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Amazon takes on Apple TV 4K with updated Fire TV featuring HDR, Dolby Atmos support

Shortly after the unveiling of the Apple TV 4K, Amazon has updated its own high-resolution streaming set-top box lines by upgrading the Fire TV, with the improvements including HDR and Dolby Atmos support, more power, and a physical makeover, as well as a lower price point.

Taking the place of the now-discontinued set-top box, the new Fire TV takes design cues from the Fire TV Stick and the Google Chromecast Ultra, resembling a smaller square-shaped dongle with a permanently attached but short HDMI cable. This design decision now hides the Fire TV on the back of the TV, dangling from the HDMI port and out of sight of viewers.

Packing a 1.5GHz quad-core processor with 2GB of RAM and 8GB of storage, the new device builds upon its predecessor's video capabilities by showing 4K video at up to 60fps, with HDR-10 support allowing it to display more vivid imagery when used with a compatible television and suitable content. For audio, it includes support for Dolby Atmos, 7.1 surround sound, and HDMI audio pass through up to 5.1.

The new Fire TV connects to the local network using dual-band 802.11ac MIMO Wi-Fi, and though it loses the Ethernet connection, it is said to be compatible with a separate Amazon Ethernet Adapter for wired network connectivity. There is also Bluetooth 4.1 and LE connectivity, which is used with the included Alexa Voice Remote to control playback as well as other accessories, though it can also be controlled using the Fire TV Remote App for iOS.

It is also possible to pair the Fire TV with other Echo devices on the home network, allowing it to be accessed verbally via Alexa without using the remote at all. Amazon advises it is working with other content partners to enable a "hands-free content experience" on Fire TV for other apps on the device, naming Hulu, Showtime, NBC, and PlayStation Vue as receiving support for the feature in the future.

Borrowing a feature from Apple, Amazon is also working with content providers to have single sign-on added to TV Everywhere apps, which can streamline the process of authenticating with apps for Pay TV services.

Lastly, Amazon has added smart home camera support to all Fire TV devices and the second-generation Fire TV Sticks in the United States, allowing users to view live feeds from cameras on their TV via an Alexa request. The current list of devices that the feature supports includes cameras from Arlo, Ring, Nest, and August.

Amazon has made the new Fire TV available to pre-order in the United States for $69.99, less than half the cost of Apple's recently-launched Apple TV 4K, with shipments starting from October 25. Customers activating the Fire TV by November 15 will get two months of Hulu's Limited or No Commercials service, a one-month trial of Showtime, and a $10 credit to rent and buy content from Amazon Video.

Amazon is also bundling together the Fire TV and the Echo Dot for $79.99 for a limited time, as well as a similar offer for the Fire TV Stick and Echo Dot for $59.99.