Like the original Fire TV Cube, the 2019 version is essentially three products in one powerful package.
First and foremost, it’s a streaming device, capable of playing all your favourite BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 shows and Amazon Prime or Netflix if you’re prepared to pay their respective subscriptions. It’ll do this in 4K, with HDR and Dolby Vision should the options be available.
But other streamers do that, so what about the other two thirds of the Cube’s functionality? Well secondly, it functions as an Amazon Alexa smart speaker. Anything Alexa can do, the Fire TV Cube can too and, crucially, that involves being able to turn on your TV and other smart home stuff.
Finally, it acts as a universal remote for things hooked up to your TV. That means it can control not just the TV but also your soundbar and set top box. That’s handy if, like me, you’re constantly searching for a teeny-tiny remote that the sofa just loves to eat.
There’s also the Apple TV 4K, which starts at £179, and one other wildcard shout is the Nvidia Shield TV Pro. Mainly sold as a game streaming device, it’s also the most powerful Android TV box out there, and has just been refreshed for 2019 with 4K and Dolby Vision support. It’ll even work as a Plex server although it is more expensive at £199.
It’s worth questioning at this point if you actually need a dedicated 4K streaming device at all: most 4K TVs come with their own apps built in, so you may well be replicating functionality. If that’s the case, and you’re shopping for an older 1080p dumb TV, then the regular Fire TV Stick (£39.99), Now TV Smart Stick (£30) or Chromecast (also £30) will do you just fine.
As the name suggests, the Amazon Fire TV Cube is a cube. A quite nondescript black cube at that, aside from the buttons taken straight from the Echo: volume up, volume down, mute microphone and Alexa. That’s fine by me: who wants their set-top box to be jazzy anyway?
In fact, Amazon has thought quite hard about keeping it discrete. Although its remote control requires infrared to work, the company has included an optional IR blaster to tail out the back, in case you want to keep all your HDMI doohickeys heard but not seen. There’s even an optional Ethernet adapter in the box, in case your WiFi isn’t the strongest. The company really has thought of everything – well, except for an HDMI lead. Supply your own, cheapskate.
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