A powerful media streaming device from Amazon that takes steps forward in its processing capabilities and connectivity options but a few steps back with its less than democratic and dense interface. Those without the need to integrate a streamer within a home cinema set-up will be suited just fine by the Fire TV Stick 4K Max instead.
- Swift and powerful performance
- Hands-free Alexa
- Excellent AV performance
- Addition of HDMI input
- Looks better than previous models
- More expensive
- Optional Alexa Pro Remote
- Fire TV interface is too dense in current incarnation
- Super Resolution has minimal effect
- Voice supportHands-free Alexa operation
- HDRDolby Vision, HDR10, HDR10+ and HLG support
- ConnectionsUpgraded Wi-Fi, USB port and new HDMI 2.1 input
The all-new Fire TV Cube arrives on the market in a period that’s seen the streaming market bound between stratospheric highs and unexpected declines.
But none of that has stopped more streaming devices from launching, and the original Fire TV was at the forefront of the initial gold rush. The Fire TV Cube (2022) is Amazon’s most advanced, and it intends not just to stream video and music but corral every home cinema device you own into its own Alexa-centric paddock.
With a new look, more powerful processing, upgraded Wi-Fi and an HDMI input, can it fend off renewed competition from the likes of Apple? And would it have been too difficult for Amazon to call it Fire TV Cube³?
- Natty new look
- Hands-free Alexa
This all-new version is decked in smarter attire than its predecessor. The 2nd Gen model’s glossy surface was a magnet for dust and smudges, the 3rd Gen’s wraparound fabric cover is as if the Fire TV Cube has put on a jumper – and it looks much better for it.
But it’s not as if video streamers are to be ogled at. For most, it’ll reside behind a TV, but for those who find smudges irritating (and I’m one of them), this natty attire helps the streamer fit alongside more upmarket soundbars and TVs.
The iconic, if that’s the word, Alexa ribbon strip is present on the front of the streamer, neatly integrated above the fabric cover. On the top surface are four buttons: volume up/down, an action button for Alexa and a mute button that turns off the microphones.
Controls such as these are likely to be used only when you’re up and about, after all, the main purpose is hands-free Alexa. There is the remote for another means of control and the Fire TV Cube supports two versions: the standard Alexa remote and Alexa Pro version.
- Too weighted in favour of Amazon/Freevee content
- Lots of apps to choose from
- Suggestions don’t feel too personalised
It’s obvious what you’re getting from a device with Amazon in the name. The focus is on Amazon content and there are a few ads peppered in the interface (but not as many as you might think). The age-old argument is that some would prefer not to have ads, but Amazon would argue they help in finding new apps and titles. Both arguments have weight.
But did the interface have to be the jumble it currently is? At first the ‘all-new’ fire TV experience rectified a few issues but in its current state it’s become a bit of a hodgepodge.
Aside from a few sponsored and curated rows of titles for iPlayer, Netflix and ITVX, it is dominated by content from Prime Video and Freevee; titles from likes of Disney+ and Paramount+ are buried amid genre specific rows (action, thriller).
Specific rows for the likes of Apple TV+ and Disney+ would help, and higher up the interface as currently what content there is from other services is submerged under rows of Prime and Freevee. Sky’s Entertainment OS does a much better job of content discovery in a non-partisan way.
The ‘Next up’ row could use some fine-tuning too, as what basis there is for its suggestions eludes me. It’s suggested I watch the first series of His Dark Materials and Andor, both of which I’ve seen, and among the other titles are Moonfall, A Private Affair, Amsterdam, Elementary and The Last Ship. I can’t see a rhyme or reason behind that selection.
At least the Fire TV platform is home to a huge number of apps. Netflix, Disney+, Paramount+, UFC, NOW, BT Sport, NFL, Eurosport, Spotify, Tidal, BBC Sounds, Deezer, ROXi, Amazon Music, Audible, Hayu, Peloton are some of the many apps onboard the Fire TV express.
