Thursday, September 17, 2015

Amazon Fire TV 4K is Alright, Not Mind-Blowing

Amazon has pulled ahead from Google by releasing the 4K-capable version of the Fire TV mini-STB. Google's Chromecast does not yet have a 4K game. Until recently it was only $200 Nvidia Shield console ($225 with the remote you want) that supported 4K.

So the question for 4K folks is: Amazon Fire TV or Nvidia Shield? Or, even, why bother with dongles and set-top boxes instead of just using Smart TV capabilities of your 4K TV set?

(Again, I am not a gamer, I am interested in high-quality media streaming, so my take on this reflects only media part of the equation.)

Here's the things: YouTube, as of now, holds advantage of the 4K content available. In order to play YouTube 4K content, your system needs to have hardware support of VP9 codec - 4K format used by YouTube. No all 4K TV sets support it. For example, Vizio, which combines excellent features with affordability, can't play YouTube at 4K - a major drawback, IMO. However, a TV set that does run YouTube at 4K with comparable feature set, will cost you about $800 more. Now, to me this $800 gap for just a couple of features I miss, main of which is 4K YouTube, is the space where 4K STBs come in.

Until today, just about the only 4K STB game in town was Nvidia Shield console. But with today's announcement of Amazon Fire TV, we've got competition. And to me decision for which one to get comes down to this:
FeaturesNvidia ShieldAmazon New Fire Tv
4K Frame Rate60fps30fps
YouTube 4K SupportYes?? No

Yep, from its specs, it's unclear whether new Fire TV supports VP9 YouTube codec. Until I can confirm it's a "yes", for me Fire TV is not a contender. If the answer is yes, then I can imagine trading extra 30fps of Shield for a $100 discount.
According to, YouTube 4K content cannot be watched due to lack of VP9 codec support by the new Fire TV. So I $100 price tag seems too high for this device.


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