Fire TV Cube turns your TV into a speech center

With the Fire TV Cube, Amazon wants to replace the classic remote control with voice control. That can be helpful – but the language assistant Alexa is far from understanding every command correctly.

It’s getting hard to keep track of Amazon’s Alexa devices. With the Fire TV Cube another challenge has been added. Amazon has merged its film and series platform Fire TV with the digital language assistant Alexa in this device. If you want to watch it anywhere, you need a provider from bestsmartdns.

The idea is good. The offer for series and films on different streaming platforms is now so large that it’s best to ask Alexa to search for it across platforms. That often works well, but very often it doesn’t.

The design of the Fire TV Cube is simple: black and cube. On the back there are connections for power, HDMI, Micro-USB and an infrared transmitter. Included are the power cable, the IR transmitter and an adapter to which an Ethernet cable can be plugged for Internet access to the router.

Although the Cube also has WLAN installed, those who don’t trust the wireless transmission of high-resolution 4K films are better off taking the cable. The Cube has slightly more memory and a more powerful processor than the Fire TV Stick, for example. On the other hand, the Cube costs twice as much as the 4K stick at 120 Euros.

You won’t find a user manual in the packaging, only a small flyer with the quick setup is included. But if the Cube is connected to electricity, Internet and TV, the screen guides you through the setup. Users must log in with their Amazon account and set the device control.

Alexa shows little flexibility

Basically, the Cube first asks whether you are using a sound bar or an AV receiver. Once the user has entered this information, the cube searches for these devices. In our case, the 4K Samsung TV and the Sonos sound bar were recognized correctly. We had to manually add the Sky cable receiver later in the settings.

Once everything is set up, the voice commands can begin. The cube has an echo speaker and far field microphones built in, so that voice commands from several meters away are still possible. If Alexa is active, the LEDs in the front edge of the cube light up blue. For example, if you ask for the weather forecast, you get the answer from a small loudspeaker that is built into the cube.

You can understand the answers, but they don’t sound nice. The sound quality is even worse than with the small Echo Dots. That’s probably the reason why the Cube never plays music through its built-in speaker. To do this, it selects either the TV or the connected sound bar. Of course, this sounds quite different again. At the top of the cube there are four buttons with which the volume can be adjusted, the microphone muted and Alexa woken up at the touch of a finger.

In the test, Alexa showed little flexibility when it came to voice commands. In any case, users should place the cube at least 30 centimeters away from a loudspeaker. Commands such as “Turn on the TV” or “Start ZDF” still worked well in the test. Also “Show movies with Alain Delon” led to a whole series of results, which are displayed in tiles on the screen.

Good solution for speech enthusiasts

Each tile has a number. But a command like “Start 3” leads to a new result page, where movies with the number 3 in the name are listed. So the correct command would be “Select 3 from”. Here Alexa could be a little more forgiving.

The search by language is unfortunately not implemented equally well in every application. This works well for the in-house Prime Video service. Netflix and YouTube also offer detailed voice searches. But with many other apps this doesn’t work or doesn’t work so well. Amazon has promised to add more here. This is how the language