Amazon's Fire TV Cube is launching on Thursday for $119. It's so good that I want to buy one for every TV in my home.
The Fire TV Cube lets you speak to your TV to change the channel, adjust the volume, play movies, check the weather, shop on Amazon and more. You never need to touch a remote control, even if you're like me and have one for the TV, one for the cable box and one for your audio system.
With the Fire TV Cube, I can walk into the room, say "Alexa turn on the TV," and then say "Alexa tune to CNBC." Without ever touching a clicker, I can sit down on my couch and begin watching.
It's an experience that makes fumbling with several controllers and buttons feel archaic.
Here's what you need to know about the Amazon Fire TV Cube.
The Fire TV Cube sounds complicated but it's a cinch to set up. I just plugged it into a power outlet and then attached it to my TV with an HDMI cable. Amazon's software walks you through a quick guide that lets the Fire TV Cube automatically control speakers, your cable box and your TV by voice. It holds your hand the whole way.
The Fire TV Cube uses somewhat old infrared technology to control your gadgets — the same used in a remote control — which means it needs to be within the line-of-sight of the receiver. I found that as long as it's near your cable box and TV, it'll work without a hitch. (If you hide your cable box in a cabinet, you can use an included infrared adapter that you plug into the back of the Fire TV Cube.)
You can do all sorts of things by voice with the Amazon Fire TV Cube.
Walk into a room and ask Alexa to turn on the TV. A small blue bar lights up on the top of the box, alerting you that it knows you've spoken a command, and then the TV turns on.
The Fire TV Cube home screen is similar to what you get with a regular Fire TV Stick. You'll see Amazon Prime apps for movies and TV, and other apps like Hulu and Netflix if you chose to install them.
Once they're installed, instead of using a remote to open those apps, you can ask Alexa to open them. "Alexa, open Netflix" you might say or "Alexa, play 'The Man in the High Castle.'"
If can surf through content by voice, too. On each screen, each app or selection is labeled with a small number. If you're looking through a page full of comedy movies, for example, you can select one by saying "Alexa, select number 5." Or you can move on to a new page of movies by saying "Alexa, scroll right."
The most fun feature is the ability to control cable TV. You can ask Alexa to "tune to CNBC," for example, and the Fire TV Cube will automatically switch inputs on your TV to your cable box and tune to CNBC. You can also tune to a specific channel number, though you can't go to a specific program yet — so you can't say "Alexa, tune to the Yankees game." (At some point, however, apps like Hulu might enable that sort of voice control in over-the-top streaming apps.)
When you're done with cable, just say "Alexa, go home," and the box will switch inputs back to the Fire TV Cube and back to the main home screen.
The Fire TV Cube can do lots of other things, too. I was able to ask it to search for soap on Amazon, and had the option to buy it by voice. You can also check the weather, or ask it questions like how tall the Empire State Building is or to play music. That's how it's like an Echo.
The Fire TV Cube has completely changed how I watch TV in just a couple of days. Already, when I move to another room, I'm annoyed at having to find and pick up a remote.
The product also comes with the standard Fire TV remote that ships with other Amazon products. That's still valuable for sifting through many pages of movies, where speaking would become repetitive, or using apps that aren't voice-enabled.
I don't have too many complaints with the Fire TV Cube, but I'm baffled by one decision. Amazon doesn't include an HDMI cable with the Fire TV Cube, which means you need to take one from another gadget or buy one. It's a weird corner to cut, especially since the product costs $119 and a cable only costs about $10. I also think it might confuse people who assume they're getting everything they need right in the box, as is the case with other Amazon Fire products.
Also, the Fire TV Cube doesn't do everything an Echo can do, which makes things a little confusing at times. You can't use it to place calls to other Echos or send messages, for example. It's a minor complaint, but worth noting in case Amazon adds features to other Alexa-enabled products and leaves this out in the future.
The experience can be a little inconsistent right now, too. Voice selections work in most Amazon apps, and Netflix and Hulu work well, but other streaming providers sometimes don't have as advanced support for voice commands. That means you may need the remote if you're using a more obscure streaming app or one where the developers haven't added full voice controls yet.
Should you buy it?
The Amazon Fire TV Cube is a really good product and I think it's well worth $119.
I already love walking into my living room and turning on the TV without having to find a remote. I can have the Yankees game on before I cross the room, even with food in one hand and a drink in the other.
I like that I don't need to kick back on the couch with three remotes in my lap if I want to browse between cable TV and Fire TV and need to adjust the volume of my TV.
It's a solution so good that I hope Google and Apple copy it soon, and we can stop worrying about remotes once and for all.
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