And there’s also the Prime Video Channels where you can subscribe to the likes of LaLiga TV, Mubi, BritBox and Lionsgate+ as add-ons to the main Prime Video sub and cancel anytime.
- USB and HDMI inputs
- Wi-Fi 6E support
- Supports Alexa Pro remote
- Alexa support over HDMI
Around the back is an HDMI output (for a TV) and an HDMI input (for plugging a source into the Cube), both of which are ratified to the HDMI 2.1 standard, and the Fire TV Cube recognises gaming devices with its auto low latency mode.
There’s also a USB 2.0 port (an upgrade from mini-USB), IR extender port and a 10/100 Mbps Ethernet port for hardwired connection (the previous model required an Ethernet adaptor via the mini-USB port). There’s no support for Gigabit ethernet connections the 128GB Apple TV Box has, and overall storage is smaller than either Apple TV streamer at 16GB (technically 12.83GB).
Despite the good news on the connection front, less welcome is that the Fire TV Cube no longer ships with an IR extender cable. You aren’t provided with an HDMI cable either, but that’s the same as it ever was.
The 3rd Gen Fire TV Cube is the first streamer to offer a HDMI input, allowing another source to be added if none are available on your TV. I’ve used it with both a PS4 and PS5 gaming console and it’s worked every time with no issues.
The new USB port also means you can add a hard drive and take advantage of the media player to play videos, audio or view pictures. Or you could connect a webcam and turn the Fire TV Cube into an Echo Show.
The Fire TV Cube comes with the de facto Alexa voice remote, but also supports the Alexa Voice Remote Pro. The ‘Pro’ remote is available separately at £34.99, a slight annoyance considering as the premium Fire TV streamer you would think it’d have everything included. In that sense it feels incomplete, as well as incurring more expense.
What you get over the standard version are two customisable buttons (labelled 1 and 2). These could be personalized for favourite apps, channels, Alexa routines or even initiate recent voice commands. A press and a hold can reset it, but only in the sense of choosing another shortcut.
The Alexa Voice Remote Pro also supports motion-activated backlighting (useful in the dark) and there’s a built-in speaker. If you lose it, you can ask Alexa to locate the remote and it’ll emit a bleeping sound that lasts for 30 seconds or so.
The Wi-Fi connection is boosted from Wi-Fi 5 to Wi-Fi 6E, allowing access to 6GHz bands for faster speeds and lower latency. However, W-Fi 6E routers are currently on the expensive side.
There’s the integration of smart products to consider too, from Ring cameras that appear as a pop-up live feed to control over smart lights. This can be done from the Smart Home Dashboard once you’ve added devices.
And if that weren’t enough, the Fire TV Cube can command other home cinema devices. It can control a soundbar, home cinema receiver and your TV, or actions such as volume and input switching over HDMI (essentially through your TV). The IR extender expands the streamer’s reach to control other devices it can’t do so through HDMI.
- Excellent streaming performance
- Faster navigation and Alexa response
- Audio performance pretty much identical to older model
One thing to note is the Fire TV Cube needs to be placed around 30cm from any speaker so Alexa isn’t confused by audio that could sound like a command. It also shouldn’t be enclosed within a cabinet that will make it harder for it to hear what you’re saying.
Set-up is speedy if you have a) an Amazon account and b) a prior Fire TV streamer as you can transfer your details over.
Once up and running it’s noticeably faster than the 2nd Gen model. Scrolling through the menus and opening apps is speedier thanks to the octa-core processor, with no noticeable lag navigating the menus or with button presses. No issues have been encountered in terms of streaming; the Fire TV Cube (2022) gets up to speed promptly. Buffering issues have been rare – albeit on a fast internet line.
The Fire TV Cube’s near- and far-field microphones easily picked my voice from several metres away, and she’s quick to respond and fetch results. She seems to get the gist of what you’re saying better than rival voice support. Disney+’s Andor has have proven tricky for voice assistants to deal with, but she got it first time.
