What’s this? Another new toy? Why yes it is.

I have been itching for a new media center for a long time. I love my Popcorn Hour — it plays everything I can throw at it — but it’s interface is slow. Like, really slow.The trouble is, I really love the layout of Eversion+YAMJ on the Popcorn Hour. However, at some point I have to admit to myself that it’s not going to happen.

I went back and forth on some options over the last year. I looked at everything from building a small HTPC (Intel NUC – ~$500 all-in) to going super cheap (an under powered android device, PiVOS – $99). The NUC was the obvious winner, but I want 2-3 of these in my house, and spending $1500 on media centers that will likely need to be upgraded every few years just isn’t what I’m comfortable spending my money on.

This year though, a new device was released — the Amazon Fire TV. It seemed to check off a lot of things I was looking for:

Can it run XBMC? Yes, it can.

But can it do it well? Surprisingly yes, it can! In fact, I would say it runs better than my Core2Duo ever did. It runs that well. Though I should be fair, my old C2D ran on a crappy HDD that likely didn’t do it any favors in access times for loading images. Also coming from a slow PCH, anything is likely an upgrade. ¬†However, I have seen both the NUC and PIVOS in action, and I would say the FTV is easily on-par with the NUC. Transitions are smooth, images load fast, everything is good.

Netflix support, check. I don’t currently have a Netflix account, but I’m considering dropping cable and going to Netflix, so this was a big deal for me. I’m happy to have it.

Amazon Instant Video support, no shocker here – check. As I already have an Amazon Prime account anyway, having Amazon Instant Video support is a great feature to have access to a lot of streaming content that I get as an added bonus to a subscription I’m already paying for anyway. I tested it out, and it’s very slick.

Additional apps support (HBO Go, Showtime Anytime, etc) , check. This was lowest on the list, but a neat little extra. I already have HBO Go access, and having the ability to get streaming access to HBO Movies and TV Shows without having to leave the device was an added extra. Sidenote: Showtime is supported out of box. HBO Go has been said to be “coming soon” (though it can already be sideloaded anyway — tried and working — though I’ll probably wait for an official app).

Android hardware is finally getting to the point where it can hold it’s own, while still being very cost effective. At the same price as the underwhelming PiVOS from last year, the Amazon Fire TV blew me away. I will likely be getting 2 more.

This month has been good to me.


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