Obviously, “synthetic” benchmarks don’t tell us everything we’d like to know, but this is a start. In the future I’m hoping to have some more sophisticated benchmarks available. For now, here’s a summary of what we’ve learned.
Fire Tablet Platform
The most notable thing from the benchmarks and the trend in Amazon’s product line is that they are very focused on “good enough” performance while maintaining their low prices. On their SoC sourcing they’ve gone from TI OMAP, where they probably got bargain pricing right before TI cut the OMAP product line and ceased software support, orphaning early Fire devices on old versions of Android, to some higher end (HDX) devices based on Qualcomm offerings, to abandoning the HDX product line after 2014 and sourcing budget SoC’s from MediaTek, a Chinese SoC supplier of off-the-shelf ARM designs, for the continuation of the base and HD products.
Amazon seems OK with barely treading water. In 2017 they released an updated Fire HD 8 that used exactly the same SoC as the anemic one in the 2016 Fire HD 8.
If you compare Fire tablet performance to other platforms, you’ll have no trouble at all finding more powerful Android tablets, and Apple’s iPad line will run circles around the Fire tablets. Clearly performance at a price isn’t what Amazon’s after, but rather cheap at any price. It’s unfortunate that Amazon’s HDX product line wasn’t successful, but the reality is that they have not been able to get people to buy into the value proposition of spending extra money on their devices. They have the market power that you would think they could, but, for a multitude of reasons, they just can’t seem to get there.
Fire TV Platform
The Fire TV platform has been a huge seller for Amazon, but unfortunately is seeing the same trend as the Fire tablet line, with the 2017 Fire TV being a step away from performance and towards budget. Will Amazon make another “real” Fire TV? The last powerful Fire TV was made in 2015, and since then they’ve basically decided to produce 100% streaming focused devices. While these devices may have SoCs with more up to date video decode capabilities, they have weaker CPUs and GPUs than what they were shipping in 2015, with GPUs in particular with limited capabilities, not even supporting OpenGL 3.0, much less newer 3D technologies. In 2018 they passed on the opportunity to make another “real” Fire TV and released the Fire TV Cube with a form factor that could have supported the higher power dissipation needed for a high performance SoC, but they put the same budget hardware into it that was in the 2017 Fire TV. There are a lot of signs that Amazon has basically given up on doing more than they’ve been doing. That may be the best business decision, but it is disappointing.
- 7/28/18 Updates
- Added 2017 Fire TV and discussion