The video streaming market is so saturated, companies are doing all they can to make their devices stand out. For Amazon, they differentiated their line up Fire TV products with one very distinguishing feature—Alexa, the company’s own digital assistant. In fact, they don’t just work with Alexa, Alexa is built in!
The new-for-2019 4K Amazon Fire TV Cube is the evolution of the original Fire TV Cube which Amazon released last year. The 2019 4K Amazon Fire TV Cube combines an Amazon Echo and a Fire TV in one single device. You can use your voice to launch TV shows, play music, check on the weather or turn the TV on and off, control cable boxes, and even soundbars. You can even use the Alexa functions when the TV is off.
Amazon Fire TV Cube review
The new 4K Amazon Fire TV Cube keeps the same design as before. But this time the brains are more refined with the addition of Dolby Vision (Dolby Vision is the brand name for a high dynamic range (HDR) 4K video format developed and promoted by the folks that brought us Dolby Surround a) , faster response times thanks to a more powerful and upgraded processor, and support for HDR too.
Amazon Fire TV Cube – What’s in the Box?
There’s plenty to unpack in this television kit. Inside the box you’ll get the grapefruit sized, but cube-shaped Fire TV Cube. There’s a power cord, an optional infrared extender cable, and optional Ethernet adapter, and a small electric remote. Oh yeah, and the batteries are also included!
How to set up Amazon Fire TV Cube
Set up was simple. Once you get everything plugged everything in and powered up, Fire TV Cube will start searching for the included remote right away. Once it finds it, you’ll touch the home button on the remote to connect. Then press the play pause button to begin the rest of the set up process. You’ll choose your country, then connect to your home’s Wi-Fi network.
Your device will likely try to do a firmware update, and you may have to reset the power to force this to happen.
You’ll sign up for an account or sign into your existing Amazon account, you can then add parental controls, and choose available streaming services.
What can I watch on Amazon Fire TV Cube in Canada?
It’s actually very pleasing to see several Canadian channel options on this device. One of my favourite streaming devices to this point has been a Roku, but Roku’s Canadian content is quite limited. Here on the Fire TV Cube, there’s Crave, Bell Fibe TV, Global, CTV, and CBC Gem. you can also add sports channels, and music streaming apps too. The device will add all of your chosen channels or apps to your home screen. You can also at this point enable Alexa voice control. While I read that Fire TV Cube is supposed to have Apple TV on it, I wasn’t able to find the app, so maybe it’s not enabled in Canada yet? I did however get access to my Audible library which was a great surprise and a nice added
Fire TV to control other home theatre equipment
It’s worth pointing out, your fire TV cube needs line of sight to your equipment if you’re going to use it to control other stereo components. You can’t put it in a closed cabinet, it needs to be unobstructed, and facing you where you’ll be holding the remote. Another consideration; it needs to be at least 30 cm away from any speakers.
At this point, Alexa will test turning your TV set on and off. Despite the fact this television I’m testing this on is over 10 years old, it was still successfully able to shut the TV off and on. Magic! Though I will say it takes nearly 20 seconds for it to come to life on this older
Why is Alexa so loud on Fire TV Cube?
When I got the Cube set up, Alex’s voice was deafeningly loud when it talked to me via the TV speaker. I tried turning it down using the buttons on the top of the device. Nada. I asked Alexa to change her voice level, but nothing happened. I looked for any help in Settings, Nothing. While the TV program volume was normal, Alexa remained way too loud.
I was finally able to fix this by asking Alexa to shut the TV off, then asking Alexa to give me the weather forecast via the Cube device (Alexa will respond to commands even if your TV is turned off) While she was talking, I used the buttons on the Cube to lower her volume. When I powered up the TV again, her voice was at a a normal level. Finally.
How to control the Amazon Fire TV Cube
Using Alexa to control the TV is so easy. Just say things like, Play Forensic Files, pause, or ‘Search for CSI Miami’. The screen will show you what’s available. You can say ‘Show more” to scroll through.
Alexa for other home commands
You can use Alexa for other info too, and you’ll get matching visuals on screen. Ask for the weather forecast, conversions, for information or searches about people places or things. It’s very handy!
