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Amazon’s Fire TV Cube Lets Alexa Control Your Home Entertainment System

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Amazon Fire TV Cube

Amazon Fire TV Cube

Summary

  • Product Name: Fire TV Cube
  • Manufacturer: Amazon
  • Review Date: January 20, 2019 00:00
  • MSRP: $120
  • First Impression: Gotta Have It!
  • Buy Now

Executive Overview

Amazon’s new $120 Fire TV Cube combines the media-streaming capabilities of the company’s previous Fire TV devices with the voice-activated simplicity of its Echo line of smart speakers. But perhaps the biggest draw is the Fire TV Cube’s unique ability to control the other devices in your system, including televisions, AV receivers, and even cable boxes. Instead of fiddling with a bunch of remotes, you can just tell Alexa to turn your system on or off, change inputs, adjust volume, and play specific content across a wide selection of compatible apps.

Amazon Fire CubeThe Fire TV Cube connects via HDMI to a TV, AV receiver, or sound bar. Like Amazon’s Echo devices, it has a built-in speaker, but the Cube defaults to sending audio through your TV or sound system. An array of eight far-field microphones allows the Fire TV Cube to hear you summon Alexa even when you’re blasting your favorite tunes, or watching a loud action movie. Once you have Alexa’s attention, you can use voice commands to control an impressive number of functions. For example, when you first walk into the room, you can simply say, “Alexa, turn on the TV,” and the Fire TV Cube will turn on your television, your receiver or sound bar, and your cable box. If the last thing you were watching was HGTV on cable, that’s what will start playing through your system. You can then say, “Alexa, tune to NBC,” and the channel will change immediately. (As of right now, The Fire TV Cube is compatible with set-top boxes from Comcast, Dish, DirecTV, and Fios.) You can also say, “Alexa, play The Crown on Netflix,” or “Alexa, play The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel on Prime Video,” and the Cube will switch the necessary inputs and pick up the show where you left off. Alexa can play music from a compatible app, such as Spotify, and can be instructed to skip tracks, increase or decrease volume, and then shut down the whole system when you’re finished.  

How does the Fire TV Cube control all of these devices? The box has built-in infrared emitters that deliver control signals wirelessly, just like your remote does. If you have devices hidden away inside a cabinet, Amazon has you covered there, as well. The Cube ships with a separate infrared emitter attached to an 8-foot cable; just connect the cable to the Cube, and stick the emitter inside the cabinet. Some devices can also be controlled via the HDMI connection, which uses the CEC (Consumer Electronics Control) protocol. Amazon claims that the Cube can currently control about 90 percent of devices in use in the United Sates.

As cool as the Fire TV Cube seems, it’s not quite perfect. While the device delivers Dolby Atmos sound and 4K video, its HDR capabilities are limited to HDR10 — no Dolby Vision or HDR10+. Alexa can control many of the most popular apps (including Hulu, ESPN, Showtime, Stars, PlayStation Vue, CBS All Access, and NBC) but many more are not yet compatible with voice control. That means you’ll need to keep the Fire TV remote handy. The remote unfortunately lacks volume and mute buttons. Perhaps the biggest limitation to the Cube’s control abilities has to do with cable boxes. Alexa can’t control your DVR, nor pull up the on-demand content offered by your cable provider. If you want to play a recorded show, or pause, or rewind, you’ll need to use your cable box remote. The Fire TV Cube also can’t control Blu-ray players, nor competing streaming devices from Apple and Roku. And unlike the Apple TV 4K, the Cube can’t link up with other speakers as part of a multi-room audio system.

Limitations aside, Amazon’s Fire TV Cube offers up an impressive amount of functionality and takes a big step toward a future free of confusing remote controls. Future firmware updates may increase the Cube’s ability to control cable boxes, but even in its current state, the Cube can do things that no other streaming device or smart speaker can. Will the Fire TV Cube become the cornerstone of smart home entertainment?

Share your thoughts in the related forum thread below.

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About the author:

Jacob is a music-lover and audiophile who enjoys convincing his friends to buy audio gear that they can't afford. He's also a freelance writer and editor based in Los Angeles.

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Recent Forum Posts:

kystorm posts on January 23, 2019 10:35
At one time I'd never woulda owned an echo, but ended up receiving on for Christmas…..
I'll be danged if I don't use that sucker all the time for convenience of music.
MusicCityTiger posts on January 23, 2019 09:48
Had one, replaced it with (much faster / more responsive / and cheaper) FireTV Stick 4K. Cube has slower processor and constant issues with Hulu Live TV and other apps that all work fine on the Stick and older FireTV Gen 2. I think they piled too much fluff into the Cube with that slow processor. Maybe the next version of the Cube will actually be worth it, but not worth it at all vs. the Stick 4K right now, especially if you already have an Alexa Echo or Dot in your home.
allargon posts on January 22, 2019 16:00
Not gotta have it!

The 4K stick can do everything the cube can do plus one more HDR codec.

Jacob, please reconsider your conclusion on this one.
snakeeyes posts on January 20, 2019 16:13
ryanosaur, post: 1293479, member: 86393
Oh dear… another smart device listening to everything? Our smartphones are bad enough. Maybe if we could truly internalize our smart homes to not broadcast outward. Amazon, Apple, Samsung, etc don't need to know everything. Perhaps if we truly had privacy control and we each had our own in-home Micronet-of-things with the ability to adjust from total privacy on the one side, to allowing our fridge to order from amazon whenever it sensed that our heinz57 was low on the other?
Yes, I'm the guy that puts post-its over my iMac camera, keeps my location services off, and doesn't turn on the TVs microphone. I don't have an echo or a dot or homepods. Siri and Gmail are bad enough, for me.
We have, perhaps wittingly, allowed big brother to begin, all in the name of convenience.

If you'll excuse me, I need to put my foil-wrapped bicycle helmet back on, put my phone in its faraday cage, and watch some conspiracy theory videos on youtube now.

Ha!

More likely I'll go catch up on a few pages Subwoofer Candy!

They are after your secret recipes.
ryanosaur posts on January 20, 2019 16:03
Oh dear… another smart device listening to everything? Our smartphones are bad enough. Maybe if we could truly internalize our smart homes to not broadcast outward. Amazon, Apple, Samsung, etc don't need to know everything. Perhaps if we truly had privacy control and we each had our own in-home Micronet-of-things with the ability to adjust from total privacy on the one side, to allowing our fridge to order from amazon whenever it sensed that our heinz57 was low on the other?
Yes, I'm the guy that puts post-its over my iMac camera, keeps my location services off, and doesn't turn on the TVs microphone. I don't have an echo or a dot or homepods. Siri and Gmail are bad enough, for me.
We have, perhaps wittingly, allowed big brother to begin, all in the name of convenience.

If you'll excuse me, I need to put my foil-wrapped bicycle helmet back on, put my phone in its faraday cage, and watch some conspiracy theory videos on youtube now.

Ha!

More likely I'll go catch up on a few pages Subwoofer Candy!
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