Amazon announces Fire TV, three times more powerful than Apple TV and Chromecast

Amazon has announced its own TV streaming box, as expected, during a dedicated event in New York.

Called Amazon Fire TV, the device is claimed to be three times more powerful than Apple TV, Roku boxes and Google's Chromecast. It comes with a quad-core processor, 2GB of RAM and is "thinner than a dime". Voice support is included too, so you can search by speaking aloud as the device's remote control has a built-in microphone.

As well as offer access to Amazon Prime Instant, the US box will have apps for rival content services, including Netflix, Hulu Plus and YouTube. All of Amazon Studio's own shows will be available to watch through the Fire TV, naturally.

ESPN content will be available to watch on the box, as well as Showtime too.

Like the company's Kindle Fire tablets, the operating system is based on Android, but without much of a Google influence.

The main user interface automatically shows content from Amazon, with several options along the side menu bar for accessing different aspects: Home, Movies, TV, Watchlist, Video Library, Games, Apps, Photos, and Settings. There is also a Freetime mode for kids, which changes the theme for the UI and locks the area within a password, so that young ones can only watch shows and films that are kid friendly.

Parents can also set how long children can access Freetime mode, after which time it shuts off. This is great for families who don't want their younger members spending too long in front of the gogglebox.

In Freetime, in the US at least, there will be content from Nickelodeon, PBS and Sesame Street.

Like Roku, another area that Amazon is focusing on for its box is gaming. There will be "thousands" of games apps available from publishers such as Disney, Gameloft, EA and Sega. A separate Fire Game Controller (also previously leaked) will be available for $39.99 (in the States) to control them with. It will also come with 1,000 Amazon Coins to spend on games to get you started and the average game will cost between one and two dollars.

Apps that feature multiplayer gaming can work on Amazon Kindle Fire tablets and Fire TV, so players can play against or with each other cross-platform.

Amazon will also be developing its own games for Fire TV and Kindle Fire, starting with Sev Zero, a tower defence come shoot-em-up game with multi-player features.

The retailer's music and X-ray information services are also available to play or access through the box.

The Amazon Fire TV is available in the States initially for $99 and starts shipping today, 2 April. There's no word on a UK release as yet, but like with Kindle Fire tablets, these things generally start in the US first and rollout globally in time.