Overview of the Amazon Fire TV Cube’s Equipment Control Setup Process

One of the standout features of the Amazon Fire TV Cube is its universal remote features that let it control other devices, such as TVs, A/V receivers, and cable/satellite boxes. It does this through a clever blend of new and old technologies. For newer devices that support it, the Fire TV Cube uses HDMI-CEC, which allows consumer electronic devices to communicate and control each other through the HDMI connection. For older devices without HDMI-CEC capabilities, it uses infrared signals through a built-in IR blaster, which is how most remote controls communicate. The best part is you don’t have to know or care how your devices communicate because the Fire TV Cube walks you through a simple setup process and takes care of it all for you.

At the end of the initial setup process, after you’ve done things like set up WiFi and logged into your Amazon account, but just before you’re shown a welcome video and are sent off to the home screen for the first time, the Fire TV Cube asks you to set up your equipment. You can safely skip this step, if you prefer, and do it later without any difference to the outcome of your configuration.

The main Fire TV Cube settings area has a new Equipment Control menu where all the various universal remote settings and configurations live. If you don’t set up equipment control during the initial setup process, you can do so from this menu. At any point, like if you move the Fire TV Cube to a different TV or drastically change your home theater equipment, you can select the Set Up Equipment Again option to reset everything and have the Fire TV Cube walk you through the same equipment setup process that it has you do during the initial setup.

The equipment setup process is surprisingly simple and literally takes just a few minutes. Having gone through the process of configuring a Logitech Harmony hub and remote in the past, the Fire TV Cube’s equipment setup is starkly different and nowhere near as cumbersome. Anyone who is capable enough to connect A/V equipment together is more than capable of configuring the Fire TV Cube to control that equipment.

The steps that the Fire TV Cube walks you through while setting up equipment control will be different for everyone. This is not only due to differences in equipment, but also differences in the technology that the equipment supports. As I said earlier, you don’t need to know anything about that technology or whether your equipment has it, but the setup will be longer for some and shorter for others.

The Fire TV Cube does what it can to auto-detect equipment, and asks you for verification when it can or asks you to select from a list of manufacturers when it can’t. For my newer “smart” Element TV, it skipped several configuration steps that it asked me for my much older “dumb” Pioneer TV. Overall, all you really need to know is the make of your equipment and which inputs everything is connected to. When asked to select a make, the list of manufacturers given is ridiculously massive and seems to imply that the number of supported equipment is equally massive. It places the most common manufacturers at the top so most people won’t need to scroll through the main list. For my two setups, it never asked for specific equipment models and was able to auto-detect most devices.

Once you tell the Fire TV Cube very basic information about your home theater equipment, it proceeds to go through a dance as it turns things on/off, mute/unmute, and change inputs. It’s actually fun to watch it take control while it asks you to verify things like if you can hear music playing, if the correct image is being displayed on the TV, and if it switched inputs successfully.

One clever thing is how it utilizes the Fire TV Cube’s internal speaker during the equipment setup process. When it mutes your equipment, it asks if you stopped hearing the music by speaking through the internal speaker, since you obviously can’t hear it through your regular speakers anymore. The same thing happens when it switches inputs, since at that point it can no longer give you instructions on the screen.

For me, the only hiccup through the entire process was it not being able to control input switching on my older TV. I don’t know if that’s a limitation of the TV, since it’s an 11-year-old 720p plasma that’s as “dumb” as it gets, but the Fire TV Cube is able to receive updated IR profiles, so there’s hope that it will gain the ability in the future. It’s not a big deal for me since the Fire TV Cube can still control power and volume on that TV, which is much more important, and it’s a spare TV that never leaves HDMI 1 anyway, but I can see how that can be discouraging if it happened to someones primary TV.

The end result is being able to control your home theater equipment through Alexa on the Fire TV Cube. The initial setup process walks you through configuring control of your TV and an A/V receiver or soundbar if you have one. You can then add additional equipment, like cable/satellite boxes, DVRs, Blu-ray/DVD players, game consoles, and other media players like Rokus and Apple TVs, through the main Equipment Control menu in the Fire TV Cube’s settings area.

