Home Technology Amazon Fire TV Cube (2019) review: improvements on all sides

Amazon Fire TV Cube (2019) review: improvements on all sides

The first Fire TV Cube from Amazon was actually three merchandise in a single: a Fire TV streaming system, an Alexa good speaker, and a common distant for different gadgets hooked as much as your TV. It supplied the identical streaming expertise as Amazon’s different Fire TVs, however the built-in microphones allowed the Cube for use solely hands-free by voice instructions. It may additionally management cable packing containers, soundbars, and A/V receivers with the assistance of built-in IR blasters. But the unique Cube lacked Dolby Vision HDR, and finally Amazon launched a less expensive Fire TV Stick 4K that did have Dolby Vision for much less cash, leaving the do-everything Cube in a clumsy spot.

So for 2019, Amazon has refreshed the Fire TV Cube to make it the clear flagship of the lineup. It’s received the identical actual design as earlier than, however now has Dolby Vision, a extra highly effective processor, and quicker response instances. Amazon is attempting to reduce the Cube’s dependence on the cloud, with a brand new “local voice control” characteristic that processes fundamental instructions on the system itself. And the brand new Fire TV Cube can nonetheless management your property theater elements and dim the good lights while you sit down for film evening — all with simply your voice.

The Fire TV Cube seems to be utterly unchanged on the skin. It has the identical controls as an Echo speaker on high (with a matte texture) with eight tiny microphone holes, and it’s shiny in every single place else. I get that Amazon selected this design for optimum IR sign passthrough, however the factor stays an enormous mud magnet nonetheless.

Around again is an HDMI output, energy, an enter for the included IR extender, and a Micro USB port for the ethernet adapter (additionally within the field) if you happen to want it. You’ll wish to use the skinny IR extender twine if a few of your property theater elements are out of sight or tucked into a cupboard. Unfortunately, Amazon nonetheless isn’t together with an HDMI cable with the $120 Fire TV Cube.

Amazon recommends that you simply place the Cube at the least one foot away from any speaker. Even with audio blaring from a Sonos Beam, I discovered the mics to be fairly good at selecting up my voice and the “Alexa” hotword at a traditional talking quantity.

Amazon Fire TV Cube (2019) review: improvements on all sides

Dolby Vision and HDR10+ are new to the second-gen Fire TV Cube; the primary mannequin solely had fundamental HDR10 assist. HDR passthrough labored simply advantageous on my TCL TV, with the show routinely recognizing when Dolby Vision or HDR10 content material was being performed and making use of the appropriate expanded coloration and brightness settings. With all main codecs now supported, you’ve received loads of decisions for streaming 4K between Netflix, Prime Video, Vudu, and different apps. As a Fire TV, this 12 months’s Cube is objectively superior to the unique.

But it’s nonetheless solely so-so as a common distant. The Fire TV Cube can management most TVs, receivers, and soundbars — plus some cable packing containers You’re requested to decide on your gadgets throughout setup, after which Alexa will know the ins and outs of your gear. Generally, the IR emitter works properly at getting instructions by to your property theater elements and turning all the things on in sync. But for different {hardware} like recreation consoles or Blu-ray gamers, Alexa can’t do very a lot in any respect. The Cube will change to the appropriate HDMI enter, however you then’re by yourself. That’s all you may actually anticipate from IR blasters, however corporations like Caavo are attempting to do extra with on-screen machine studying.

Still, Alexa does really feel extra responsive this time round. Local voice management leads to sure fundamental voice instructions being executed as much as 4 instances quicker than earlier than, as a result of the Cube handles them straight and doesn’t want any assist from Amazon’s servers. The awkward pause after a voice command is gone — however solely typically.

Local management works to your widespread features like navigating the UX. You’re actually telling Alexa which option to scroll or selecting a quantity to open the app or content material that you simply wish to watch (“Alexa, play number 5”). Apps like Netflix and Hulu have been optimized for hands-free voice management with these on-screen numbers subsequent to picks , however that’s not true for a lot of different streaming apps. In these circumstances, you’re nonetheless higher off simply utilizing the bodily Alexa distant. And the Cube will nonetheless must test with the cloud for quite a bit of instructions, even when the fundamentals are actually significantly speedier.

