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
Amazon’s third-gen Fire TV Cube is its most premium and advanced effort yet, and right from the off you should know that it’s not one for casual users but home cinema enthusiasts looking to corral every device in the living room into its an Alexa-centric paddock.
There’s not as much competition at this price but what is available is formidable in the form of the five-star Apple TV 4K. With a new look, more powerful processing, upgraded Wi-Fi and an HDMI input, can the Fire TV Cube fend off the competition from 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, but 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 video streamers aren’t meant to be ogled at. For most, it’ll reside behind the 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 Alexa ribbon strip can be found 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 for privacy.
Controls such as these are likely to be used only when you’re away from the comfort of the sofa, after all, the main purpose of Fire TV devices is to allow for hands-free Alexa.
Another means of control is the remote and the Fire TV Cube supports two versions: the standard Alexa remote and the more expensive 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 throughout 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. I’d say that both arguments carry weight.
But in its current guise the interface is something of a jumble. Aside from a few sponsored and curated rows of titles for iPlayer, Netflix and ITVX, the home page is dominated by content from Prime Video and Freevee; titles from likes of Disney+ and Paramount+ are buried amid genre specific rows (action, thriller).
More obvious rows for the likes of Apple TV+ and Disney+ would help, as well as being placed higher up the interface as currently what content there is from other services is submerged under rows of Prime and Freevee. Sky Stream and 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 Fire TV features.
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). Despite the positive 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.
There’s also no support for Gigabit ethernet connections the 128GB Apple TV 4K box has, and storage is smaller than either Apple TV streamer at 16GB (technically 12.83GB).
However, the 3rd Gen Fire TV Cube is the first streamer to offer a HDMI input, allowing another source to be added if all the ones on your TV are used up. I’ve plugged in a PS4 and PS5 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, an annoyance considering this is the premium Fire TV streamer and I’d expect it to have everything. It makes the Fire TV Cube feel incomplete, and incurs more expense on top of the price hike over the previous model. The Pro Remote is compatible to use with other Fire TV Sticks and older Cubes.
What you get with the Pro Remote 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 Cube’s Wi-Fi connection has been 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 still expensive even if there are more cheaper options than there were when the Fire TV Cube 2022 launched.
There’s the integration of smart products 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’s able to control a soundbar, home cinema receiver and the TV, or perform actions such as volume and input switching over HDMI (through your TV). The IR extender expands the streamer’s reach to control other devices it can’t do through HDMI.
- Excellent streaming performance
- Faster navigation and Alexa response
- Audio performance pretty much identical to older model
The Fire TV Cube needs to be placed around 30cm from any speaker so Alexa doesn’t get confused by audio that could sound like a command. It also shouldn’t be enclosed within a cabinet which 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) had 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. I’ve not encountered many issues in terms of streaming; the Fire TV Cube (2022) gets up to speed promptly. Buffering issues have been rare – albeit that’s 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. Searching for Disney+’s Andor has proven tricky for other voice assistants to deal with, but Alexa got it first time.
In terms of its AV performance, HDR10, HLG, HDR10+ and Dolby Vision support are all provided. 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, and HLG support means you can watch 4K HDR content on iPlayer (the Apple TV 4K doesn’t support HLG for iPlayer).
Picture quality is resoundingly good, though dependent on your TV’s performance, internet speed and quality of the source. The Traitors (HD) on iPlayer featured stable black levels, and the green and brown tones of the Scottish highlands come out well.
Giri/Haji on Netflix in Dolby Vision has 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 ‘converts’ HD content in 4K for “greater detail, contrast and clarity”, as well as producing a sharper picture. Watching The Bear on Disney+ and Gangs of New York (All4) and I struggle to see much of a difference with Super Resolution on or off. I can see no advancement in detail, clarity or added sharpness. I wonder if it has more of an impact on cheaper TVs, but I also can’t see this streamer being paired with more affordable tellies either.
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 good run, 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 actually 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: Unsurprisingly, Amazon’s all-new Fire TV interface is weighted to Amazon and Freevee content, but it could do with being more democratic and considerably less dense in terms of the options it curates.
The all-new Fire TV Cube is quantifiably better and perceptively worse than the previous model. The interface favours Amazon services too much and makes discovery of titles from other services much harder than it ought to be.
Nevertheless, there’s no other streamer as well featured as the Fire TV Cube 3rd Gen. Alexa is slick and responsive, it’s one of the faster streamers around and AV performance is excellent. However, making the Remote Pro optional is disappointing given this the Fire TV Cube’s status as its premier streamer.
I’d say the jump in price is merited in terms of its performance and connectivity. The latter brings with it more versatility and makes the Cube a more complete home media hub. There’s no doubt this is a powerful streamer, and the hardware is excellent but that interface could do with another refresh.
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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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