Cable and satellite boxes are the only other equipment that the Fire TV Cube can control on an advanced level. By advanced, I mean that the Fire TV Cube can do more than just switch to the device. For supported cable/satellite boxes, which currently include boxes from DIRECTV, AT&T U-verse, DISH, Comcast, Spectrum, Verizon, Cox, Altice, and Frontier, the Fire TV Cube can change channels, either by name or number, and navigate through the interface for you.

For all other equipment that you add to the Fire TV Cube’s configuration, you’ll only be able to ask the Fire TV Cube to switch to that device. It can’t turn it on or control it. When adding this equipment, you essentially just tell the Fire TV Cube which TV input it’s connected to and what to change with your receiver or soundbar, if necessary. Then, when ask to switch to a device, it handles all the input switching and will return you to using the Fire TV Cube correctly when requested.

In addition to adding additional devices, the Equipment Control menu has a bunch of options that allow you to fine-tune how the Fire TV Cube controls your home theater. The only setting that I needed to modify was the Volume Increment value because I wanted the volume to rise and lower in smaller steps when I asked for it to be changed. It’s great that the Fire TV Cube provides these extra options for those who want to tinker, but I suspect the slew of settings will be overwhelming for many and could lead to poorer performance. Thankfully there are buttons to reset to default options everywhere and you can always reset everything by just redoing the setup process from scratch.

There are too many options to go into detail on all of them, but one option is the ability to manually, instead of automatically, control power. The Fire TV Cube, by default, will predict when you want things to turn on. For example, if everything is off and you press the Home button on the remote, the Fire TV Cube will power on your TV for you. With this setting set to manual, you have to explicitly ask for devices to turn on/off for the power state to change.

Another option worth mentioning is the Power On Delay setting available for each device. This essentially controls how long the Fire TV Cube waits after powering on a device before it sends it additional commands, like switching inputs. For my A/V receiver, the Fire TV Cube selected a conservative 7 second delay, but since my receiver is ready to accept input changes almost instantly after it powers on, I can lower this setting so that everything is configured a few seconds earlier when I ask to turn on the TV.

Lastly, there’s the option to turn off equipment control altogether. Doing so will essentially turn the Fire TV Cube into a Fire TV 3 that also happens to have an Echo Dot sitting on top of it. The nice thing is that turning off equipment control after you’ve gone through and set everything up does not reset your settings. It’s more of a temporarily disable switch than a clear option. So you can switch it on or off with no repercussions.

That’s an overview of what it’s like to set up the Amazon Fire TV Cube to control your home theater equipment. In a followup article, I’ll go over the details of what it’s like using those universal remote capabilities.

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54 comments
  1. hawkstead says:

    Alexa, record Elias’ unboxing and post it to his YouTube channel.

  2. Jim Carter says:

    I just scanned a scathing review of the Cube on PCWorld. Once I got to the portion of the article where the writer was trying things that Amazon said couldn’t be done at this time, I stopped reading. It would have been more helpful if the writer had LISTED things that weren’t possible and just moved on to the functions that were supposed to work and focus on there.

    • Brantome says:

      Haven’t read that review but I imagine a lot will be disappointed about the level of tv control this will give them. I don’t think they can dispense with their tv remote from what I’ve read above

  3. Floki says:

    Is “cinema mode” available?

    • King Nothing says:

      Maybe “Cinema Mode” (Dynamic refresh rate switching) will be available exclusively on the second generation Fire TV sets. Because the problem with automatic refresh rate switching is that the device may want to switch to a display mode that your TV doesn’t support (maybe because of some faulty EDID). So you will end up with a black screen. But on the TV sets they will know exactly what display modes are supported by the panel and which are not. So Cinema Mode should be possible without any of those issues there. But maybe Amazon has abandoned the idea all together. I hope I’m wrong and one day it will also arrive on my FTV3 with a software update. Would be more important to me than all this Alexa hands-free stuff.

  4. Lvmykyds says:

    Can you still use your harmony hub and remote with it?

    • AFTVnews says:

      Look for a separate article on that later. I need time to test things out.

    • Wayne says:

      Sort of– I actually used my Harmony instead of the original remotes when walking through the set up.

      But….the problem is that you lose “sync” with the Harmony, and end up spending too much time fixing the activities. At least for me, but maybe Elias or someone else will come up with a work around.

      • Tom Weyer says:

        The best way and I should say “best” is effectively to create macros (amazon calls routines) use these to switch and use the virtual devices the harmony remote skill exposes). It’s more trouble I feel than it’s worth.

