tier Fire TV dongle will boast support for 4K and HDR content, while still maintaining a small form factor to simply dangle from the back of the TV. The puck-sized device will likely be less powerful than the current Fire TV, however, with the internals supposedly containing 2GB of RAM, 8GB of internal storage, and a 1.5GHz processor.
The mid-tier Amazon Fire TV dongle will likely cost between $60 to $80, and won’t be a direct replacement for the Fire TV Stick. In fact, it’ll sit above the Fire TV stick, with those wanting a budget option still being able to pick up the £39 device.
Release Date and Pricing
The new Fire TV with always-on Alexa voice control should end up costing over $100, which is more expensive than the current model. That’s not all too surprising considering it combines two Amazon devices into one package. A launch date has yet to be announced, but given the current generation Fire TV is currently unavailable on Amazon US, it may not be long before the retail giant confirms the new hardware.
The new mid-tier Fire TV Dongle should be announced later this month.