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article imageAmazon's new Fire TV Stick is 30 percent faster, still only $40

By James Walker     Sep 28, 2016 in Technology
Amazon has announced a new Fire TV Stick, one of the company's most successful hardware products. The low-cost compact dongle is now 30 percent faster than the original. Amazon is also teasing a major software update with a "new on-screen experience."
Amazon's Fire TV Stick has proven to be an unexpected hit. The $40 dongle connects to your TV over HDMI and expands it with access to streaming video services. You can watch over 300,000 movies and TV episodes, engage with apps and stream over 7,000 channels. Amazon is also adding support for its Alexa digital assistant.
Today, Amazon announced a new version of the Fire TV Stick, in time for the holiday season. The dongle is now powered by a quad-core processor, making it 30 percent faster than the original version. It also has 802.11ac MIMO Wi-Fi, a technology enabling fast and more reliable connections, and the ability to optimise streaming content for your internet connection.
When streaming from Amazon Video, Advanced Streaming and Prediction (ASAP) technology intelligently monitors your bandwidth usage so you can play continually without the video stuttering or having to buffer. For other content, support for High Efficiency Video Codec (HEVC) helps with stream compression, enabling you to access high-quality content from low-speed internet connections.
The Fire TV Stick now comes with a new remote, the Alexa Voice Remote. The remote enables you to interact with the dongle through Alexa voice commands. You can change channels, search for content, launch an app and perform common digital assistant tasks such as checking the news or weather by asking Alexa.
The upgraded device comes with the same software as the outgoing model. However, Amazon is hinting that a significant upgrade is on the way. The company said it will deliver a new "on-screen experience that makes finding what to watch next even easier" later this year. It will be available to all Fire TV customers as a free over-the-air update.
New features include a "cinematic experience" with video trailers and content screenshots and a customisable apps list on the home screen. Amazon appears to be emphasising the importance of apps and games on the Fire TV Stick. It has previously concentrated predominantly on the video features. The company is also improving the device's accessibility, adding support for the VoiceView screen reader.
Amazon said it is "proud" that the Fire TV is now the most popular streaming media player in the U.S. It is also the most reviewed product on Amazon, gaining a 4.2-star rating from 120,000 reviews. "The new Amazon Fire TV Stick has been completely redesigned with incredible performance, powerful voice search and the included Alexa-powered remote to deliver instant access to a vast selection of movies, TV shows, games and Alexa skills at just $39.99," said Marc Whitten, Vice President of Amazon Fire TV.
The new Amazon Fire TV Stick is available for pre-order today at $39.99. Amazon will begin to ship the device on October 20. Customers who purchase online or from select retailers will receive a free content bundle worth $65, provided they activate their device before October 31. The bundle includes a one month Sling TV subscription, two months of free Hulu streaming and a $10 Amazon Video credit.
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