In terms of its AV performance, HDR10, HLG, HDR10+ and Dolby Vision are onboard. The inclusion of HDR10+ and Dolby Vision dynamic metadata allows your TV to produce an optimal HDR performance with compatible apps. Of course, your TV must support HDR10+ and Dolby Vision to take advantage, and HLG support means you can watch 4K HDR content on iPlayer (the Apple TV Box doesn’t support HLG for iPlayer).
Picture quality is resoundingly good, though again dependent on your TV’s performance ceiling, internet speed and quality of the source. The Traitors (HD) on iPlayer features stable black levels, and the green and brown tones of the Scottish highlands come out well.
Giri/Haji on Netflix in Dolby Vision appears to have an intentionally soft look but there’s still plenty of detail and clarity in the stream to pick up on. Season three of Jack Ryan on Prime Video looks spectacular in 4K HDR10, sharp and detailed in a way that brings out the high quality of the production. Wednesday in Dolby Vision on Netflix is full of solid and rich looking colours and wide contrasts on a Sony A8 OLED.
The Cube supports Amazon’s Super Resolution technology, which intends to ‘convert’ HD content in 4K for “greater detail, contrast and clarity”, as well as produce a sharper picture. Watching The Bear on Disney+ and Gangs of New York (All4) I struggle to see much of a difference with Super Resolution on or off. I can see no pickup in detail, clarity or added sharpness.
The audio performance of the Fire TV steamers has, I’d say, been better than the competition, and the Fire TV Cube (2022) continues that though it’s not much different from the previous Cube. In fact, I’d say they’re on par with each other.
Watching the first episode of Wednesday in Dolby Atmos, both streamers sound near identical when dealing with the clarity of Jenna Ortega’s deadpan delivery and positioning of effects (if anything the new Fire TV Cube brings out a little more detail in the surrounds).
Watching Last Christmas on iPlayer, the older model was louder. The opening scene in a bar featured raised voices (male voices had a bassier inflection) and I could pick out the background noise in the scene better. I could hear a similar difference in ‘loudness’ watching Gangs of New York on All4 but with Atmos tracks both Cubes were pretty much identical.
Musically the Cubes are similar too. Plays of the Harlem Shuffle, Lupe Fiasco’s Gold Watch and Rey’s Theme from The Force Awakens in Amazon Music all resulted in a like-for-like sound. Disappointingly there’s no bump in Hi-res audio support. It still tops out at 16-bit/192kHz, so UHD tracks in Amazon Music are downscaled.
Should you buy it?
If you want to control your home cinema set-up: The new HDMI input is a godsend if you’ve run out of inputs on your TV, plus hands-free Alexa allows for control over other devices over HDMI
You don’t’ want to work hard to find content: I recall Amazon’s all-new Fire TV interface working solidly when it first arrived, but it’s now weighted far too much towards Amazon and Freevee content. It could do with being less dense and more democratic.
The all-new Fire TV Cube is both quantifiably better and perceptively worse than the model that preceded it. The interface favours Amazon services too much and makes discovery of titles from other services more trying than it ought to be.
Nevertheless, I don’t think there’s any streamer that’s as well featured as the Fire TV Cube 3rd Gen. Alexa is slick and responsive, it’s one of the faster streamers on the market and AV performance is excellent, though making the Remote Pro optional is disappointingly given this is Amazon’s premier streamer.
The jump up in price is I’d say merited in its performance and connectivity options, the latter brings with it more versatility and makes the Cube a more complete media hub for a home. There’s no doubt this is a powerful streamer, but that interface could do with another rethink and the competition is as good, if not better in some regards.
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Tested for two months
Tested with video and music services
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The Cube offers more connectivity options such as a HDMI input, Ethernet and USB. It also features a faster processor and hands-free Alexa operation.
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