Amazon offers the two most popular devices for one's living room: the Echo smart speaker and the Fire TV media streamer.
However, it was only a matter of time before the company crammed both the devices into one, and now it has, in the form of the new Fire TV Cube.
Amazon's latest offering combines Amazon Echo's smart speaker and Alexa voice assistant with a media streaming box that can control your entire home-theater setup.
The Fire TV Cube, which retails for $119.99, connects to your TV and allows users to watch content in glorious 4K UHD. It also brings Echo's smart speaker capabilities to your TV, which means you can command your TV to search for movies or TV shows, launch other apps, and play, pause, and control the volume using your voice.
Once the Cube is set up, you can wake it up by saying "Alexa" and talk to it without using the TV remote, even if you want to turn on the TV, the soundbar, or other home entertainment equipment.
Some of the other things that Alexa can do for you include pulling up a weather report, places nearby, or calendar information, and even control smart home gadgets such as lights and thermostats.
Far-Field Microphone Array
The device is equipped with eight far-field microphones that are capable of picking up words from the other end of a large living room. Since the device is likely to be placed close to a television, Amazon claims it has improved the sensitivity of the microphones over other Echo devices so the speaker can hear your voice even over the television audio.
Screaming Commands At Your TV Gets Old, Frustrating At Times
At first, the whole hands-free experience is a joy and what sets the Fire TV Cube apart is its ability to pair voice commands with on-screen feedback.
However, it won't take time for users to get bored of it after using it for a few days. As Variety's Janko Rottgers pointed out, after some time, picking up the remote to scroll through search results is much faster. Rottgers also noted that when you go deeper into the searches, it often ends up in a screaming match with the television.
"Not only did the Fire TV Cube once display a show called 'Episodes' when asked to list the episodes of a previously selected show, it was also virtually impossible to tell Alexa to switch to a different seasons of a show," Rottgers said.
However, Amazon recognizes this, which is why the Cube comes with a remote control, allowing users to switch between voice commands and the traditional remote.
No Google Apps, YouTube
The Cube has a variety of content to offer, including streaming services such as Amazon Prime, Hulu, and Netflix, as well as other apps like PlayStation Vue, Twitch, Spotify, Sling TV, and so on.
However, like Amazon's other Fire devices, Google's apps are notably missing. It means that apps such as YouTube, Google Play Movies & TV, or Google Music can only be accessed through the web browsers.
Amazon's other devices are great, but the Fire TV Cube's combo of Alexa and Fire TV are a match made in heaven. The Cube's well-designed voice controls and its ability to let users control things like power, playback, and volume, makes it a good buy.
You might start hating the sound of your own voice and the missing Google and YouTube app is a drawback, especially at this premium price, but they're not dealbreakers. The Fire TV Cube provides an impressive view of what watching TV is going to be like in the future, where all you need to do is ask for what you want.