The Amazon Fire TV set on show at a news conference in New York yesterday

Amazon set-top TV box to rival Apple and Google

Technology giant Amazon has launched a set-top TV box to compete with Apple TV and Google Chromecast.

Called Amazon FireTV, the new hardware allows users to stream TV shows and movies from Amazon as well as other services such as Netflix directly to their TVs, but uniquely for a set-top box it also comes with a game controller, allowing users to play video games without a console, instead using the box to stream the game to their TV.

Amazon announced that a large number of the games available will be free to download, but this will cost an additional $40 to have alongside the set-top box, which started shipping from yesterday for $99.

At the launch in New York, Amazon's Peter Larsen said, "We need to invent and simplify on behalf of customers. State of the art power in the service of simplicity. This thing's tiny, it's incredibly powerful and it's unbelievably simple."

Set-top boxes work by connecting your TV and the Internet, enabling users to stream TV shows and movies from the Internet, using services like Netflix. FireTV is designed to be a direct competitor to the Apple TV, a similar device from the Californian technology giant.

The box has a feature called ASAP that builds a list of items you will want to watch next based on what you are currently watching. The FireTV also supports Whispersync, a feature that enables users to start watching a programme on the Kindle Fire tablet, and then pick it up from the same place on the FireTV.

As well as offering streaming services, the set-top box also contains apps like YouTube which users can access directly through their television. The FireTV also supports full HD and comes with a custom remote control for users to navigate around the interface.

The remote has a built-in microphone that allows users to speak into it to search for items within the different apps and the FireTV includes a photo feature that enables users to take a picture on their smartphone and automatically upload it to Amazon via the Amazon Cloud Drive app.

The device also has a setting called X-Ray which syncs with your tablet to provide you with information about the shows and movies you're watching, as well as displaying song lyrics when music is playing.

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