        Right solution is exposeing Alexa functality as API for developer/skill extension. Amazon just launch developer interfaces for media control (TiVo/DTV/others are building on this). As an engineer myself this is how I would extend it until someone creates a generic skill that can be customized rather then requiring programmming.

        IR functionality is VERY limited. Unfortunately they have tried to do to much in the device and are leaving many areas poorly/incompletely implemented. The product realistically represents a great late stage beta but was no where near ready at launch and should have been represend as such and I would have felt MUCH better about all the problems I’ve had this far.

        Wait for the many software upgrades needed or wait for iOS based solution. Next version of iOS will allow control of harmony remote/hub DIRECTLY from HomeKit. This means I can ask Siri to directly execute any harmony command. And the FireCube is going back to amazon……

    • Don Bailey says:

      Yes. The fire TV cube will work independent of the harmony. Go to the Smart home group section to build the Fire TV cube . This solves the problem of not being able to use two separate harmonies on your router you can use the Harmony for one set of skills and the fire cube for another .

      • Rhys Halloran says:

        Don- Can you read my question below in this string and then explain how I can use voice controls with a FIRE TV Cube hooked to one tv in a room and using a Harmony/Echo setup attached to another tv in another room? I tried following what you said using the Smart Home group but I couldn’t get it to work the way I want it to.

  5. Brantome says:

    From what you say so far, control of changing channels only seems possible with smarter cable boxes – those with existing boxes like TiVo or Sky here in the uk, or those with TVs who still use digital broadcast tv will be left high and dry. I don’t know the prevalence of those in the USA, but a lot of TVs and cable/satellite boxes in the uk still rely on IR or RF control of three digit sequences.
    Plus the lack of an IR remote learning facility seems strange…
    Maybe this is like the Echo Plus’ hub – it’s laying down a foundation rather than being feature rich in the first release. From what you say so far, I don’t think harmony users can throw their hub away yet…

    • AFTVnews says:

      That’s correct, external channel control is only available through cable/satellite boxes for now. You can’t control the tuner in a TV. This can change in the future with updates (more on that next week, stay tuned) but for now, it’s just power, volume, and input control.

  6. Dennis Rodzik says:

    unwrapping the pkg is a nightmare. Took me longer to unwrap the pkg than the setup!

  7. Scott says:

    Would a Fire TV edition’s remote allow all buttons to be used after pairing? Specifically, if I use the volume buttons, would it control the tv/AV equipment volume?

  8. The other Rob says:

    Anyone try Flirc yet?

    • AFTVnews says:

      Yes, FLIRC works over OTG adapter to control the Fire TV Cube. More on that coming in a massive USB/OTG/Ethernet article I’m working on.

    • drewb0y says:

      UPS delayed for me :( Will try flirc for you as soon as I get it tomorrow. Currently use that as a backup to the backup on my FTV2 :)

  9. Debbi Patton says:

    Can I not control DVDs via voice, i.e. tell it to pause or stop or play?

  10. Robby Long says:

    I can’t get the Cube to display anything. I get a black screen and it keeps beeping at me every twenty seconds or so. Am I missing something?

  11. Robby Long says:

    Changed hdmi cables and it’s working now…

  12. Dj says:

    Any suggestions on switching to satellite with a Denon avr? The setup works flawlessly but when it’s done, it keeps saying it cannot communicate with the equipment.

  13. Angi says:

    Had a lot of fun with it so far. Feels like semi-Jetsons, voice controlling lights and now TV. However, did you happen to come across a way to change the default input when you turn everything on? It picks itself each time. Looked through all the settings and nothing jumped out that would switch this

    • Brian Johnson says:

      I would like to know this as well

      • Angi says:

        I have just about come to the conclusion that it is likely going to be something that comes around in a later update.

        We’ve gotten adjusted to switching to Cable Input just after turning it on, if we can’t use verbal commands to go to the Live broadcast on the app we want (like NBC, ABC, etc) Sometimes that works, depends on what’s on (local or national broadcast)

  14. Xiaolei says:

    Do you expect Amazon to make another physical remote to take advantage of the equipment control features? Or is it possible for a third party remote to achieve this? I actually don’t need much, just turning on/off TV and adjusting TV volume. I am just not in this hand free gimmick. Using a remote is much faster and more accurate.

