Alexa is a girl on a mission. That mission? To assist us management as a lot of our dwelling stuff with our voice as doable. First it was lights, then safety cameras and even robotic vacuums. Now, lastly, it’s your telly.
Yes, the brand new Fire TV Cube not solely delivers 4K HDR streaming companies and Alexa smarts to your front room, however it additionally goals to offer you nearly complete hands-free voice management of your TV.
This is the second technology of the system, however the first mannequin to be obtainable within the UK, and Amazon has taken that as a chance to nice tune a number of the specs too.
That means this mannequin has two occasions extra energy and 4 occasions the velocity in comparison with the earlier technology, because of native voice processing. That makes it probably the most highly effective Fire TV system but.
But how does it do as a boxset-binging companion? We settled down for an evening of it to see.
Fire TV Cube design and options: Not truly a dice
As you may count on, the Fire TV Cube is – effectively – a dice. Fact followers will inform you it’s truly a cuboid as a result of it’s not equal on all sides, however hey, it aspires to be a dice and that is what counts.
From a design perspective, it’s pretty simple. Raised barely off the bottom to permit for air flow, it has 4 shiny sides sides with the highest part in a much less fingerprint-y matte end, a wise selection contemplating that is the place the buttons are. And there are 4 buttons in complete – two for quantity, one to mute the mics and a bodily Alexa button to summon her manually – although the thought is that you simply’ll by no means have to make use of them.
Instead of the ring on Echo merchandise, the blue Alexa mild seems alongside the Fire TV Cube’s entrance high edge once you say your chosen wake phrase. It will stay on whereas it carries out your request, and in addition mild up in orange or pink to inform you if one thing is incorrect together with your connection.
On the again there may be an HDMI port (however a bit annoyingly, no HDMI cable within the field), a micro USB port, which can be utilized for connecting the included Ethernet adapter and an enter for hooking up the also-included IR extender.
The latter you’ll want to make use of in the event you plan on placing your Fire TV right into a closed TV cabinet, because it wants line of sight of you and your different gear as a way to work.
It additionally asks that you simply place it not less than 30cm away from any audio system, to make sure it may hear your instructions loud and clear over any background noise.
It ought to do fairly effectively on that from although, because of eight far-field microphones on the highest of the field. And ought to you may have any points, the Alexa distant is bundled with this technology of Fire TV Cube (it wasn’t beforehand), so you’ll be able to communicate into the distant as a substitute.
There’s additionally that all-new hexacore processor and further RAM below the hood promising twice the quantity of energy. This offers the Fire TV Cube the additional oomph to have the ability to course of extra instructions domestically, reasonably than sending them to the cloud. This means voice management needs to be sooner, but additionally supply a extra contextual Alexa expertise.
As far because the Fire TV interface is anxious, it’s the identical as you may need tried on another Fire TV product, and is effectively laid out and straightforward to make use of. App choice is nice too, with all 4 of the UK’s catch up companies obtainable, plus Netflix, the just lately added Apple TV and naturally, Prime Video.
As ever with a Fire TV product, you actually should be a Prime buyer for it to make sense, as Amazon content material is understandably positioned entrance and centre.
While that used to really feel limiting, with a lot nice stuff on Prime Video now, to not point out the advantages of the broader Prime bundle, it’s a really completely different story. Plus Amazon isn’t fairly so jumpy in its promotion of competitor content material, which helps its trigger too.
In truth, in case you have a Netflix account and are signed in, Fire TV will give you steered Netflix content material on the homepage.
Amazon Fire TV Cube setup: Testing, testing…
Getting the Fire TV Cube arrange is fairly straight ahead, and consists of signing in to your Amazon account and downloading the apps that you simply’d wish to see in your Fire TV dwelling display screen. If you’ve ever arrange a Fire TV system earlier than, it will all be acquainted territory. What’s new is the subsequent half.
To assist with its further performance, Fire TV Cube now runs by means of your gear arrange with you, to be taught as a lot as it may. It knew that the TV I had related was a Philips set, and in addition after I examined it with a Samsung TV. If it doesn’t recognise it routinely although, you merely select the model from a listing.
It will then ask you whether or not you employ a soundbar, AV receiver or simply your TV for sound, and as soon as once more, ask you to decide on the model from a listing.
Fire TV Cube will then take over to undergo a sequence of checks, turning your TV (and another gear you stated you had) on and off, muting and elevating the quantity and switching inputs. It will ask you to substantiate if it labored accurately at every step, and can retry if it didn’t.
