The home entertainment setup has evolved a lot over the past few years. The idiot box on your wall is anything but an idiot. Not only can today’s TVs connect to the internet, but they can also stream movies and TV shows, tell you the weather forecast and also tell you how much time it will take you to reach the office. You can also monitor the security cameras surrounding your house along with the baby monitor from the comfort of your TV.
Devices like the Chromecast, Fire TV Stick and Mi Box 4K (review) are instrumental in bringing you a smart TV experience without breaking the bank. While high-end TVs from the mid-2010s are still better than most mid-range TVs today, their smart capabilities are dwindling. That’s where devices like the Fire TV Cube help breathe new life into your entertainment setup.
Today we have the latest offering from Amazon - the Fire TV Cube. The Fire TV Cube not only aims to turn your TV into a smart TV but also lets you control your entertainment setup, essentially eliminating the need for a universal remote. It can also control your Alexa enabled devices. Is this your one-stop solution for a smart home setup? Or are you better off sticking to your existing Fire TV Stick? Let’s find out.
In the box, you get the Fire TV Cube along with the new Alexa remote control. You also get a power cable, IR cable and an ethernet adapter. The Fire TV Cube connects to the TV via an HDMI cable. Sadly, there is no HDMI cable bundled with the Fire TV Cube. That’s a tad disappointing especially when devices like the Mi Box 4K comes with an HDMI cable in the box. However, it is nice to see an IR extender and ethernet adapter in the box. The former is useful if you want to control your set-top-box with the Cube, and the latter will ensure you get the best streaming experience without any lag.
As the name suggests, the Fire TV Cube is a cube. It’s small and fits in the palm of your hand. It’s lightweight and has a glossy finish all around. The glossy finish ensures it’s a fingerprint and dust magnet, so you may want to keep a cloth handy.
The top of the device has eight microphones to pick up your voice. There are four buttons here as well - volume up, volume down, mute and Alexa. The Alexa button may feel redundant at first, considering the device can hear you from across the room, and the remote control has an Alexa button and mic. Still, it’s appreciated for the times you need a physical button on the device. The top front edge lights up blue when you say the magic word, just like it would on an Amazon Alexa speaker.
The ports are neatly laid out at the back. For connectivity, we have a micro-USB port, IR port, HDMI port and power port. At the bottom, the Fire TV Cube has a small speaker and four rubber feet so that the speaker doesn’t get muffled.
Overall, the Fire TV Cube design is quite minimalist, and it can blend into your home entertainment setup. If you have an all-black soundbar, a black set-top-box, you won't even notice the presence of the Cube until its blue light glows, and that’s a good thing.
In addition to the connectivity options mentioned above, the Fire TV Cube also supports Bluetooth 5.0 and dual-band Wi-Fi. The device has 16GB (12.98GB user available) built-in storage, 2GB RAM and is powered by a Hexa-core processor (Quad-core at up to 2.2GHz + Dual-core at up to 1.9GHz)
To put things into perspective, the Fire TV Stick 4K has 1.5GB RAM and is powered by a quad-core processor clocked at 1.7GHz. It also has 8GB of storage.
Coming back to the Cube, the Fire TV Cube supports HDR 10, HDR 10+, HLG Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos.
The remote control you get with the Fire TV Cube is similar to the one we’ve seen on the AmazonBasics Fire TV (review). It is similar to the remote control one gets with the Fire TV Stick 3rd gen (review) with some key differences. The Alexa button up top is now blue, and you get OTT hotkeys to bring up Prime Video, Netflix and Amazon Music. There is also a dedicated button to bring up your apps collection. It has a dedicated mute button, a volume rocker and a button for Live TV. This is the most evolved Fire TV remote we’ve seen to date, and it gets the job done. It has all the traditional controls we’ve grown to love on the Fire TV remote control, including playback controls, navigation and more.
Snappy is the first thing that will come to mind when you start using the Fire TV Cube. My primary streaming device is the 4K Fire TV Stick, and the Fire TV cube feels much faster. From boot up to navigating the UI and even launching apps, the improved power under the hood compared to the Fire TV Stick brings about noticeable improvements.
