Amazon Fire TV heats up battle for living room

Get a quick overview of Amazon's new set-top box, the Fire TV. Video games may help this media box compete in a crowded market against Apple TV, Roku, and Chromecast.

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In this episode of Update, get a quick breakdown of the features in Amazon's Fire TV set-top box. It may not be the cheapest choice in streaming video and music to your television, but it does have plenty of perks to compete with Apple TV, Roku and Google's Chromecast.

The thin, square box measures 4.5 inches across and has three times the performance power of other systems, so you can zip through menus with ease. Amazon's remote control has a built-in microphone so you can search for programs with your voice, rather than deal with typing with arrow keys. And parents can set up restricted profiles for kids and subscribe to the $3-a-month Amazon FreeTime Unlimited for all-you-can-watch access to Nickelodeon, Sesame Street and PBS programming.

But the big feature here is gaming. There will be thousands of Android games to play, many of them free. Amazon is selling a $40 Fire Game Controller, and that comes with a $7 game called Sev Zero and $10 to spend in Amazon credits. If you're a big gamer, keep in mind that you won't have much storage room for multiple games at one time. There's only 8 GB of storage built in, with roughly 5 GB free to use. I wouldn't be surprised if next year a Fire TV 2 came with a memory card slot.

And while Amazon was showing off the Fire TV, Microsoft unveiled the voice assistant Cortana. It's the Windows Phone version of Siri, named after the computer from the Halo video game. Along with mobile updates, Microsoft also is rolling out a few changes to its main Windows 8.1 operating system --- including a new Start menu. (Finally.)

CNET Update delivers the tech news you need in under three minutes. Watch Bridget Carey every afternoon for a breakdown of the big stories, hot devices, new apps, and what's ahead. Subscribe to the podcast via the links below.

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