While the core controls of energy and quantity labored simply nice with the Philips TV (the OLED+ 984 in the event you’re asking), it was unable to arrange enter switching, and but it labored nice on the Samsung TV. There is a compatibility checker on the web site so you’ll be able to see precisely what performance will work together with your telly before you purchase.
To get my Sky Q field arrange with Alexa, I needed to dig individually into settings to undergo an identical course of. Once accomplished, the Fire TV Cube was additionally in a position to management my TV watching away from the Fire TV interface, together with altering the Sky channel and adjusting quantity. At the second solely Sky is supported for this sort of management although, so Virgin Media and BT clients must do with out for now.
Finally, as a result of the potential of evoking multiple Alexa-packing system with the “Alexa” command, Amazon recommends transferring any Echo gadgets into one other room. If that isn’t doable, you’ll be able to change the wake phrase on one among them, so that you received’t rile up each on the similar time and trigger confusion.
That is, until you’ve additionally invested in an Echo Studio or two. If you may have, you’ll be able to pair it/them with the Fire TV Cube and have Fire TV audio play by means of these audio system as a substitute of the speaker you employ to your common telly watching.
This will mean you can take full benefit of the Echo Studio’s upwards firing speaker, and the rising variety of Dolby Atmos soundtracks obtainable on Fire TV’s streamed content material.
Fire TV Cube efficiency: On fireplace
I don’t find out about anybody else, however one of the vital uttered phrases in my home is “the place’s the ****** distant?”. But it wasn’t till I actually began utilizing the Fire TV Cube that I realised how useful voice management for my telly can be.
It works brilliantly. Say “Alexa” and Fire TV Cube will mute your TV so it will get an excellent likelihood of listening to what you’re saying, earlier than turning it again on once you’ve completed yapping. When arrange accurately, Fire TV Cube had only a few missteps. To start with, it was positioned a bit near my TV’s speaker, so I moved it a bit additional manner and had a a lot better expertise.
It’s actually fast too, it feels faster than the Fire TV Stick 4K at pulling up and buffering content material, and my Alexa instructions are seen to with minimal delay too.
It’s a disgrace that the enter switching wouldn’t work with the Philips TV. With the Samsung it labored a deal with, and we have been in a position to ask Alexa to change between Sky, our Blu-ray participant and the Fire TV Cube with out concern.
Of course, it’s not supreme that not everybody could have the identical expertise with the Fire TV Cube, so it’s undoubtedly price checking precisely what your package can accomplish that you’re not dissatisfied.
As far because the management inside Fire TV itself, Alexa does an amazing job right here and you may actually management the entire expertise together with your voice if you wish to. Except you most likely wouldn’t. Saying “scroll down, scroll down, scroll left, scroll left, choose” isn’t precisely probably the most time-effective manner of searching by means of a menu, however it’s doable in the event you actually can’t lay your fingers in your Fire TV Cube distant.
The voice management is way more efficient if you realize what it’s you’re on the lookout for, and might say, “Alexa, play Stranger Things on Netflix” or “Alexa, present me drama films”, for instance.
When you ask a extra generic query just like the latter, Fire TV will quantity the alternatives it suggests, so you’ll be able to say “Play quantity 3”. If you’ve allowed Follow Up Mode throughout the Fire TV Cube’s settings you received’t have to say “Alexa” earlier than it both.
You may also use Alexa to load up different apps, like BBC iPlayer or ITV Hub, nevertheless Alexa can’t dig out content material from there as a part of a voice search, or be used to navigate inside it.
No matter what you’re watching, image high quality is improbable, however as you’d count on, it does one of the best, with one of the best. The Fire TV Cube helps each Dolby Vision and HDR10+ for probably the most up-to-date HDR content material, and assuming you may have a good sufficient wi-fi connection to assist it, the 4K materials streamed from Netflix or Amazon Prime Video seems to be attractive.
It won’t be fairly the extent of element you’ll see from a 4K Blu-ray, however contemplating that is the best way lots of people devour 4K HDR content material now, it’s completely a good illustration of the advantages the know-how gives.
Fire TV Cube verdict
The Fire TV Cube isn’t solely one of the best, strongest Fire TV system but, it’s also the final piece of the puzzle of controlling your entire front room with the assistance of Alexa. And it really works brilliantly.
The solely drawback is the distinction in experiences that completely different folks will get, relying on the gear that they personal. While the efficiency of Alexa inside Fire TV itself received’t change, the opposite voice management performance is what actually makes the Fire TV Cube price the additional outlay, in contrast with the Fire TV Stick 4K.
Still, in case your package performs ball, this can be a critically slick method to management every part you’re watching on TV together with your voice. Who wants remotes anyway?