Amazon’s Fire TV Cube is a strong contender in the battle for streaming devices. The new Fire TV Cube supports high-end AV formats such as Dolby Vision, Dolby Atmos and YouTube.
This last point may sound trite, but it is important to remember that Amazon and Google have been at odds for years over whether the largest streaming video and streaming service could be included as a native app on Amazon streaming devices. This was a major blow to the devices’ family for a long time. This is why Amazon took great measures to resolve the problem this time.
Specs for Amazon Fire TV Cube (2nd Gen)
ProcessorHexacore (Quadcore @ up 2.2GHz + Dual-core @ 1.9GHz)
Ports HDMI, power and micro-USB. Wired Infrared Support
AudioDolby atmos, 7.1 surround sound 2 ch. Stereo and HDMI audio can pass through to 5.1
Content formats: Video: Dolby Vision, HDR 10, HDR10+, HLG, H.265, H.264, VP9 Audio: AAC-LC, AC3, eAC3 (Dolby Digital Plus), FLAC, MP3, PCM/Wave, Vorbis, Dolby Atmos (EC3_JOC), Photo: JPEG, PNG, GIF, BMP
Output resolution 2160p and 1080p respectively, up to 60 frames per second
The Amazon Fire TV Cube is a superior product in terms of performance and flexibility. You can control your home theater and smart home with your voice.
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The Fire TV Cube supports 4K HDR and one of the most popular formats. It also has Alexa built in. The visual version of Alexa can display lyrics and show you who is on-screen during a movie. It feels futuristic when it works; when it fails, it’s disappointing. But, there’s always the remote to fill in the gaps in Alexa’s skills.
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Even though Alexa isn’t always as good as it seems, this player is still the best Amazon has ever made and would be welcome in any home. It’s our top streaming services pick. For the full Amazon Fire TV Cube (2nd Generation), review, please read on.
Amazon Fire TV Cube (2nd Gen): Price and availability
- It is $119.99/PS109/AU$160
- is often heavily discounted
The Amazon Fire TV Cube was $119.99 / PS109 (around AU$160 at launch), which was in October 2019. The Fire TV Cube is often discounted because it’s only a few years old. You might be able to get it for half the price if you can find one during a sale.
It’s difficult to compare the Amazon Fire TV Cube’s price with other streaming devices, as it will all depend on when you buy one.
It’s also significantly less expensive than other streaming devices. For our top picks, see our Apple TV4K (2021) review (AU$179 / PS169) and Nvidia shield TV Pro review (199.99 / PS179.99/ AU$399.95).
The Amazon Fire TV Cube may be more expensive than Amazon streaming sticks, but it is still affordable if you can find a deal. It is an excellent value. For the best stick-shaped streamer for $55/PS55/AU$99, take a look at our Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max Review.
Amazon Fire TV Cube (2nd Gen): design
- Similar to
- Voice commands with no remote
Amazon has made many improvements to Amazon Fire TV Cube’s software and hardware but the exterior shell is the same. It’s still a black cube with an LED strip along its top. Although it’s not as obvious as other streaming video players, it gives your entertainment center an almost futuristic feel.
The Cube’s top has four buttons that can be used to control volume, volume, mute, and summon Alexa. However, the latter button is somewhat redundant.
The unique selling point for the Amazon Fire TV Cube is its ability to speak voice commands to a small, box-shaped device without having to hold a remote. With eight far-field microphones, it is as good, if not better, than the Amazon Echo Show and Amazon Echo at this task.
Turn the Fire TV Cube to the back to find the HDMI port, microUSB and an IR extender, as well as a power connector. The microUSB and power connector work as they are advertised. However, there is something you can say about how the Fire TV Cube handles HDMI.
(Image credit: TechRadar)
The good news about the Fire TV Cube is that it comes with HDMI CEC. This feature allows you to control your devices via HDMI and IR commands. You can adjust the volume of your TV with the Amazon Fire TV Cube remote and also use Alexa to turn on and off all the devices in your entertainment centre.
