Amazon lights the Fire with six new streaming boxes and tablets

Amazon introduced six new pieces of hardware on Wednesday, including a $50 Fire tablet and a Fire TV capable of streaming in 4K resolution. The line of new Fire tablets is powered by FireOS 5, a redesigned operating system that makes it easier for users to find new media.

Eric Risberg/AP
Amazon introduced a $50 tablet, a Fire TV capable of streaming in 4K resolution, and a host of other hardware on Thursday. Here, the $50 Fire tablet sits on display with colored cases in San Francisco, California.

Amazon introduced no fewer than six new pieces of hardware on Thursday, including a super high-definition Fire TV streaming device and a 7-inch tablet that costs just $50. The new Fire TV is capable of putting out video in 4K resolution – the equivalent of four 1080p HD screens arranged in a square – making it one of only a handful of streaming boxes that can do so.

But what’s the point of having a 4K TV and streaming box if there’s no content to go with it? All of Amazon’s original TV shows will be available in 4K, and Fire TV owners will be able to access Netflix’s 4K content as well, the company said on Wednesday. Amazon Prime subscribers will also be able to stream some movies in 4K, as well, and Amazon says it’s using a more efficient codec to stream – so even people without a 4K TV will benefit, because they’ll be using less bandwidth for video.

The new Fire TV also supports Alexa, the voice-recognition service first introduced in the Amazon Echo. Just like the Echo, the Fire TV will be able to respond to commands to look up information, play a song or video, or summarize the news. The device can be paired with a microphone-enabled remote, so you can simply speak your searches aloud or request that a show start playing. The voice remote also has a headphone jack so you can watch movies without disturbing others, if need be.

Amazon’s smaller streaming device, the plug-in Fire TV Stick, also gets support for voice searches, although it can’t stream at 4K resolution. The Fire TV Stick will sell for $50 (Amazon says the older model will still be available for $40), while the Fire TV will sell for $100, or $140 as a bundle with the streaming box, voice remote, 32GB memory card, and two games.

Amazon also introduced a new 7-inch Fire tablet for just $50, which has front- and rear-facing cameras, 1 GB of RAM, and a 1.3 GHz quad-core processor – enough power for video watching, light browsing, and answering emails. The new tablet will also come in a “Kids Edition,” for $100, which has a rubber bumper case; a one-year subscription to Amazon’s collection of educational books, movies, games, and apps; and a guarantee that Amazon will replace a broken tablet any time within two years of purchase, with no questions asked.

Amazon also introduced higher-resolution Fire HD tablets with 8- and 10-inch screens, which will set buyers back $150 or $230. All the new tablets have microSD slots to allow for additional storage, front- and rear-facing cameras for recording and videoconferencing, and are powered by FireOS 5, a redesigned operating system that’s designed to make it easier for users to find new songs, books, TV shows, and movies.

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