Amazon Fire Cube TV Review

The Amazon Fire Cube TV arrives with Alexa in tow

The $119.99 Fire TV Cube is best thought of as the offspring of an Echo and a Fire TV 4K. It brings with it all the same content options as Amazon’s own Fire TV 4K, namely Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu and so on. But the bigger point is that it brings the Echo’s voice control capabilities to your television. The Fire TV Cube allows you full voice control from across the room. Searching for movies or TV shows, launch video streaming apps, and play, pause, and control the volume all with the sound of your own voice.

The Fire TV Cube is fairly simple and charlatan when it comes to design. It’s just a 3.5-inch black plastic cube, with an LED upfront and cords for HDMI, power, IR extender and wired networking on the back. On top of the cube we’ve got eight far-field microphones and at the bottom of the device we’ve got Alexa’s downward firing speaker. Overall, it’s really a simple, but also well built cube. There’s really not much else to say about the build quality or design here.

The Fire TV Cube may sound complicated to setup, but it’s actually a fairly streamlined experience. You mainly just plug it into a power outlet and then use an HDMI cable to your TV. Amazon’s software then gives you a rundown on what to do to get your Cube to control your cable box speakers and TV with your voice. It’s very easy to understand and relatively hassle free.

The next specialty of the Fire TV Cube is that it enables specific content searches. For example, you can directly ask Alexa to show you action movies starring Samuel L. Jackson, and you’ll be able to get exactly that. Alexa will then offer you options to watch, rent or purchase whatever show or movie you’ve selected. It places priority towards free content, so things from Netflix and Amazon Prime Video are usually the top options.

Perhaps the most impressive part of the Fire TV Cube is how it can directly control other appliances around it. Giving Alexa a command like “Turn on Fox” will trigger the IR blasters on the Cube. This allows the nifty device to pull off things like turning on your television and change the channel, all with just your own voice. It’s pretty impressive and convenient, and it helps save time and breath. That doesn’t mean the device is all strawberries and sunshine though.

One of the biggest problems with the Fire TV Cube is that while it’s a cool concept, it’s not always useful. The use of IR technology means that the Cube will always need a direct line of sight to all the appliances. On top of that, it’s very possible for the Cube to just fail at sending commands if there’s any interference at all, making the IR extender an almost mandatory addition. Alexa, great as she is, has issues with volume controls that basically force you to use the included remote anyway.

And that’s another issue, the remote that comes with every Fire TV Cube. It’s by all means just the standard Amazon Fire TV remote, and it’s severely limited in what it can do. While it does have a directional pad and eight buttons, it has no options to change the volume, mute sound or even turn on your television. All these limitation mean that when the Cube works, it’s really cool, but when it doesn’t you’re still stuck with your stack of remotes anyway.

That’s not to say I dislike the Fire TV Cube however. On the contrary, it’s really an impressive piece of kit that shows how far we’ve come in terms of technology. It’s a relatively inexpensive and diminutive box that can seamlessly control a plethora of appliances from different manufacturers with just your voice. It’s almost like something out of a sci-fi movie, just with some apparent caveats.

While it doesn’t work 100% of the time, it’s intriguing to see where Amazon takes this technology and how well they develop it further. As it is now, it’s a bundle of potential that could be one of the most useful and innovative products available for your living room. It’s not going to threaten the remotes in my living room just yet, but I’m definitely looking forward to the day where it does.

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