Unfortunately, the Amazon Fire TV Cube does not come with an HDMI cable. This is a bit disappointing for a device that retails at over $100. It’s not really long but the $35 Roku Express has an HDMI cable so it seems like a big oversight.
You will have to be careful when integrating the Fire TV cube into your home theater system. It can’t be too close or it could overwhelm the microphones. However, it should be within easy reach of your soundbar, AVR, and TV as it will be controlling them via a multi-directional Infrared blaster, HDMI CEC, and HDMI CEC.
Although it may seem like a difficult process, it is easy to do and you will have a competent control centre for your home entertainment system. Alexa can adjust the input to your TV, increase or decrease the volume of the soundbar, change the channel on your set top box, and all this using voice commands. We found it easy to use and enjoyed it, even when Alexa was a bit too smart.
(Image credit: Amazon)
Amazon Fire TV Cube (2nd Gen): Content
- Many suggested content and Prime TV Shows
- Other apps are regularly added
If you aren’t afraid of being bombarded with Amazon content, the Amazon Fire TV cube is a great choice. The home screen offers row upon row of recommended content. These range from Amazon Prime TV movies and shows to movies that you can rent or recommend. Although there is now a featured row at top of the screen with your apps on row 2 and sponsored content on row 3, the majority of your home screen below the first three rows are dominated by Amazon content.
You could argue that Amazon’s Fire TV Cube’s emphasis on Amazon content is logical, since most people who would buy it already have Amazon Prime. However, that doesn’t change Amazon’s intention to push its content higher than its competitors, much like Apple TV.
There are many award-winning movies and shows on Amazon Prime that are well worth your time. Check out our list of top Amazon Prime shows for recommendations! Fleabag and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel are two examples that they merit all the attention Amazon is giving them.
While Amazon Fire TV Cube favors Amazon’s streaming service, you can still access a variety of streaming apps, including Netflix, Starz and Hulu as well as smaller services such AMC, NFL Network and The CW. New services are added frequently.
(Image credit: Amazon)
YouTube, which was absent for more than a year, is the latest addition to Amazon Fire TV’s line-up. YouTube’s ever-growing library includes viral videos, streamers, and vlogs.
The new Live section is located one page to the right on the home screen. It shows you what’s currently playing on Amazon Prime, or on cable alternatives like Sling TV or PlayStation Vue. You’ll find content such as the PGA Masters and Thursday Night Football in America, which makes the player more valuable for cord-cutters than cord-nevers.
A great feature for cord-cutters, is the addition of free IMDBTV content to your home screen in the US. Although you won’t always find the most recent or best content, it’s available with no ads so that we don’t have to complain.
Amazon Fire TV Cube supports Spotify audio streaming. However, you will most likely use Amazon Music Unlimited or Amazon Music. While the former offers access to a few million songs, and comes with all Amazon Prime subscriptions, the latter costs a little more per month, but provides tens of thousands of songs from less-known artists.
The Amazon Fire TV Cube supports Casting, but we couldn’t get it working before publishing our review. We’ll continue testing it in the weeks and months ahead.
It’s also worth noting that Amazon Fire TV Cube can play light games. These games are similar to those you would find on the App Store and Google Play Store, which makes sense since Fire TV OS is an Android variation. However, Amazon’s games are less numerous and lower quality than what you might find on Nvidia Shield or the Apple TV 4K, which both offer high-quality, but still temporary, games.
(Image credit: Dolby)
Amazon Fire TV Cube (2nd generation): Performance
- Amazing performance
- DolbyVision makes content look amazing
Fire TV Cube’s performance has been unwavering. However, the new version includes a few upgrades that increase its speed.
The original Fire TV Cube was powered by a Quad core ARM Cortex A53 1.5GHz CPU, Mali450 MP3 GPU, and Amlogic S905Z SOC. This processor has been upgraded to an extremely powerful hexacore processor that can play Dolby Vision content and 4K Ultra HD content at up 60 frames per second.
It takes only seconds to go from Netflix to Amazon and back to your home screen. There are virtually no pop-ins. Fortunately, with 802.11ac Wi Fi antennas and connections greater than 15mbps, videos won’t need to buffer. They’ll start playing immediately after you choose them.
