The Fire TV Cube sits as a unique product in the Fire TV range. It objectively fills the role of three products for your living room: it is a powerful set-top streaming box, a stand-alone smart speaker when the TV is not on, and a universal remote.
The Cube for 2019 is positioned as the flagship of the Fire TV range, now with Dolby Vision HDR and more power overall. Amazon has improved the device making it the ideal choice for anyone looking to jump into the Alexa ecosystem.
For 2019, Amazon is bringing the Fire TV Cube
to Canada (and other regions) along with improving the overall experience of
the device. The first generation Cube was an interesting addition to the
lineup, but once Amazon released the Fire TV Stick 4K, which included Dolby
Vision HDR, whereas the Cube did not, it seemed a little less exciting. Now,
Amazon has rectified this mistake, making a much more capable, compelling
offering. While it still can do all the fun stuff the past iteration could do,
it comes in tow with local voice commands, and a more snappy, user-friendly
For anyone that currently owns, or has seen
the 2018 Amazon Fire TV Cube, there is nothing new to see visually in this
iteration. It features the same set of Echo controls on the top of the device
and is glossy on all four sides. It is a utilitarian design that feels at home
in the “living room of the future”, even if it can feel a tad dystopian at
times in aesthetic.
Around the back, you will find the HDMI,
power, Micro-USB and IR Extender ports. There is also the option to add an
ethernet adapter that is included in the box, should you need it. As with
anything IR based, the IR extender is very useful for anything hidden away that
you want the cube to control. While not ideal, it is nice to see Amazon include
the extender in the box should you require it.
With this year’s Fire TV Cube featuring more
robust HDR, including both HDR10+ and Dolby Vision, it is objectively a more
exciting option for streaming. With more TV’s supporting it, and more streaming
platforms such as Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime pushing HDR as a feature, it
is something that is not only expected, but required should you want to experience
the content as intended. With our test TCL Roku 4K TV, all the features worked
as advertised. We tested a selection of shows, and all displayed the correct
colour gambit and even displayed the fact HDR was working as intended. All
things considered, while it may seem like an incremental improvement, it is
great to see its inclusion, especially on a device positioned on the pinnacle
of its range.
The IR features of the Fire TV Cube work as
one would expect, but are still not an ideal way to control modern electronics.
With so many TVs and devices requiring many inputs from a remote to achieve a
result, simple IR commands do not cut it as much as we would like. While
commands such as ON, OFF, or selecting an input work, anything more complex
could be tedious or leave you needing to grab the remote anyways to sort out
inconsistencies. Granted, this is not a problem unique to Amazon, and simply an
issue with IR in general, but I am personally thankful for new systems that are
slowly making IR less important in today’s living setup.
Alexa, on the other hand, is much faster this
time around. It was a smart move on Amazon’s part to make a selection of
commands processed locally. Things such as navigating the UI or selecting a
show to watch just worked with little to no delay. This is not true of all
apps, but the ones it does work with, feel like a more natural experience. It
should be noted, even unsupported apps do feel generally faster overall when
compared to other products in the Fire TV range.
The Fire TV Cube does have a built-in speaker,
but this should be viewed as an Alexa device and not a speaker for much else.
Should you want to play music, or do anything that needs good audio, the Cube
will play the audio through your TV or connected audio device. And while it can
be added to a multi-room setup, this is first and foremost an interface device
and not a music device in its own right. The Cube will use the included speaker
for commands, Alexa, and not much else.
I have never found the Fire TV interface slow,
but it has been reported in the past that it can get laggy, especially over
time. While it is hard to test this degradation over the course of the review
period, I can say that the Fire TV Cube feels like the fastest Fire TV-based
device I have ever used. While the Fire TV Stick 4K felt quick for most needs,
this manages to feel a bit faster for every basic task it archives. From
navigating to playing media, I noticed no slowdown throughout my time with the
device. The new Hexa Core processor should be able to handle all your media
needs, whether it be Netflix or browsing your Plex library with ease.
The Fire TV OS interface feels relatively
consistent if you have ever used a past Fire TV device. It is good to see
Amazon has fixed the hole left by YouTube and has done work to make voice
commands function in a more natural way. That being said, Amazon needs to find
a way to promote their originals without it feeling like a bombardment of ads.
They are slowly improving what apps will show within the main interface, making
it feel more like a streamlined experience, but they have a little ways to go
to catch up to Android TV, Apple TV or even Roku on pure app integration.
The Fire TV Cube feels like the flagship
device the range needed. It is powerful, packed with features, and offers it
all in a unique, although slightly dystopian, design. I am happy with the
strides Amazon has made with the lineup, and the interface and Alexa
integration are improving in large strides each year. The biggest issues I have
with the device rest at the feet of IR and the internal speaker, and these are
minor at best. If you are looking to jump into the Echo ecosystem, and need a
new streaming set-top-box, look no further then the Fire TV Cube. For everyone
else who already has Alexa in their living room, the Fire TV Stick 4K should
tackle most of your needs and be a tad less obtrusive.