Amazon Fire TV Cube: Design
Design-wise, the new Fire TV Cube looks literally like a cube similar to its predecessor. The cube is 3-inches on all sides with glossy black plastic on four sides and matte black plastic top. There is a LED translucent strip on the front edge of the cube to denote the front. The top panel houses Alexa, and there are volume up/down buttons, microphone mute buttons, and eight pinholes indicating the microphone.
There’s a built in speaker in the cube, so Alexa can talk with you; the built-in speaker is located in the bottom panel, and the cube is lifted slightly by four rubber feet. In the rear, there is a micro USB port (no Type-C here), an HDMI output, infrared blaster, and power port.
As the Fire TV Cube is designed for use in the open, the glossy sides of the device hides infrared emitters that allows the device to work as a remote for nearby home theatre devices. Amazon also included an Ethernet adapter that works with the micro USB port and that IR extender so you can hide it somewhat. This is one of the larger streaming devices out there though, bigger than even the behemoth 4K Apple TV.
Amazon Fire TV Cube: Hands-Free Alexa
The Fire TV Cube’s main notable feature is the hands-free use of Alexa. As you may know by now, to ask a question or give a command, you say her name, then give the command. The Fire TV Cube will promptly respond with its built-in speaker and will display relevant information if the TV is on. Alexa can take control of your home theater devices with its IR emitters. You can also communicate and control your smart home appliances via Wi-Fi if they support Alexa.
Amazon Fire TV Cube: Performance
Amazon says users will see a noticeable improvement in performance over the previous Fire TV Cube, but since I didn’t review that one, I can’t compare.. The 2019 Fire TV Cube sports a Hexa-Core ARM CPU, which is a lot more powerful than the last year’s original Fire TV Cube, had a quad-core ARM CPU. Users will notice a considerable difference is speed and response times when opening and switching between apps and navigating menus. YouTube and Netflix, which used to take around 4-5 seconds to load on the previous Fire TV Cube, will now take a second to open in the new model. The videos lapparently oad and play a lot faster than before. For me, navigating the menus and switching between the apps in the Fire TV Cube is definitley quick and responsive.
Amazon Fire TV Cube: HDR and Media Streaming Capabilities
The Fire TV Cube runs Fire OS like other Fire TV products. In addition to Amazon’s services like Amazon Music and Prime Video, the Fire TV Cube lets you access streaming apps like Netflix, and all that Canadian TV we talked about earlier.
Fire TV Cube also lets you browse the internet either with Firefox or Amazon’s Silk browser. You can also rent or buy TV shows and movies through Amazon’s video service. Remarkably, Google is now allowing both YouTube and YouTube TV on Fire OS, which is impressive. This means that Fire OS now supports almost every single streaming video app currently available. The new Fire TV Cube has upgraded media streaming capabilities such as expanded HDR, HDR10, HDR10+, Dolby Vision, and Hybrid Log-Gamma (HLG).
Amazon Fire TV Cube: Pros & Cons
- Dolby Vision and HDR+
- Responds to most video viewing commands
- Support all major streaming services
- Fast performance
- 4K HDR playback
- TV/AV control center
- Includes a Remote
- Voice Control
- Expensive compared to other 4K streamers
- HDMI cable not included
- Big and bulky; not ideal for wall mounted installations
Overall Review: Amazon Fire TV Cube
If you already have a Fire TV Cube, you probably don’t need to upgrade, but if you’re looking for a new streaming device, this is a pretty powerful package.
The Fire TV Cube is easy to set up and it operates easily with your voice or the included remote. I absolutely LOVE controlling this TV with my voice. I’ve been using it in the kitchen where I’m usually cooking so being able to call out commands to load up shows is a huge help. You get a tonne of streaming channels including CanCon. On the downside, it’s not well suited to wall mounting.
But in short, if you’re looking for a smart TV streaming device, with hands-free control and responsive intelligence, I can recommend the Amazon Fire TV Cube. It sells for about $149CAD from Amazon, naturally.
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