This makes content look stunning, especially in 4K HDR. You can watch All or Nothing: Manchester City or The Grand Tour and see a stunning visual demonstration of the Fire TV Cube’s capabilities. The trailer for The Grand Tour shines as picturesque vistas and multi-million-dollar cars race past, while the jerseys of Manchester City shimmer in beautiful color tones.
Although it is a little more difficult to find Dolby Vision content they are still easy to find. Amazon suggests starting with Stranger Things and Our Planet, and Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan on Prime Video. All of these shows off the expanded color gamut and better contrast depending on the TV.
Dolby Vision and HDR really bring out the brightest and most vivid colors in your favorite movies and shows. It’s best to view content in native 4K HDR whenever possible. The Amazon Fire TV’s home screen features a 4K HDR row. It is worth it.
What about HD/SDR content. The Fire TV Cube works well with your 4K TV to upscale them to higher resolution, but it will still make a big difference. HD/SDR colors don’t look quite as vivid and black levels are affected.
It’s important to note that 4K HDR content can only be viewed on a 4K TV. Although this sounds absurd, many people will buy Ultras expecting 4K HDR performance with a 1080p TV. It happens, we promise. To view 4K HDR videos, you will need a 15Mbps or better connection. Although you might be able do with less, the Fire TV Cube will not feed 4K content if it detects a slower connection speed.
This is a powerful and fast player that rivals Roku’s top-tier products, Apple, Roku, and other companies.
Amazon Fire TV Cube (2nd Gen): Alexa
- Alexa can be a versatile, but imperfect personal assistant
- Voice assistant makes mistakes
The Amazon Fire TV Cube’s ability host Alexa, Amazon’s smart assistant, is just as important as video reproduction skills. This feature was initially quite impressive on the Fire TV Cube’s original Fire TV Cube. However, it has become less popular and we are able to see it clearly as a versatile personal assistant (albeit imperfect).
Amazon Fire TV Cube can show you live video streaming of your compatible smart camera if you have it. You can also request movie times and restaurant recommendations, along with their ratings, distance, and distance from your house. Although Alexa can do this all via voice, having a screen that displays visual information greatly improves its usability.
Drop-in and calling setups can be used with the Amazon Fire TV Cube. Alexa can also display prices and pictures of Amazon products on the Amazon store, which is great for home shoppers.
Despite all the technological advances made over the years, Alexa still needs precise language to function. To ask Alexa to start an Episode, you must say’select’ instead of’start’, play’ or ‘begin. Although this may seem like a small problem, it is the root cause of the streaming device not becoming hands-free. It’s possible to either say it in Alexa-speak, or you can pick up your remote and do the job yourself.
It can be so terrible that Amazon’s new voice assistant struggled to understand commands at its press conference. The assistant took more than one attempt to locate the episode or service being searched for. We were reassured with words like “It usually works.”
This is on top of Alexa’s usual mistakes and foibles. Even if you ask questions beyond trivial topics, Alexa may still respond with the fearful “I don’t know how to assist with that yet” or even complete non-responses when asked for simple directions. These problems are not unique to Amazon, as Siri and Google Assistant have them, but they seem more prominent here than elsewhere.
Amazon is clearly working on its smart assistant constantly, but more progress needs to be made before it can be considered a success.
Our favorite Amazon streaming device is the Fire TV Cube.
It is better than the Amazon Fire TV dongle released in 2017. The Fire TV Cube can not only control video playback hands-free, but also performs all the heavy lifting required to control your home.
You can also add the smart, but simple visual cues Amazon added to Alexa’s basic skill sets and you have a strong contender for best streaming video player. It is well worth the $20 extra for the processor upgrade and Dolby Vision inclusion in the new model.
Technically, the Fire TV Cube could do nearly everything with an Amazon Echo Dot or Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K. However, the hexacore processor-powered box is faster and causes fewer frustrations. Although it’s cliché to say this, the Fire TV Cube does more than its parts.