The convergence of smart speakers and TV streaming devices has long intrigued me. While independently these two categories have multiple options in the market, there are very few that combine these capabilities to make one holistic gadget. The Amazon Fire Cube is one such, and I’ve spent some time experiencing this two-in-one device to see if it really does make life and entertainment simpler.
I’m trying out the third generation of the Amazon Fire TV Cube, which occupies slightly more space than a pen holder on my desk. The Cube has four speaker spaces, along the sides. On top, I find the volume, microphone and power button, while the base with its rubbery finish helps the unit stay firmly in place. The blue bar on the front lights up everytime Alexa is called up and doesn’t have any functional feature other than indicating that Alexa is active. With a fabric finish, the device looks classy and stays fingerprint-free, although the same cannot be said of dust.
The Fire TV Cube features a whole host of input/ outputs which include a USB A, Ethernet Port, a barrel power pin slot, an IR extender slot, and 2 HDMI. The only omission is USB-C power or input options, which users would expect in most new-age devices.
The Fire TV Cube has both Wi-Fi 6E support and features an ethernet port. The only quirk here seems to be that as long as I have the ethernet cable plugged in, I can’t connect to Wi-Fi.
The Fire TV Cube 3rd Gen features an octa-core ARM processor which makes navigating through the Fire TV menus, and launching apps such as Amazon Prime and Netflix a snappy experience. Voice recognition is almost instantaneous with the device taking about 3-5 seconds to display relevant results, after I’ve requested for those.
The Fire TV Cube can deliver 4K Ultra HD , Dolby Vision, HDR, and immersive Dolby ATMOS audio on supported TV and that’s fairly future-proof if you’re looking for high-res content. The device helps upscale 1080p resolution to 4K content and was consistently good at being smooth with it.
The Alexa remote voice remote is compact and has the usual shortcut keys to Amazon Prime, Music, Netflix and other apps, as well as a dedicated Alexa key to summon the voice assistant when far away from the Fire TV Cube.
The fact that it does not support speaker output when connected to a TV means its use-case as an additional speaker or subwoofer in your home theatre setup diminishes. One must pair it with an Amazon Echo speaker to make it part of a home-theatre setup.
I used the Amazon Alexa app to teach it new skills like playing my favourite station All India Radio, linking Spotify, Jio Saavn and setting up user groups for TVs, speakers and different location setups.
The Fire TV Cube excels at being both a streaming device and a smart speaker. It brings 4K support, upscaling, and support for Digital Dolby Plus, and a functional design for a living room media box.
However, is it worth the slight premium over and above the purchase of a simple media streaming stick such the company’s own Fire Stick? Or even competitors such as the Apple HomePod Mini or a Google Nest Audio paired with a Google Chromecast? Yes: if money isn’t a roadblock and you are looking for one device that serves dual purposes within the Amazon ecosystem, then look no further.