The 3rd-gen Fire TV Cube is far from the first Fire TV model to officially supports external USB media, but it is the first to include a built-in media player app from Amazon that can display videos, photos, and play audio files. This is the same app found on nearly all Fire TV Smart TVs, but this is the first Amazon has included it on one of its stand-alone Fire TVs. While it’s certainly not going to replace full-fledged media players like Plex, MrMC, or even VLC, it’s definitely handy to have for quick and simple access to your media files.
When you plug a USB drive that contains media files into the Fire TV Cube’s full-sized USB-A port, you’ll see a prompt in the lower right corner to press the menu button to launch into the device’s built-in media player. Like all past Fire TV models, the new Cube only supports FAT32 formatted USB drives, so it can’t access a drive formatted with exFAT, NTFS, HFS, or APFS. If you miss the prompt or want to access your external media later, you can always open the media player from the input menu, which is between the profile icon and the search icon on the Fire TV’s main navigation menu.
Once in the Media Player, you’ll see a grid of all of the media files on your external drive. There is no way to use Amazon’s media player to play local files stored on the Fire TV Cube’s internal storage, as far as I can tell, so this is strictly for accessing media on external USB drives. Along the top are tabs for seeing just the videos, images, and audio files separately. Under those tabs is a list of the various directories on your external drive, if you prefer to navigate through the file system instead.
There are very few frills with using the app. It’s just a grid of media that you can scroll through and select. The video player supports all the formats you’d expect, including MKV, MP4, MOV, and WEBM files. I was able to play AVC H.264, HEVC H.265, and AV1 video files in resolutions up to 4K, but the player seemed to have the least issues with H.264 files. It would often display an “Unable to play” message for HEVC files, which would then go away when I backed out and immediately tried playing the file again. The same goes for files above 30 fps, since I often encountered the same error message when trying to play 60 fps files.
Photo viewing is probably where this media player shines the most. Images loaded up quickly and there is a built-in slideshow function that lets you adjust parameters like the show speed, slide style, album selection, and shuffle. The audio player in the app is pretty straightforward with the basic controls you’d expect.
As I said above, this certainly isn’t going to replace any of the popular media player apps for most people, but it’s nice to finally have something built-in that can access media files so that inexperienced users aren’t left wondering how to access their media after plugging in a USB drive. My biggest gripe with the app is its instability, especially with the video player, since it often would complain it can’t play a video and then be able to play it on the second attempt. Using the media player is also the one and only time the entire Fire TV Cube froze up on me, requiring the Cube’s power to be pulled out a reset.
Once those video quirks are ironed out, this will be a nice addition to the new Fire TV Cube. Even though Fire TV Sticks can also access external media through the use of an OTG cable, I don’t expect to see Amazon’s media player app added to those devices with a future software update. It makes sense on Fire TVs with full-sized USB ports, like the new Cube and Fire TV Smart TVs, since those already have the input menu, but it would probably just confuse most Fire TV Stick owners to see a media player app and no obvious way to plug in a drive. Besides, anyone advanced enough to know to use an OTG cable is likely smart enough to figure out that they need to install their own media player app.