  15. Derick Moore says:

    Got my Cube today, and it is working, insofar as I have set the controls and tested it. I’ll call that good!

    Will I run into any problems because I am using Redmere HDMI cables?

    I don’t know how the Fire Cube and the TV communicate, or if it goes both directions. This is a Big Void in my HDMI understanding.

  16. Debbi says:

    When I use voice control to turn tv off it works, but my kitchen led lights turn on at the same time! The lights are usually controlled by their own remote and are not Alexa-compatible lights. Now what do I do?

  17. Mark Lowe says:

    If I bought one whilst in the US and bought this back to the UK would it work with my UK Amazon account?

    • Brantome says:

      Very unlikely – the backend server infrastructure/ code won’t be in place, nor is it likely to support uk cable/satellite provider kit and content.

  18. Stephen says:

    I have my fire cube going to my Sony receiver (str-dn860) and then to my Samsung TV (65mu7000). When I ask alexa to switch to a different activity the receiver won’t switch from the TV input. If I turn off Cec on the TV alexa will switch to the correct input but I have no picture on the TV. I talked to all 3 companies trying to resolve this but no luck.

  19. C. Smith says:

    My TV (Sony projector) requires 2 pushes of the power button to turn it off. Any idea how to trick the cube into doing this?

    Also, FYI, on my initial install I selected AV receiver, but doing so made the ‘Add Equipment’ button disappear from the options under ‘Manage Equipment’, which meant I couldn’t add my PS4 or DirecTV receiver. That makes no sense.

  20. Willy Z says:

    I’ll give you an honest review of The FireTV Cube. This thing is terrible. It’s hands down one of the worst devices I have ever purchased. Set up seemed to go fine, but that’s where the good things ended. Somehow it seems to have forgotten how to do do 2/3 of the functions it was able to do during setup and I ran setup 3 times, yet it just continues to fail. It doesn’t hear my voice if there’s any background noise at all. It’s supposed to make a sound at the beginning of the command; sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes it can turn the TV off and sometimes it can’t. It forgot how to turn the TV volume up or down and sometimes when I command it to change the volume it will freeze Sling TV.
    It can’t understand “start Sling TV, but it can understand start Sling Television, go figure”. Also it hasn’t successfully changed an input a single time…not once. DO NOT BUY THE FIRE TV CUBE, it’s a total failure.

  21. Mike S says:

    I was pretty disappointed, too. I’ve got an older FireTV – the Gen1 model, and it works with an Echo Dot with Logitech Harmony to control my complete setup using an Onkyo A/V rcvr as an HDMI smart hub, a DVR, Nvidia Shield TV, a Vizio semi-smart TV, and a Windows PC with Media Center and Plex Media Server using a NAS for storage.

    Certainly the FireTV Cube would be as capable as the old Gen1 FireTV – but, nope. It doesn’t like the Harmony nor the A/V rcvr setup. It has been at least 20 years that I’ve been using the A/V rcvr as the focal point for the entertainment center.

    I sure wasn’t expecting the FireTV Cube to be so limiting.

    Oh well, it’s not going back yet. I’m going back to the drawing board to see if this thing can be wrangled into the 21st century without cutting out half of my equipment.

  22. Rhys Halloran says:

    I have a Harmony and an Echo in my bedroom, where I can tell my Samsung 55″ TV to turn on or off. It worked great every time. Once I hooked up my Fire TV Cube in my office down the hallway, it will turn the Samsung 40″ tv it’s hooked up to off/on but now I cant use voice to turn on my bedroom tv. Has my Fire TV Cube some how messed up the Harmony/Echo connection in my bedroom? If not, how can I get both TV’s working with voice control again? Thanks in advance.

  23. Angi says:

    I don’t know if this is an issue related to our sound bar (Samsung) or the Cube but do they always go Mute when you give it a command? Is this something that can be turned off? I realize this may be related to allowing it to listen to the command but we are finding that sometimes it doesn’t unmute itself. Which is why I wonder if it’s an issue related to the sound bar. Just curious if others have ran in to this

  24. Seth Taylor says:

    I am able to voice change input from HDMI 2 [cable box] to HDMI 1 [Fire Cube TV] but not the other way around. Currently, I have to use the tv remote and select the input to get from HDMI 1 to HDMI 2. I have gone thru the initial setup twice with the same results bot times. Any suggestions?

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