Amazon Fire TV Cube: Useful, Versatile, And Alexa Voice Assistant
Amazon is finally marketing the Fire TV Cube in India, a 4K multimedia box, a close relative of the Fire Stick we already know. It combines powerful hardware dedicated to multimedia streaming with the voice assistant of the Echo range. In India, the second generation of the device comes to us with the exa-core processor and HDR 10+ support. It is a versatile 4K multimedia box, even with certain technical and software limitations.
Amazon’s recent presentation also unveiled two new Fire Sticks, the standard 2020 version and the Lite, which will continue to be sold alongside the 4K, which will continue to be sold. In the next few days, you can also read our opinion on the new HDMI sticks. We will present them to you before the arrival of Prime Day 2020, where all these Amazon-branded devices will likely be sold at a discount.
Fire TV Cube: Everything you need
Like all Amazon Fire TV devices, the Cube has been designed with a dual objective: to transform televisions that are not yet smart into smart TVs and to easily and intuitively transmit the catalog of streaming content from Amazon services. Unlike the Fire Stick, the Cube includes an integrated speaker and 8 microphones dedicated to voice commands.
The accessory also offers IR extension and advanced integration with the television ecosystem ( game consoles, soundbars, media players, etc. ). Amazon Fire TV Cube can be a Fire Stick 4K in audio-video playback capabilities ( up to 4K at 60 fps with HDR 10+ ). It also offers more flexibility in controlling the device and voice commands, letting you do almost anything with your voice.
The Design Of The Cube
Amazon Fire TV Cube is a small plastic cube with 86.1 x 86.1 x 76.9 millimeters and weighing just under 500 grams. On the satin top are the Alexa button, the volume + and – buttons, and the button to mute the microphone. There’s also a ring of LEDs, which take on different colors depending on your operations. This is the classic lighting found on all Amazon Echo speakers with Alexa. The three front vertical faces are shiny.
At the back are a micro USB port, a power port, an HDMI socket, and a port to connect an IR extension cable. Finally, the base is covered with rubber to protect the furniture on which it is placed. The Cube has a remote control ( two AAA batteries included ), an IR port, and various buttons to control the Fire TV interface. There is also a micro USB/Ethernet adapter ( 100 Mbps) for system networking.
The IR extender allows control of devices outside the remote’s field of vision, such as hidden behind a closet door. As for the package, an HDMI cable would have been at least desirable. Also, without it, you are completely locked out of using the Fire TV Cube; you can only use its speaker capabilities. We would also have liked to find a full-size USB port if you want to use the Ethernet connection with the micro USB alone. The micro USB port supports memories up to 128 GB.
Technical Specifications Of The Fire TV Cube
- Processor: Esa core ( quad core 2.2 GHz + dual core 1.9 Ghz )
- Mali G52-MP2 GPU
- Memory: 16 GB of storage and 2 GB of RAM
- Connectivity: WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 5.0 + LE, IR
- Sound: 40mm speaker
- VIDEO: Dolby Vision, HDR10, HDR10+, HLG, H.265, H.264, VP9.
- Sound: AAC-LC, AC3, eAC3 ( Dolby Computerized In addition to ), FLAC, MP3, PCM/Wave, Vorbis, Dolby Atmos ( EC3_JOC )
- PICTURES: JPEG, PNG, GIF, BMP
- Definition: 2160p at 60 fps (4K) HDR
- Dolby Atmos, 7.1 encompass sound, 2 sound system channels, and HDMI sound pass-through up to 5.1
From the first moments of using the Cube, you appreciate the excellent performance of the solution. The passage from one application to another is fluid; the launch of the reading or the start of the device is really simple. Also, very good in-game behavior when paired with a Bluetooth controller. It is clear that it is not a game console or an accessory specifically designed for this purpose, but it can be useful if necessary.
