Is The Amazon Fire TV Cube Right For You?July 11, 2018
Amazon FireTV Cube
Today on the hookup we’re going to take a look at the brand new Amazon Fire TV Cube and figure out if it is the right device for your specific situation.
According to the marketing information the amazon fire TV cube combines the functionality of 3 great devices: An amazon fireTV 4k, an amazon echo dot, and a smart universal remote like the harmony hub, all in one device for around one hundred and twenty dollars.
In practice it falls short of completely replicating the functionality of these three devices, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth buying. Depending on your specific situation it might actually make a lot of sense for you.
Lets start out by comparing the fire tv box to each device it is replacing.
The first device the cube replaces is the Amazon fireTV 4k. The fireTV 4k and the fireTV cube are extremely similar devices. They are both android streaming devices, they have the same processor, support the same resolutions, and have the same apps. The fireTV cube has 16 gigabytes of internal storage compared to the 8 gigabytes found in the fireTV 4k, but since the internal storage is mostly just used for apps this shouldn’t ever be an issue. If you’ve ever used a fireTV 4k you will not notice any significant differences in the fireTV cube.
The second device the cube replaces is the amazon echo dot, and this is where the differences start to show. The main functionality of the amazon echo dot is to respond to voice commands. An amazon echo dot has an array of 7 microphones and has what is called “far field voice recognition”, and in my personal experience the echo dot is pretty great at detecting my voice, even over moderately loud background music. The fireTV cube adds an additional microphone for a total of 8, and a software addition that amazon is calling “beamforming technology” that’s supposed to increase the accuracy of voice detection. So far I haven’t been able to tell any difference between the echo dot’s voice recognition and the fancy beamforming recognition found on the fireTV cube, they both respond to my commands 99% of the time. The fireTV cube can control all of your smart home devices and use custom skills just like the echo dot, but that’s where the similarities end.
The fireTV cube is missing some of the key software features of the echo dot. I imagine these features may be added at some point in the future, but at the time of publishing this video these features are not currently available on the fireTV cube.
First is multi-room audio.
Multi-room audio allows echo devices to become part of a group to allow you to stream your music to multiple devices in your house. Multi-room audio is supported by the echo, echo dot, echo show and echo spot, but not the echo tap, or the fireTV cube.
Second, the fireTV cube doesn’t support Alexa’s calling or drop-in intercom capabilities and instead results in this message…..
If these are features that you commonly use in your smart home, then this device is probably not for you, if not, keep on watching.
The third device the cube replaces is a universal remote hub. I use a Logitech harmony hub to control my main TV and entertainment center, and it is a fantastic device with a beautiful simple remote and a ton of great features. Both the fireTV cube and the harmony hub have the ability to turn your TV on and off, change inputs, control the volume, and change the channels using voice commands. But since the fireTV cube lacks the full standard button set of the Logitech remote, you’re stuck using your voice for the majority of those commands. And while the fireTV cube can control a select feature set for your devices and uses a simple wizard for setup, it lacks the full control and customizability of a Logitech harmony hub, which depending on your home theater setup may be an issue.
Even with all those differences, I’m still happy with my fireTV cube, and I won’t be returning it. Here’s why:
- I wanted to add an echo dot to this room anyway and I won’t miss intercom or multi-room audio in this particular room.
- I already have a harmony hub in my house, and didn’t want to have to deal with the irritation of installing a second alexa skill explaining to my wife and 6 year old that if they want to control the family room tv they need to say “alexa turn on the TV” or “alexa turn up the volume on the TV”, but to control the exercise room tv they need to say “alexa tell harmony to turn on the TV”, or “alexa tell harmony to turn up the volume on the TV”.
- Because the fireTV cube has a single HDMI output there’s no need for me to switch inputs on my TV or my receiver to play music or watch shows like I previously had to do with my roku and chromecast audio setup. And… number four
- My favorite thing about this device is that being in our exercise room we often want to use Bluetooth headphones while working out or running on the treadmill. Our previous solution was to plug this Bluetooth transmitter into the headphone jack of the receiver and fumble through the sketchy pairing process, but on the fireTV cube you just turn on your headphones and they automatically connect and pump all of the audio straight to your ears whether it’s a movie or music. I’d imagine this would be a great solution for bedroom TVs, or watching TV after the rest of the family has gone to bed.
If your situation is similar to mine, the fireTV cube may be a great solution for you. But there’s one last thing that needs to be discussed: bugs. I saved this for last because I’m confident that amazon will release patches to fix these problems quickly, but at the time of publishing these major bugs still exist.
- Priority device: The fireTV cube can do things that your other amazon devices can’t, so it’s important that if multiple echos hear your command to turn up the volume or turn off the tv, the fireTV cube responds instead of your echo dot. Let’s check out how this feature actually works in practice.
- Device control: This is a major bug for me. My fireTV cube knows that when I tell it to turn on the TV it powers on both the TV and receiver like this.
It also knows when to power them both off when I tell it.
But if I tell it to do anything else, like the advertised “Alexa play this is us” it only powers on the TV and leaves the receiver off, resulting in no sound until you specifically ask alexa to turn on the receiver. I’d imagine this bug is due to controlling the TV via HDMI commands and the receiver through infrared, but I honestly can’t believe it wasn’t addressed before release.
So, lets do a quick recap and address the original question: Should you buy the amazon fireTV cube?
Here’s the checklist:
If you are primarily using streaming services for your media and don’t often change channels like you would on a cable or satellite box you will be happy with the fireTV cube
If you already have a harmony hub in your house and don’t want to deal with the multiple skill setup you’ll love the simplicity of the fireTV cube
If you want hands free alexa control and you don’t use drop-in, calling, or multiroom audio the fireTV cube will act as a perfectly acceptable replacement for an echo.
If you want to occasionally use Bluetooth headphones without the hassle of re-pairing and messing with cables every time you’ll love the simplicity of the fireTV cube.
Based on your answers to the previous four questions, here’s what you should buy, and the total cost for each the setup.
US and UK Amazon links to all of the items discussed in this video are in the description below. This was my first review video on this channel. If you have suggestions for improving any future reviews please leave them down in the comments. If you enjoyed this video, please consider subscribing, and as always thanks for watching the hookup.
Amazon Fire TV Cube:
UK: (not available yet)
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