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Amazon Fire TV Cube review: Streamlined and speedy entertainment

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We’ve all been there: You’re sitting in bed at night, watching your favorite TV show via your favorite streaming platform, when you have the sudden urge to play a game like Call of Duty or Super Smash Bros. Before you dive into gaming mode, you have to spend some time toggling with your remote to change the input. It’s annoying, and if you don’t remember which port your device is plugged into, it can be quite a hassle.

Or maybe you’re not a gamer, and your biggest TV issue comes when you knock your remote off the bed and have to get up to find it or lose it somewhere between your couch cushions.

Whichever sounds more like your TV-related strife, Amazon’s Fire TV Cube can help resolve the problem thanks to its hands-free, voice control capabilities. Instead of finding the correct input for your device, all you have to do is tell Alexa which device or input to start up, and the Fire TV cube handles the rest. (But more on that later.)

Voice-command feature aside, the Fire TV Cube can play some of the best AV formats, and it runs fast — really fast. It also has a minimalist, sleek design that ensures it will look good wherever you place it in your entertainment setup. We purchased and tested the Fire TV Cube to evaluate its usefulness and capabilities. Read on to learn more about what makes this device so user-friendly in greater detail.

Your Amazon Fire TV Cube comes with the Cube, an Alexa Voice remote, and two AmazonBasics AAA batteries for the remote. It comes with three wires: a power adapter, an IR extender cable, and an ethernet adapter for anyone who hardwire connects to the internet.

The Cube has four ports in the back — one HDMI, one microUSB, one IR extender, and one power connector. The Cube connects to your TV via the HDMI port (with an HDMI cable). Unfortunately, the package does not include an HDMI cord, so you will have to use one you already own or purchase it separately.

While the lack of an HDMI cord is disappointing, the inclusion of HDMI CEC is a great feature. For HDMI CEC to work, you must make sure the setting is enabled on your TV. Once you have HDMI CEC enabled on your TV, it’s easy to control multiple devices via the Fire TV Cube’s voice-control feature. You can turn other devices that connect to your TV on and off with the proper voice command, and your TV will also automatically change to the correct input. This feature is especially useful to gamers, who are liable to have a slew of other devices, such as a PlayStation, Xbox, or Nintendo Switch, attached to their TV. The HDMI CEC makes switching between each device and their correct input seamless and conveniently quick.

Buy It! Fire TV Cube, $74.99 (originally $119.99), amazon.com

Set up is a breeze. To get started, all you need to do is plug in the Fire TV Cube via the included power cord and then plug the Cube into your television via an HDMI cord. Then you’ll have to connect to your WiFi network and sign in to your Amazon account.

You’ll be redirected to a screen asking you what “popular services” you would like to use. I chose Hulu and NBA, but there are a variety of other options organized by categories.

Don’t fret if you can’t find a particular app or service on this screen because it may be available in the app store. I mainly watch anime and rely heavily on Crunchyroll and Funimation for my entertainment needs. I was momentarily concerned when I didn’t see either app available on this startup screen, but I was able to download both for free via the app store.

You will then be asked if you would like to enable Alexa. The built-in speaker is one of the standout features of this device, so if you want to use it to its full potential, you should enable the Alexa voice control function. The Fire TV Cube needs to be positioned a certain way to work correctly, and a bullet-point list of the positioning requirements will show up on the screen. For instance, it needs to be facing you and unobstructed, with the directions specifically stating it can’t be in a cabinet.

If you have a sound bar or an AV receiver, the next screen to pop up will allow you to connect it. If you don’t have either accessory, you can skip this step and move on to the home screen.

The device’s handiest feature is its built-in smart speaker and Alexa personal assistant. You can use voice commands to turn your TV on or do anything else you typically do with a remote, such as adjusting the volume or pausing a show. I said, “Alexa, rewind 30 seconds,” when I watched a TV show, and Alexa did just that (and speedily, I might add).

Outside of television streaming, you can also use Alexa on your Fire TV Cube to tell you the weather, play music on Spotify, and answer any question you may want to use the web to search.

As the name suggests, the Fire TV Cube is shaped like a cube, measuring 3.4 inches by 3.4 inches. There’s an LED light strip across the top, and it has a futuristic sleekness to it. My first impression was that it looked like it’s something straight out of a sci-fi film — since I consider myself a sci-fi nerd, I mean this in the most complimentary way.

There are four buttons on the top – an Alexa activation button, a lower volume button, a higher volume button, and a mute button. If there’s ever a time when you don’t want your Fire TV Cube to be “listening” to you, use the mute button. You can use your voice to activate Alexa, but if for some reason that doesn’t seem to work (which hasn’t been an issue for me), you can rely on the manual button.

With any smart device, there’s always a chance voice recognition won’t work seamlessly. Luckily, the Cube comes with a remote you can use if your voice commands aren’t working or you need to troubleshoot. The remote also includes buttons that allow easy access to four streaming services: Amazon Prime Video, Netflix, Disney+, and Hulu. The overall design is simple and user-friendly.

The Fire TV Cube can support 4K Ultra HD content and Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos AV formats. It can also play content up to 60 frames per second, so it will be able to meet the highest bar of your entertainment needs. You’ll get a crisp picture and vibrant color on all AV formats.

The device runs fast too. The apps launch without any lag, and switching from one device to another is a smooth transition.

The home screen features a ton of Amazon Prime Video movies and shows — there’s a focus on Amazon content, of course, with a lineup of my most recently watched content pulled into the top of the screen. This setup may not initially seem ideal if you use a different streaming service more frequently, but it’s not a deal-breaker, and you’ll see why in a moment.

In order to access other apps and the App Store, you must scroll until you find the desired icon. Since I chose Hulu and NBA in the initial setup, those apps were already downloaded for me. I did have to manually download the other apps I use, including Netflix, Crunchyroll, and Funimation.

As I mentioned earlier, the home page displays mainly Amazon content. However, nearly at the top of the page there is a lineup of “Recently Used Apps.” So once you launch and start using your favorite apps, you will have easy access to the ones you use most often.

There’s also a page dedicated to live streaming options on Amazon Prime and other platforms like Sling TV and YouTube TV.

The Fire TV Cube is great for anyone ready to limit the use of their remote. If you’re looking for speed and support of advanced AV formats, this device will deliver the streaming experience you desire. 

The Fire TV Cube is also great for anyone who considers using a remote to be inconvenient or inaccessible. I brought the Fire TV Cube to my grandparent’s home to allow them to test it out, and they absolutely loved it. While issues like poor eyesight and limited dexterity make it difficult for them to use the type of remote that often comes with a smart TV, the voice-command features and user-friendliness courtesy of the HDMI CEC and built-in smart speaker makes this an incredibly accessible device.

I was hesitant to test this device. Though I already own a smart TV that provides easy access to streaming service apps, I still had to rely on a remote (which I would often misplace). Being able to rely on voice commands to turn a TV on, switch between apps, and switch inputs is an unbeatable convenience. This Fire TV Cube finds a way to be relevant even in the age of smart TVs, thanks to its intuitive incorporation of built-in smart speakers and inclusion of HDMI CEC.

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