Apparently, Amazon is trying to make Alexa a household name. Alexa’s integration with many of the best audio and video devices is no secret. Fire TV & FireStick devices already have Alexa functions. Now it should get more exciting when Amazon marries Fire TV, Alexa, and Echo Dot in a package called the Fire TV Cube and delivers it at a price you wouldn’t call cheap. Cube is available for $ 119 as I write this review. It seems to be slowly aligning with Apple TV. While there’s only a catch-up price of $ 60 at one price point (because Apple TV is $ 179), there’s enough to cover features and hardware specs
It would be unfair to compare Cube to Apple TV as they are two different types of devices. In this Fire TV Cube review, I’ll explain it with other family devices, Fire TV and Echo Dot.
Fire TV Cube Review: Performance
The Fire TV Cube has always been very solid in terms of performance, but the latest version includes a number of upgrades that make it even faster.
For example, the original Fire TV Cube used a quad-core ARM Cortex-A53 1.5 GHz CPU, a Mali 450 MP3 GPU, and an Amlogic S905Z SoC to produce stunning images and fast load times for the whole Operating system to achieve An extremely powerful hexa-core processor that can play Dolby Vision and 4K Ultra HD content at up to 60 frames per second.
From a broadcast on Netflix to the home screen to a movie on Amazon, it only takes a few seconds, and there are practically no pop-in problems. Thanks to the 802.11ac WiFi antenna and connections with more than 15 Mbps, videos probably don’t even need to be buffered. They won’t play until you select them.
As a result, the content looks great, especially TV shows and movies in 4K HDR. Pop on Everything or Nothing: Manchester City or The Grand Tour, and you’ll get a visual presentation of what the Fire TV Cube can do: The Grand Tour’s first trailer sparkles with the screen like scenic panoramas and million dollar cars while the azure blue of Manchester City’s sweaters exudes gorgeous hues.
While a little harder to find, the same can be said for the content on Dolby Vision which looks great too. Amazon recommends starting with Stranger Things and Our Planet on Netflix and Tom Clancys Jack Ryan on Prime Video. All of this shows the large color palette of the format and, depending on the television, also better contrast.
Fire TV Cube Review: Hardware
Hardware first as this is what the entire user experience is based on. I’ll take Amazon Fire TV as a reference as it was the final iteration in the Fire TV line of devices before Cube.
The Fire TV Cube includes Echo Dot, the already popular smart speaker that the Fire TV doesn’t have. For now, we’re going to push Echo Dot aside and look at the key hardware features of the Fire TV Cube as a media device.
Fire TV Cube is exactly your version of Fire TV, but with more storage. This device offers 16 GB of internal storage compared to Fire TV which is only 8 GB. While Cube doubles the storage capacity, 16GB isn’t much for those looking to download and save videos. But like the other Fire TV devices, you can expand the storage with the OTG adapter.
In addition to more memory, all other hardware specifications remain the same. Cube has the same 1.5 GHz processor as Fire TV, 2 GB of RAM, and MIMO Wi-Fi. This unit also supports HDR10 and is not compatible with HDR10 + like Fire TV, plays 4K videos and has Dolby Atmos surround sound quality.
The cube is connected to your television via HDMI. However, it’s hard to believe that the HDMI cable won’t send out right away. If you’re paying $ 120 for a device like this, that’s the least you would expect. I was really disappointed to discover this fact when I unpacked Cube. If you don’t already have an HDMI cable, you won’t be able to watch videos right away. Even FireStick, the cheapest in the Fire TV line of media devices, has an HDMI extension. So when you buy Fire TV Cube, add the HDMI cable to the shopping cart.
I almost forgot to mention it. Cube comes with an Ethernet adapter for wired connectivity. This is yet another upgrade from Fire TV that requires an additional $ 14.99 Ethernet adapter for wired internet connection.
Both Cube and Fire TV have exactly the same remote control. I was hoping Amazon would finally add the volume rocker, but it didn’t.
Fire TV Cube Review: Echo Dot
Fire TV and Echo Dot (two separate devices) together can do almost everything the Fire TV Cube can do. You can even buy the combo on Amazon for $ 94.99. The cube costs about $ 22 more and gives you an additional 8GB and an integrated Ethernet port.
If you already own one of the Echo Dot devices, the Fire TV Cube doesn’t make very much sense. Echo Dot as a separate gadget can do almost everything that the Echo Dot on the Cube can do. Alexa integration lets you control a wide variety of smart and home devices, including televisions, game consoles, lighting, and more.
There is another challenge: keeping two Echo Dots close. Using the same wake word can both respond to the same commands at the same time, creating a lot of confusion, especially if both are held nearby. It is best to keep both Alexa devices in separate rooms or change the password of one of these devices if you want to continue using them in the same room.
Even so, Fire TV Cube Echo Dot can listen to and execute your commands just fine. However, the real strength of such a device lies in its ability to hear in non-ideal audible conditions. This is where Echo Dot really shines. It can hear and recognize your commands from anywhere in the room and even through loud music. I personally tested the Echo Dot with my home theater and the results have been great. From more than 1.5 meters and quite loud music, it could hear me and carry out my commands.
“Alexa, turn up the volume”
“Alexa, turn it down”
“Alexa, play the previous song”
“Alexa, play the next song”
Try not to hold the Cube too close to the booming speaker or you may have to scream your lungs for Echo Dot to hear you.
I was curious to see how the Echo Dot would work with the Fire TV Cube interface, since Alexa on Fire TV has limited functionality. Echo Dot quickly opened all the apps I asked for, took me to Settings, found apps for me, helped me download apps, and lots of other things. However, I was a little disappointed with the way my requests to navigate the list of apps on the home screen and the Your Apps and Channels segment were handled. I was much better off using the remote than getting nervous by giving commands that Alexa couldn’t carry out.
But I didn’t let myself get discouraged. I knew that the capabilities of Echo Dots go well beyond the user interface of the cube and can do a lot more for me.
I ran into a different challenge with Alexa. When I asked them to open Netflix, Hulu, Downloader, or ES File Explorer, those apps started immediately. When I ordered her to run Kodi, Mobdro, and Tea Tv, she was confused and couldn’t open those apps. What is the difference? The apps that Alexa can quickly access are all downloaded from the Amazon App Store. The apps that could not be loaded onto FireStick. Alexa is smart enough to open the App Store apps but not smart enough to load the third-party apps.
Fire TV Cube has the same 0.6-inch Echo Dot speaker as the $ 50 Echo Dot. It’s a simple speaker with no woofers and no Dolby support. The sound quality is acceptable if you enjoy music at a low volume and don’t want to turn on your larger speakers as they use more power.
Conclusion: Fire TV Cube Review
The Fire TV Cube is by far our most popular Amazon streaming device – better than the 2017 Amazon TV dongle in many ways. That’s because the Fire TV Cube not only provides hands-free control for video playback, but does all the heavy lifting of controlling your home. Add to that the simple but clever visual cues Amazon added for basic Alexa skills and you have a very strong contender for the best streaming video player. The processor upgrade and Dolby Vision recording for the new model help solidify that view and is well worth the extra $ 20.
Yes, technically you can do almost anything the Fire TV Cube does to an Amazon Echo Dot and an Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K, but a box with a hexacore processor moves faster and causes less frustration. It’s a cliché to say, but the Fire TV Cube is more than the sum of its parts.