Clearly, Amazon is trying to make Alexa a household name. The integration of Alexa with many of the best audio and video devices is no secret. The Fire TV & FireStick line of devices already has Alexa capabilities. Now it should get more exciting if Amazon marries Fire TV, Alexa, and Echo Dot in one package called Fire TV Cube and delivers it for a price you wouldn’t call cheap. Available for $ 119 as I write this review, Cube seems to be slowly aligning with Apple TV. But while there’s only a $ 60 catch-up to do at a price (because Apple TV costs $ 179), there’s plenty to cover features and hardware specifications
It would be unfair to compare Cube to Apple TV because they are two different types of devices. In this Fire TV Cube review, I’ll explain it with more family gadgets, Fire TV, and Echo Dot.
Fire TV Cube Review: Performance
The Fire TV Cube has always been rock-solid in terms of performance, but the latest version introduces a number of upgrades that make it even faster.
For example, the original Fire TV Cube used a Quad-core ARM Cortex-A53 1.5GHz CPU, Mali-450 MP3 GPU, and Amlogic S905Z SoC to produce stunning images and fast load times across the operating system, but it has been upgraded to an ultra-powerful hexa-core processor that can play Dolby Vision and 4K Ultra HD content at up to 60fps.
From a show on Netflix, back to the home screen, and in a movie on Amazon, it takes a matter of seconds, with basically zero pop-in problems along the way. Thanks to the 802.11ac Wi-Fi antenna and with connections of over 15mbps, videos probably don’t even have to be buffered – they just start playing as soon as 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 be treated to a visual showcase of what the Fire TV Cube can do: The opening trailer of The Grand Tour sparkles like scenic panoramas and million-dollar cars racing along with the screen, while the azure blue of Manchester City’s sweaters exudes ravishing color tones.
Despite being a little harder to find, the same could be said for the content of Dolby Vision, which also looks great. Amazon recommends starting with Stranger Things and Our Planet on Netflix, and Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan on Prime Video – all of which show off the extensive color range of the format and, depending on your TV, also better contrast.
Fire TV Cube Review: Hardware
Hardware first as this is what the entire user experience is built on. I’ll take Amazon Fire TV as a reference, as it was the last iteration in the Fire TV line of devices before Cube.
Fire TV Cube packs Echo Dot, the already popular smart speaker, which the Fire TV doesn’t have. But for now, we’ll be pushing Echo Dot aside and looking at Fire TV Cube’s main hardware capabilities as a media device.
Fire TV Cube is exactly your Fire TV version, but with more storage space. This device offers an internal storage of 16 GB compared to Fire TV, which has only 8 GB. While Cube doubles the storage capacity, 16 GB isn’t much for those who like 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 storage, all other hardware specifications remain the same. Cube has the same 1.5 GHz processor as Fire TV, 2 GB RAM, and MIMO Wi-Fi. This device also supports HDR10 and is not compatible with HDR10 + like Fire TV, plays 4K videos, and offers Dolby Atmos surround sound quality.
Cube is connected to your TV via HDMI. But it’s hard to believe it doesn’t send the HDMI cable out of the box. If you’re paying $ 120 for a device like this, that’s the least you’d expect. I was really disappointed to discover this fact when I unpacked Cube. If you don’t have an HDMI cable yet, you won’t be able to start watching videos right away. Even FireStick, the cheapest in the Fire TV line of media devices, comes with an HDMI extension. So add the HDMI cable to the shopping cart when you buy Fire TV Cube.
I almost forgot to mention it. Cube provides an Ethernet adapter in the box for wired connectivity. This is yet another upgrade from Fire TV, which requires an additional $ 14.99 Ethernet adapter for a wired internet connection.
Both Cube and Fire TV have the exact 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 just about everything the Fire TV Cube can. You could even buy the combo on Amazon for $ 94.99. The cube will cost you about $ 22 more and give you an extra 8 GB and a built-in Ethernet port.
If you already own one of the Echo Dot devices, Fire TV Cube doesn’t make much sense. Echo Dot as a separate gadget can do almost everything the Echo Dot can do on the Cube. You can control a variety of smart and home appliances with Alexa integration, including your TV, game consoles, lighting, and much more.
There is another challenge: keeping two Echo Dots around. If you use the same wake word, both can respond to the same commands at the same time, creating a lot of confusion, especially when both are kept nearby. It’s best to keep both Alexa devices in separate rooms or change the password on one of them if you plan to keep using them in the same room.
That said, Fire TV Cube Echo Dot is good at listening to and executing your commands. But the real strength of such a device lies in the ability to hear in less than ideal audible conditions. That’s where Echo Dot really shines. It can hear and recognize your commands from across the room and even through loud music. I personally tested Echo Dot with my home theater and the results were great. From more than 1.5 meters and quite loud music, it could hear me and execute my orders.
“Alexa, turn up the volume”
“Alexa, turn down the volume”
“Alexa, play the previous song”
“Alexa, play the next song”
Try not to keep the Cube too close to the blaring speaker or you may have to shout your lungs to let Echo Dot hear you.
I was curious how Echo Dot would work with the Fire TV Cube interface, as Alexa on Fire TV offered limited functionality. Echo Dot quickly opened all the apps I asked for, took me to the settings, searched for apps for me, helped me download apps, and a lot of other things. But I was a little disappointed in the way it handled my requests to navigate the list of apps on the home screen and in the Your apps and channels segment. I was much better off with the remote than getting nervous by giving commands Alexa couldn’t execute.
But I was not discouraged. I knew that Echo Dots’ capabilities go far beyond the Cube’s interface and it can do a lot more for me.
I ran into another challenge with Alexa. When I asked her to open Netflix, Hulu, Downloader, or ES File Explorer, these apps started immediately. When I ordered her to run Kodi, Mobdro, and Tea Tv she got confused and unable to open these apps. What is the difference? The apps that Alexa can quickly access are all downloaded from the Amazon App Store. The apps it couldn’t have been sideloaded on 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 is a basic speaker without woofers and no Dolby support. The sound quality is acceptable if you want to enjoy music at a low volume and not turn on your larger speakers because they consume more power.
Conclusion: Fire TV Cube Review
The Fire TV Cube is by far our favorite Amazon streaming device – in many ways better than the Amazon TV dongle released in 2017. That’s because the Fire TV Cube not only provides hands-free control for video playback but can also do all the heavy lifting of your home’s controls. Add to that the simple but clever visual cues that Amazon has added for the basic skills of Alexa and you have a very strong contender for the best streaming video player. The processor upgrade and recording from Dolby Vision for the new model helps solidify that view and is worth the extra $20.
Yes, technically you could do almost anything the Fire TV Cube does with an Amazon Echo Dot and Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K, but hexacore processor-powered box moves faster and causes less frustration. It’s cliche to say, but the Fire TV Cube is more than the sum of its parts.
- More storage (from 8 GB on Fire TV to now 16 GB)
- Standard Ethernet adapter
- Echo Dot integration
- The same hardware specifications as Fire TV except for more storage space
- Exclusive HDMI cable. Must be purchased separately
- More expensive than Fire TV & Echo Dot combination