The UI of the Fire TV cube is the same we’ve experienced on the third-gen Fire TV Stick and the Fire TV Stick 4K for some time now. You have the home screen, which shows you your most-used apps along with content suggestions, and you can always navigate to your favourite apps or pieces of content using the remote or your voice.
We placed the Fire TV Cube right below the TV and slightly behind the soundbar. Even with the soundbar at 50-60% volume, the Fire TV Cube caught our voice accurately and 9 out of 10 times displayed precisely what we wanted to see. We set up the Cube with an LG B9 OLED TV, and a Yamaha YAS 209 soundbar and could easily switch on and off both devices using our voice. We could also change HDMI inputs, increase/decrease the volume and more.
If you have a set-top-box, you can also control it by connecting the included IR cable to the cube and the set-top-box. Sadly, we don't have a set-top-box to test this with (cord-cutting generation).
If you have other Alexa enabled devices such as lights, security cameras and other smart home appliances, you can easily control them using the cube. I can imagine someone with a home theatre setup and five different remotes (for the amplifier, projector, Fire TV Stick, Blu-ray player), etc. replacing all of them with this one device. Previously, my recommendation for someone with an elaborate home entertainment setup was the Logitech Harmony universal remote control. But sadly, since Logitech has pulled the plug on the Harmony, I can easily recommend this device as a replacement.
The only problem I have with the Cube is that it takes more steps than I’d like for some activities. For example, I need to say, “show me Game of Thrones”, and it will show me the options. After this, it is a lot easier for me to use the remote control to navigate the options if I don't know exactly what I’m looking for. However, I can always say, “Alexa, Play Game of Thrones Season 7 Episode 3”, and it’ll obey my command.
When I asked it to play John Wick Chapter 2, I was taken to an Amazon page where it showed me the content was unavailable. However, the movie is available on Liongate Play. I have not installed the app, nor am I subscribed to the service. I still feel Alexa should have shown me the “available streaming options'' rather than asking me to an Amazon page where the content is unavailable. These are minor niggles that the service can fix in the future but prevents the Cube from being the perfect companion.
For all other commands like “Alexa, switch off the lights”, or “Alexa, tell me a joke”, or “Alexa, let’s play a game”, the performance of the cube is the same as an Alexa enabled speaker or a device like an echo show or even the Fire TV Stick.
When it comes to content playback, the Fire TV cube is sublime. It can play back Dolby Vision, HDR 10, HDR 10+, HLG and Dolby Atmos. When connected to the LG B9 OLED, the Fire TV Cube was always in HDR mode, even when consuming SDR content. While this may appeal to some, for others, you need to change the settings to reflect the correct dynamic range. To change this, a user can simply go into settings, then display and audio settings, then Display, then Dynamic Range Settings. Here you can change the Dynamic range from Always HDR to Adaptive. This means the display (TV) will now match the original dynamic range of the content.
If you are a power user, have an elaborate home theatre setup and a host of IoT devices, then recommending the Fire TV Cube is a no brainer for someone like you. You will not only exploit the device to its fullest potential but also replace the six different remote controls you have for your entertainment setup with one voice-enabled device. The Fire TV Cube brings a sleek and minimalist form factor, is easy to use, and can replace your primary streaming device.
Where it lacks is, sometimes it’s quicker to use a remote control rather than your voice. In some cases, the device doesn't do what you’ve asked, and that can get a tad frustrating, leading you to reach for the remote control.
So, is the Fire TV Cube the right device for you? As I said above, if you are a power user of IoT devices, yes. But for the rest of you that want to make your 4K TV a Smart TV simply, then the Fire TV Stick 4K is more than capable of getting the job done. The 4K Fire TV comes with a remote control that can work as a universal remote control for your TV and soundbar/home theatre. If you have an FHD TV, then the Fire TV Stick 3rd gen can do the same for you. You can also control your IoT enabled devices via the Fire TV Stick; you won't get the hands-free experience and will need to use the Alexa remote control. The Good news is that depending on your use case, there is a Fire TV device that can cater to your needs. The tough choice is choosing a suitable device.
Sameer Mitha lives for gaming and technology is his muse. When he isn’t busy playing with gadgets or video games he delves into the world of fantasy novels.