Amazon Fire TV Cube (2019) review: improvements on all sides

As for its secondary operate as a sensible speaker, the Fire TV Cube has turn into a greater Alexa speaker due to continued software program updates. It now helps calls, voice messages, and the Drop In characteristic, so it’s mainly on equal footing with an Echo. You may add the Cube to a multi-room music setup with different Alexa gadgets. Remember that the Cube at all times performs music requests by your soundbar or TV audio system; the built-in speaker is okay for Alexa’s voice responses however isn’t appropriate for a lot else.

Amazon Fire TV Cube (2019) review: improvements on all sides

AGREE TO CONTINUE: AMAZON FIRE TV CUBE

Every good system now requires you to comply with a sequence of phrases and circumstances earlier than you should use it — contracts that nobody truly reads. It’s inconceivable for us to learn and analyze each single considered one of these agreements. But we’re going to start out counting precisely what number of instances it’s a must to hit “agree” to make use of gadgets once we evaluation them since these are agreements most individuals don’t learn and positively can’t negotiate.

Using a Fire TV Cube requires an Amazon account, which suggests you’ll should comply with the corporate’s conditions of use and privateness discover to get began. It’s additionally necessary to pay attention to privacy settings for Amazon’s Alexa because the voice assistant performs such a big function on this system.

The Fire TV platform comes with its personal privateness settings (enabled by default) that enable Amazon to:

  • “Use personal data collected by the operating system of this device for marketing and product improvement purposes.”
  • “Allow Appstore to collect information on the frequency and duration of use of downloaded apps.”

There’s additionally an “interest-based ads” choice that allows you to decide out of apps utilizing your system’s promoting ID to construct a profile for focused adverts. Separate from this, you may select to reset your promoting ID.

Final tally: two necessary agreements, plus Alexa privateness coverage and information sharing settings which can be particular to Fire TV.

Amazon says the Cube now has a hexa-core processor, and the Fire TV interface has felt snappy in my time utilizing it to this point. But some homeowners of the unique system discovered that it slowed down over time and exhibited an irritating quantity of lag, and I haven’t had sufficient time to rule out that chance. Amazon is adamant that the Fire TV Cube is now its quickest Fire TV, nonetheless, whereas the Fire TV Stick 4K set the bar earlier than. So it ought to be extra constant and in a position to run Kodi, Plex, and different apps with out situation.

Amazon Fire TV Cube (2019) review: improvements on all sides
Amazon Fire TV Cube (2019) review: improvements on all sides

The software program expertise largely matches that of different Fire TV gadgets. All the apps you’d need are there, and Amazon has lastly patched up the YouTube gap that existed final 12 months. YouTube TV is now out there as properly, although Sony’s PlayStation Vue gets preferred treatment amongst streaming TV providers and is built-in straight into Amazon’s reside information.

My ordinary nitpicks with Fire TV’s dwelling display stay: Amazon can push its originals somewhat too aggressively, and it additionally steers prospects in the direction of Prime Channel subscriptions for HBO, Starz, Epix, and different networks. But while you seek for a style or particular film or present, the platform does an excellent job of displaying you in every single place it may be streamed. And seeing visible responses for Alexa queries (like asking for the climate or looking for close by eating places) is a pleasant contact. But these options aren’t distinctive to the Cube; they’re now a part of Fire TV OS as a complete.

I believe the Fire TV Cube makes probably the most sense for people who find themselves simply getting began with Amazon’s ecosystem. If you have already got an Echo Dot in your lounge, the Fire TV Stick 4K makes extra sense. It presents the entire identical Dolby and HDR assist and prices simply $50. Plus, the Alexa Voice Remote bundled with that system can also be able to controlling your TV and soundbar. You’ve actually received to need the Cube’s hands-free powers — and its potential to drag double obligation as an Alexa speaker when the TV display is off — for the $120 to be value it.

Photography by Chris Welch / The Verge

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