It has been a long wait, but Amazon has finally announced the all-new Amazon Fire TV Cube. This is the new flagship Fire TV that I leaked late last year and that Amazon teased a few weeks ago. The Fire TV Cube is a 4K streaming media player with HDR support that includes true hands-free control for your entire home theater setup via Alexa. Eight microphones and a built-in speaker allow you to talk to Alexa to make requests and navigate the UI without needing to use the remote for many tasks. Through a combination of HDMI-CEC to control newer equipment and a built-in IR blaster to control older equipment, the Fire TV Cube can also control your TV, A/V receiver, audio equipment, and cable box by voice.
The Fire TV Cube is available to pre-order today for $119.99 with an included IR Extender and Ethernet adapter. Prime members can pre-order the Fire TV Cube at a special introductory price of $89.99 during the next two days, June 7th & 8th, and save $30 off the regular price.
The Fire TV Cube is essentially a combination of the Fire TV 3, an Echo Dot, and a universal remote in one concise package. At its core, it’s a streaming media player capable of playing 4K UHD video at 60fps with support for HDR10 High Dynamic Range video. While it doesn’t support Dolby Vision, it does support Dolby Atmos surround sound, as well as the expected Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital Plus, and audio passthrough support.
Amazon has finally doubled the internal storage to 16GB for the Fire TV Cube, compared to the 8GB found on every Fire TV and Fire TV Stick model that came before it. That internal storage can be expanded by connecting a USB drive to the Fire TV Cube’s micro USB port using an OTG adapter. That micro USB port is not used to power the device, since there is a dedicated power connector. The Fire TV Cube also includes 2GB of RAM.
Connectivity comes in the form of 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac WiFi with 2×2 MIMO. While an integrated Ethernet port would have been preferred, Amazon has thankfully included an Ethernet adapter in the box for those who prefer the reliability of a wired connection. This is the same 10/100 Ethernet adapter that is used for the Fire TV 3 and Fire TV Stick 2. The Fire TV Cube also supports Bluetooth 4.2 for connecting game controllers, mice, keyboards, and Bluetooth headphones for private listening. It’s also how the included Alexa voice remote connects to the device, which is the same recently updated remote that comes with the Fire TV 3.
As many have suspected would be the case, the Fire TV Cube is powered by the same Amlogic S905Z quad-core 1.5GHz CPU and Mali-450 MP3 GPU as is found in the Fire TV 3. While this hardware is not as powerful as the Fire TV 2 from a gaming perspective, the Fire TV Cube surpasses the Fire TV 2 as far as video playback capabilities are concerned, thanks to its support for HDR video and 4K @ 60fps, compared to the Fire TV 2’s more limited 4K @ 30fps support. Long gone are the days of a separate Fire TV Gaming Edition, since the streaming device market as a whole has been shifting towards lowering device prices while focusing on video playback capabilities.
Those are the core specs of the Fire TV Cube, but the new flagship Fire TV goes far beyond simple specs thanks to its other new features. On top of the device are eight microphones with the same advanced beamforming technology found in Echo devices. Those mics are used for fully hands-free control of the Fire TV Cube, as well as other home theater devices. For those of you worried about placing what is essentially an Echo Dot near your TV speakers, Amazon says that the Fire TV Cube is able to suppress noise, including content that is currently playing on your TV, so that it can hear your requests from across the room, even while sitting next to your TV. In addition to the microphones, you’ll also find volume up/down buttons, a microphone mute button, and an Alexa action button on top, just like you’ll find on an Amazon Echo or Echo Dot.
The volume buttons control the volume of the internal speaker in the Fire TV Cube, which can, of course, also be adjusted by voice. This allows Alexa to respond to you even when your TV is off, without needing to turn on the TV every time. If you make an Alexa request to the Fire TV Cube while the TV is off, such as asking for the weather or controlling smart home devices, Alexa will respond through only the internal speaker, as if the Fire TV Cube were an Echo or Echo Dot. If the TV is on, which the Fire TV Cube can detect, you’ll hear Alexa responses only through the TV/home theater, accompanied by newly updated full-screen Alexa cards and visuals.
The Fire TV Cube’s hands-free capabilities go beyond what is currently available through pairing a Fire TV with an external Echo device, thanks to its universal remote capabilities. Using HDMI-CEC capabilities, if your equipment supports it, and a built-in IR blaster for all other equipment that doesn’t support HDMI-CEC, the Fire TV Cube can turn on/off your TV, change the volume, switch inputs, and change channels, all with just your voice. This is also true for A/V receivers and cable boxes.
While everything is turned off, you can say “Alexa, tune to NBC,” for example, and the Fire TV Cube will turn the TV on, turn your A/V receiver and/or cable box on (if necessary), switch to the correct input, and switch to the requested channel without ever having to touch a remote. If you just want to use an app or stream content on the Fire TV Cube, you can say “Alexa, launch Netflix” or “Alexa, watch Billions on SHOWTIME” and the TV will turn on, switch to the Fire TV Cube input if necessary, and load the app or start the requested show. You can then control playback, such as skipping episodes, pausing, fast-forwarding/rewinding, adjust the volume, or change apps/content, all by voice.
Thanks to the IR blaster, your TV or home theater equipment does not need to be “smart” for this to work. The Fire TV Cube itself emits standard IR signals to replicate the necessary remote control functionality. If your equipment isn’t near where you want to place the Fire TV Cube or if you want to place the Fire TV Cube in a shelf/cabinet, Amazon includes an optional external IR extender that plugs into the back of the Fire TV Cube. It’s a small box, that is about 1-inch on all sides, with an 8-foot cord attached that you can place in an optimal position if your home theater equipment isn’t able to receive the IR signals coming from the Fire TV Cube itself.
A “simple guided setup” process is used to configure the Fire TV Cube to control your TV and other A/V equipment. If you subscribe to traditional cable, Amazon says that the Fire TV Cube “is compatible with set-top boxes from top providers such as Comcast, DISH, and DIRECTV, covering more than 90 percent of households with a cable or satellite subscription.” Cable box compatibility affects your ability to change channels by voice, but you’ll still be able to change inputs, volume, and power state regardless, since those controls depend on your TVs compatibility.
Most Fire TV apps can already be launched by voice and allow for basic media control. Many have already implemented deeper Alexa control that allows for navigation within the app by voice once the app is open. Now that Alexa voice control is a bigger part of the Fire TV experience than ever, even more apps will probably add deeper Alexa control.
As already mentioned, the Fire TV Cube is available for pre-order for $119.99 starting today and will be released on June 21st. For the first time since the original Fire TV Stick debuted in 2014, Amazon is once again offering an exclusive introductory discount to Prime members. If Prime members pre-order by June 8th (tomorrow), they’ll get $30 off, bringing the price down to just $89.99. That is a significant discount and likely a price that won’t be beaten for a long time, if ever, so don’t miss it if you’re interested.
If you’re not a Prime member, you can sign-up for a free 30-day trial to be immediately eligible for the $30 discount. You can decide later if you want to keep Prime or cancel within the 30-day trial to not pay anything extra. Amazon is also offering a bundle that includes the Fire TV Cube and Amazon Cloud Cam together for $199.98, which saves you an extra $40 over buying them separately. Prime members still get the extra $30 off at checkout, making the bundle only $169.98. If you do pre-order the Fire TV Cube, be sure to register it by July 1st to receive a free $10 credit via email to spend on Amazon Video rentals or purchases.