The Fire TV Cube is just a Fire TV 2017 with slightly updated hardware and an Echo Dot, Amazon’s own speaker/virtual assistant powered by Alexa, built in.
- More space to store (from 8 GB on Fire TV 2017 to now 16 GB)
- Echo Dot works right out of the box with an Ethernet adapter
What’s Not Good:
- It has the same hardware as the 2017 Fire TV, but it has more storage.
- Does not include an HDMI cable. must be bought on its own.
- It costs more than the Fire TV 2017 and Echo Dot bundles.
It’s clear that Amazon wants Alexa to be a household name. It’s no secret that Alexa works with many of its best audio and video devices. Alexa is already built into the Fire TV and FireStick lines of devices. Things should get more interesting when Amazon combines Fire TV, Alexa, and Echo Dot into one package called Fire TV Cube and sends it to you for a price you wouldn’t call cheap. The Cube, which costs $119 as I write this review, seems to be getting more and more like an Apple TV. Apple TV costs $179, so there is only $60 to make up in terms of price. However, there is a lot to catch up on in terms of features and hardware specs.
It wouldn’t be fair to compare the Cube to the Apple TV because they are two different kinds of devices. In this review of the Fire TV Cube, I’ll compare it to the Fire TV (2017) and the Echo Dot, which are more familiar devices.
First, let’s talk about the hardware because this is the foundation of the whole user experience. I’ll use the Amazon Fire TV 2017 as a comparison point because it was the last version of a Fire TV device before the Cube.
The 2017 Fire TV doesn’t have the popular smart speaker Echo Dot, but the Fire TV Cube does. But for now, we’ll put the Echo Dot aside and look at what the Fire TV Cube can do as a media player in terms of its hardware.
The Fire TV Cube is the same as your Fire TV from 2017, but it has more storage space. Unlike the Fire TV, which only has 8 GB of storage, this device has 16 GB of storage built in. Even though Cube doubles the storage space, 16 GB isn’t a lot for people who like to download and save videos. But you can add more storage with the OTG adapter, just like with the other Fire TV devices.
Except for more storage, nothing else about the hardware has changed. The Cube has the same 1.5 GHz processor, 2 GB of RAM, and MIMO Wi-Fi as the Fire TV does. Like the Fire TV, this device can play 4K videos and has Dolby Atmos surround sound audio quality. However, it is not compatible with HDR10+.
The HDMI cable connects Cube to your TV. But it’s hard to believe that it doesn’t come with an HDMI cable. When you pay $120 for something like this, you would at least expect that. When I unpacked Cube and found out this, I was very upset. You can’t start watching videos right away if you don’t already have an HDMI cable. Even the least expensive Fire TV device, the FireStick, comes with an HDMI extension. So, when you buy the Fire TV Cube, add the HDMI cable to your shopping cart.
I almost didn’t say it. For wired connections, the Cube ships with an Ethernet adapter. This is another improvement over the Fire TV, which needs a $14.99 Ethernet adapter to connect to the internet through a wire.
The remote for both the Cube and the Fire TV 2017 is the same. I was hoping that Amazon would finally add a button to change the volume, but it didn’t.
Now Echo Dot
Together, the Fire TV and Echo Dot, which are two different devices, can do almost everything that the Fire TV Cube can do. In fact, you could buy the whole set on Amazon for $94.99. The Cube costs about $22 more and has an extra 8 GB of storage and an Ethernet port built-in.
If you already have an Echo Dot, it doesn’t make much sense to buy the Fire TV Cube. The Echo Dot can do almost everything that the Echo Dot in the Cube can do. With Alexa integration, you can control a lot of smart devices and home appliances, such as your TV, game consoles, lights, and a lot more.
Another problem is keeping two Echo Dots close to each other. If you use the same wake word for both, they might respond to the same commands at the same time, which can be very confusing, especially if they are kept close together. If you want to keep using both of these Alexa devices in the same room, it’s best to keep them in different rooms or change the wake word on one of them.
So, the Fire TV Cube Echo Dot is good at listening to your commands and carrying them out. But the real power of such a device comes from the fact that it can hear even when the sound isn’t great. The Echo Dot really shines in this area. It can hear and understand your commands, even over loud music or from across the room. I tried the Echo Dot with my home theater and was very happy with the results. Even though the music was pretty loud and I was more than 5 feet away, it could hear me and do what I asked.
“Alexa, turn up the volume”
“Alexa, turn down the volume”
“Alexa, play the previous track”
“Alexa, play the next track”
If you put the Cube too close to the loudspeaker, the Echo Dot might not be able to hear you unless you scream.
I was interested to see how the Echo Dot would work with the Fire TV Cube interface since Alexa on Fire TV 2017 didn’t do much. The Echo Dot quickly opened all the apps I asked it to, took me to Settings, searched for apps for me, helped me download apps, and did a lot of other things. But I was a little let down by how it handled my requests to move between apps on the home screen and in the Your Apps & Channels section. I was much better off with the remote than trying to get Alexa to do things she couldn’t do.
But that didn’t make me give up. I knew that the Echo Dot could do a lot more for me than what it could do through the Cube’s interface.
Alexa gave me yet another problem. When I asked her to open Netflix, Hulu, Downloader, or ES File Explorer, it did so quickly. When I told her to open Kodi, Mobdro, and Tea Tv, she was confused and couldn’t do it. How do they differ? All of the apps that Alexa could open quickly came from the Amazon App Store. The apps couldn’t have been put on FireStick by a third party. Alexa is smart enough to open apps from the App Store, but not smart enough to run apps from outside the App Store.
The 0.6-inch Echo Dot speaker on the Fire TV Cube is the same one on the $50 Echo Dot. It’s a simple speaker that doesn’t have woofers or Dolby support. When you want to listen to music at a low volume and don’t want to use your bigger speakers because they use more power, the sound quality is fine.
Wrapping Up – Fire TV Cube Review
If you already have a Fire TV 2017, it doesn’t make much sense to buy a Fire TV Cube. I’d rather save more than $50 by buying a $50 Echo Dot and a $15 Ethernet adapter. You can always buy an OTG adapter on its own if you want more space. An OTG adapter of good quality would cost between $5 and $10. And don’t forget that the Cube doesn’t come with an HDMI cable. You have to buy it on its own. About $8 buys a 6-foot cable.
I think that for $120, Amazon could have shipped a stronger device than what it does now. I would even be happy to pay an extra $10 for a more powerful processor. All Fire TV devices are a bit slow.
Fire TV Cube could be a good place to start. Since it combines two things into one, it would make your setup less crowded. Echo Dot works as well with Cube as it does on its own. You can control your TV, home theater, smart appliances, and a wide range of other smart devices.
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