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The Fire TV Cube is simply a Fire TV with slightly updated hardware and built-in Echo Dot, Amazon’s Alexa-powered virtual speaker assistant.
What is good:
- Increased storage (from 8GB on Fire TV to now 16GB)
- Ready-to-use Ethernet adapter
- Echo Dot integration
What is not good:
- Same hardware specs as Fire TV, except more storage
- Does not include HDMI cable. Must be purchased separately
- More expensive than the Fire TV and Echo Dot combo
Clearly Amazon is trying to make Alexa a household name. Alexa’s integration with many of your leading audio and video devices is no secret. The Fire TV and FireStick line of devices already have Alexa capabilities. Now, things are supposed to get more exciting as Amazon marries the Fire TV, Alexa, and Echo Dot in a Fire TV Cube-branded package and delivers it to you for a price you wouldn’t call cheap. Available for $ 119 as I write this review, Cube appears to be slowly falling in line with Apple TV. But while there’s only $ 60 worth of catch-up pricing (because Apple TV is priced at $ 179), there’s a lot to cover in features and hardware specs.
It would be unfair to compare Cube with Apple TV, since they are two different classes of devices. In this Fire TV Cube review, I will introduce you to more familiar devices, Fire TV (2017) and Echo Dot.
Hardware first because this is what the entire user experience is based on. I’ll take Amazon Fire TV as a benchmark for comparison, as it was the last iteration in the Fire TV line of devices before Cube.
The Fire TV Cube includes the Echo Dot, the already popular smart speaker, which the Fire TV doesn’t have. But for now, we slide the Echo Dot aside and look at the Fire TV Cube’s core hardware capabilities as a multimedia device.
Fire TV Cube is exactly your version of Fire TV, but with more storage. This device offers 16GB internal storage compared to the Fire TV, which is only 8GB. Although Cube doubles the storage capacity, 16GB is not much for those who like to save videos. But, like the other Fire TV devices, you can expand the storage with the OTG adapter.
In addition to increased storage, all other hardware specifications remain the same. Cube has the same 1.5 GHz processor as the Fire TV, 2 GB of RAM, and MIMO Wi-Fi. This device is also HDR10 compliant and not HDR10 + compliant like the Fire TV, it plays 4K videos and offers audio quality with Dolby Atmos surround sound.
Cube connects to your TV via HDMI. But it’s hard to believe that the HDMI cable is not shipped from the factory. When you pay $ 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 can’t start watching videos right away. Even the FireStick, the cheapest of the Fire TV line of multimedia devices, comes with an HDMI extension. So please add the HDMI cable to the shopping cart when you buy Fire TV Cube.
I almost forgot to mention. Cube ships an Ethernet adapter in the box for wired connectivity. This is another Fire TV upgrade, requiring an additional $ 14.99 Ethernet adapter for wired internet connection.
Both Cube and Fire TV have the exact same remote. I was hoping Amazon would finally add the volume control button, although it didn’t.
Now Echo Dot
Fire TV and Echo Dot (two separate devices) together can do almost everything the Fire TV Cube can do. In fact, you can buy the combo for $ 94.99 on Amazon. Cube costs you around $ 22 more and gives you an additional 8GB and a built-in Ethernet port.
If you already own one of the Echo Dot devices, the Fire TV Cube doesn’t make much sense. The Echo Dot, as a standalone device, can do almost everything the Echo Dot can do in the cube. You can control a host of smart devices and home appliances with Alexa integration, including your TV, game consoles, lighting, and much more.
There is another challenge, keeping two Echo Dots close. If you are using the same trigger word, they can both respond to the same commands simultaneously, which is very confusing, especially when both are kept close together. It’s best to keep both Alexa devices in separate rooms or change the wake word on one of them if you intend to continue using them in the same room.
That being said, the Fire TV Cube Echo Dot is good at listening and executing your commands. But, the true power of such a device lies in its ability to hear in less than ideal audible conditions. That’s where the Echo Dot really shines. You can hear and recognize your commands from across the room and even with loud music. I personally tested the Echo Dot with my home theater system and the results were wonderful. From over 5 feet and with music quite loud, I could hear myself and execute my commands.
“Alexa, turn up the volume”
“Alexa, turn down the volume”
“Alexa, play the previous track”
“Alexa, play the next track”
Try not to hold the Cube too close to the speaker at full volume or you may have to yell at the top of your lungs to get the Echo Dot to hear you.
I was curious how the 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 of it, took me to Settings, searched for apps for me, helped me apps, and a bunch of other things. But, I was a bit disappointed with how it handled my requests to browse the app list on the home screen, as well as the Your Apps and Channels segment. I was so much better with the remote than freaking out giving commands that Alexa couldn’t execute.
But I was not discouraged. I knew the Echo Dots capabilities extend far beyond the Cube interface and it can do so much more for me.
I ran into another challenge with Alexa. When I asked him to open Netflix, Hulu, er, or ES File Explorer, he launched these apps right away. When I ordered her to run Kodi, Mobdro, and Tea Tv, she was stumped and couldn’t open these apps. What is the difference? The apps that Alexa could quickly open are found in the Amazon app store. Applications that could not have been downloaded to FireStick. The point is, Alexa is smart enough to open apps from the App Store, but not smart enough to run side-loading third-party apps.
The Fire TV Cube has the same 0.6 ”Echo Dot speaker as the $ 50 Echo Dot. It’s a basic speaker with no woofers and no Dolby support. Sound quality is acceptable when you want to enjoy music at a low volume and don’t want to turn on your larger speakers as they will consume more power.
Wrapping Up – Fire TV Cube Review
If you have Fire TV, buying Fire TV Cube doesn’t make much sense. I’d rather buy a $ 50 Echo Dot and a $ 15 Ethernet adapter and still save over $ 50. If you want more storage, you can always buy an OTG adapter separately. A good quality OTG adapter would cost you between $ 5 and $ 10. And don’t forget that the Cube doesn’t include the HDMI cable in the box. You need to buy it separately. A 6-foot cable costs about $ 8.
I think Amazon could have packed a sturdier device than it ships for $ 120. In fact, I wouldn’t mind paying an extra $ 10 for a more powerful processor. All Fire TV devices are a bit slow.
If you don’t have a Fire TV yet, I think the Fire TV Cube could be a good start. Since you combine two devices in one, your setup would be less cluttered. Echo Dot is as good with the Cube as it is on its own. You can control your smart appliances, televisions, home theater systems, and a wide range of smart devices.
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