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- The Fire TV Cube ($119.99) is an Amazon device that connects to your TV to allow you to browse and watch content across multiple streaming platforms like Netflix, Hulu, and HBO Now.
- Amazon’s voice-activated assistant, Alexa, is integrated into the Fire TV Cube. This makes it easier to control content, get movie details or other facts you might want to learn about, and even control smart devices such as lighting or connected kitchen appliances in your home.
- The streamlined remote allows you to find and control content when you don’t want to talk to Alexa.
While many TV manufacturers are continuing to push out the latest and greatest 4K/UHD-TV sets, chances are you might not be ready to make the jump just yet. Waiting might not be such a bad idea given that the industry is still working out the standards for high dynamic range (HDR), and 8K might not be that far off, either. The point is, if your current HDTV works, there is no reason to replace it – instead, you could add the Fire TV Cube from Amazon to give it a little more life, like streaming capabilities.
The need for a device like the Fire TV Cube became essential in my home theater setup thanks to a perfect storm of cable, satellite, and streaming issues. I’ll spare you the details, but I will say our trusty smart TV wasn’t so smart anymore, and some of our streaming services weren’t getting the updates they needed.
My household is so entrenched into the Amazon ecosystem that Fire TV Cube made sense over the other options out there: The device is compatible with all the streaming services I use, like Netflix, Hulu, and HBO Now, and the Fire TV Cube also comes with an Ethernet adapter. Since my husband is unwilling to trust a wireless stream, plugging in is a requirement. Plus, we like that Amazon’s well-designed interface is easy to navigate and works across streaming services and apps.
When it comes to cost, $119.99 is on the high end, but still reasonable. I recommend trying to catch one of Amazon’s frequent sales if you’re patient enough.
Fire TV Cube specs
- Dimensions: 3.4 inches x 3.4 inches x 3.0 inches
- Weight: 16.4 ounces
- Far-field and near-field voice support and eight microphones
- Alexa and Alexa skills
- Free cloud storage for digital content purchased from Amazon
- Ports: HDMI, power, micro USB, wired infrared support
- Output: 2160p, 1080p, 720p up to 60 fps
- Wi-Fi: dual-band, dual-antenna Wi-Fi (MIMO). Supports 802.11a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi networks
- Included parts: Fire TV Cube, Alexa voice remote (second generation), power adapter, Quick Start Guide, marketing guide, two AAA batteries, infrared (IR) extender cable, Amazon Ethernet Adapter
What sets the Fire TV Cube apart?
The Ethernet cable means there are fewer, or hopefully no, interruptions when streaming. You can get an adapter for the Fire TV Stick and other streaming devices, but this one comes with Ethernet support while still allowing for wireless streaming if you prefer it.
The main menu screen integrates content from all the apps you have installed, with Prime Video in more prominent placements. You can choose to go directly to an app like Hulu or browse through trending content from each. If you search for a particular series or movie on the Cube, it brings up content across all services, including ones you don’t subscribe to. The search results also show recommended programs – for example, a playlist highlighting films and TV series for each of the main actors from content you’ve searched for.
If you end up making digital purchases, the Fire TV Cube has 16GB of internal storage, compared to 8GB on the Fire TV Stick. If you plan to purchase content, video can start to fill your storage space quickly, so this is a definite advantage. There’s also free cloud storage for content purchased from Amazon. What the Cube doesn’t allow you to do, however, is to record content the way a DVR can record programming. Amazon has a different device for recording over-the-air TV.
The Cube also offers better integration with Alexa than any other device. You can use the voice assistant when the TV is turned off, but you’ll have the best interaction when you can see results on the display at the same time. You can also integrate home automation through Alexa, the way you would with an Amazon Echo or other Alexa device. You can have her dim the lights to your home theater setting, or start popping popcorn in your Alexa-enabled microwave when getting ready to watch a movie, all without having to get up from the couch. I look forward to adding more devices that will make my TV experience, and maybe my life, that much better.
Setting up the Fire TV Cube and connecting your accounts
Out of the box, the Fire TV Cube only takes a few minutes to set up. The first step is to connect it to your home network (a requirement, of course) via Wi-Fi or an Ethernet adapter, and to the TV via HDMI.
Then, you’ll log into your Amazon account, which allows you access to both free and paid content from Amazon. You can pick the various streaming services you want to use – such as Netflix, Hulu, HBO Now, etc. – and either log in with your existing account or set up a new account on the interface. Access to your computer or smartphone is all that’s required – enter a few codes and you’re ready to stream.
Getting used to the Fire TV Cube – quirks and all
Just minutes after opening the box and setting up the Fire TV Cube, I was quickly streaming content onto my TV, and just as quickly, I discovered some nifty features. Fast forwarding on Prime Video can be done in 10-second intervals, and you can skim forward on Netflix and HBO easily by selecting a frame or screenshot. None of this is as easy as the fast forward or rewind on cable or satellite, but that’s the price of streaming.
In many ways, the Fire TV Cube is close to perfect for our viewing habits. There are far fewer glitches streaming through the Cube than with the smart TV, or even on Xfinity, Comcast’s cable service. However, there are some strange nitpicks with the Cube. The most notable is that Alexa – like many Amazon devices, seems to always be listening. While watching “Game of Thrones” on HBO Now, my husband turned to me and said, “Thank you for setting up Alexa.” The screen froze as Alexa waited for the next command. I pity any household with a family member named Alexa or perhaps Alice, Alex or anything similar!
Another time, in the middle of watching a police drama, Alexa paused and offered us a selection of music from the band the Police, complete with an Amazon Prime playlist. Amazon recommends that the Cube be placed at least two feet from the TV speaker – and now we know why. The Cube does have a blue strip that lights up when Alexa is activated, so you theoretically know when the device is listening.
We’re still getting the hang of Alexa, and we’ve found that she’s ready to answer a question or two or tackle the usual virtual-assistant tasks. But while you can interact with her on the Fire TV Cube the same way you would with any other Alexa-enabled device, it works better when used in conjunction with a display, which makes sense since this iteration was designed to work with a TV.
The Bottom line
Once you have the Fire TV Cube in your home, you might not be able to do without it. You can connect just about all of your services to it, and when you’re ready to upgrade your TV, the Cube supports 4K TV. The interface is smooth and easy to use, and the setup only takes a few minutes.
- Should you buy it? If you want an Alexa-powered streaming device with a decent amount of storage for content, voice control, and an Ethernet port for a wired internet connection, then yes. It is pricey, though.
- What are your Amazon alternatives? If you want an Alexa-powered TV streamer, you have several other cheaper options, including the $34.99 Fire TV Stick, which is good for Full HD 1080p TVs, and the $49.99 Fire TV Stick 4K, which is ideal for 4K TVs. Both offer Alexa voice control and work with the most popular streaming apps just like the TV Cube. The main difference is that they use your Wi-Fi and do not have a wired Ethernet connection. They also have less onboard storage, but if you only stream content, that won’t matter to you.
- What are your non-Amazon alternatives? If you’re open to non-Amazon devices, you can check out the Roku line of streaming devices here. If you want a Roku with an Ethernet port like the Fire TV Cube has, you can grab the Roku Ultra for less at $89.99. It has many of the same features, minus Alexa and the smart home controls, though it does have its own voice control remote. You can read our guide to the best streaming sticks and boxes here.
Pros: Ethernet port, works with most streaming platforms, Alexa voice controls, works with smart home devices