Control Your Connected Devices
One of the most interesting, but at the same time somewhat “forced” aspects, is the control of external devices. The Fire TV Cube, thanks to the IR port of the remote control, the IR extension cable, and the compatibility with HDMI-CEC is potentially able to control any device connected to the television, but not only. It’s tempting to use one remote or, better yet, voice commands to control all the elements of our home entertainment system.
For example, a television with a soundbar connected via optical or HDMI, a home cinema, a Canal+ decoder, or even a game console. But in reality, this is not the case; the system is quite closed. You can turn devices on or off, adjust volume, and move between the TV’s different HDMI inputs, but this feature isn’t unavailable. In the settings, you can choose how to manage the communication between the television and the other connected devices by selecting IR, HDMI-CEC, or automatic.
But generally, all default settings work fine and do not require user intervention. There are certain limitations, some of which may be lifted by software updates, notably the control of DTT channels, which you cannot use at the moment, and which requires you to keep the main remote control of your TV at your fingertips. In our case, however, we could eliminate the connected soundbar’s remote control. Although connected to the TV only by an optical cable, it could be turned on and off thanks to the Fire TV Cube. Convenient.
The main advantage of the Fire TV Cube over the Fire Stick is the ability to give voice instructions to control different aspects of its operation. “Alexa, turn on the television,” “turn on the sound bar,” and “Start this series,” but also “raise or lower the sound” allow you to simulate the use of the remote control.
Added to this are the classic Alexa commands, but in this case, they are complemented by the possibility of watching the results on the TV when it is on. Convenient, for example, for displaying recipes, video from your outdoor surveillance camera or connected videophone, or even information from your weather station. To simplify, the Cube, connected to the television, has the same potential as an Amazon Echo Show.
Content Catalog And Interface
Amazon’s content catalog is getting bigger and bigger. It may not yet be able to compete with Netflix, but thanks to a few exclusives in recent months, the offering has improved. Even the films are increasingly numerous, with recent and unexpected titles. Remember that Amazon has given a chance in recent months to some great productions intended for a cinema release, which had to be canceled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
As for the operating system, again, the interface is very fast. The Fire Cube, it’s quite intuitive, although a little confusing. You can install the Android apps on the Amazon store; the main ones are there. Otherwise, the “ask” option allows you to install them manually. Very well designed, the function delivers information about the actors, the soundtrack, and other elements of the film or even the scene you are watching. The feature isn’t new but useful for learning more about a series or movie.
Our general opinion of the Fire TV Cube is positive; it is a very versatile product and well integrated into the multimedia system of the house. However, there is still much to do on the software side. The planned update to the Fire TV interface could hold some surprises for the next few months. There is still much room to add features that take advantage of the hardware. We could cite video calls ( integration with Zoom is coming ) or a customizable control center for IR commands.
On the hardware side, for a possible next generation, it would be good to find a USB type C port for connections and power supply, with an included dongle for Gigabit Ethernet connection and support for external memory of more than 128 GB. We haven’t talked about it yet, but one aspect that puzzles us is the audio quality of the built-in speaker. Indeed, it is even weaker than an Echo Dot. However, in day-to-day practice, the Cube’s speaker is only useful for listening to responses from Alexa.
Fire TV Cube Reviews And Price
Amazon’s Fire TV Cube costs 119.99 euros, almost double the Fire TV Stick 4K. In summary, it is a versatile product and certainly useful in different contexts; it has all the functions of an HDMI dongle but with some additional possibilities. Having a multimedia system in your house with more elements is ideal. You own a 4K TV, soundbar, or other home theater system to watch movies or listen to music.
If you want to take advantage of the Amazon Prime Video and Music catalog or review your family photos on your TV after uploading them to Amazon Photos, then the Cube is for you. Despite its good capabilities, the Fire TV Cube did not fully convince us due to certain limitations and a high price compared to a Fire Stick 4K. In most cases, a Fire Stick will suffice. The Fire TV Cube risks remaining a little in limbo between the substantial savings of a Fire Stick 4K and the possibility of associating one of the HDMI keys with an Echo-connected speaker to gain in audio quality. In short, there is room for a third generation of the Cube.
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