Today we talk about Amazon Fire TV Cube 3rd generation, certainly less known than the famous Fre TV Stick but equally interesting and ideal for many users. It is a so-called set top box capable of managing streaming in 4K and much more, perfect for rejuvenating a slow TV and not very updated but also useful to better integrate your monitor with the Alexa compatible smarthome.
In short, a all in one product exploitable in many different ways, thanks to the many expansion possibilities and the versatility offered by the multiple AV codecs supported, let’s find out more.
WHAT IT’S FOR
Ok, for many of you this paragraph will be completely trivial, but reading a few questions under the product sheet of past generations, I realized that perhaps it is good to put down some guidelines before going into the details of the 3rd generation Fire TV Cube.
It does not have the shape of a stick like the Fire TV Sticks or Google’s Chromecasts, but it is basically the same thing in a vitaminized form factor: more power, more connection possibilities and an integrated speaker to give voice to Alexa that can thus respond. to our requests.
It must be connected to the HDMI port of the TV or a monitor, then selecting the corresponding HDMI source we will be able to access avery complete smart interface and perfectly integrated with the many streaming platforms and more. Then thanks to the HDMI CEC functionality we can almost forget about the TV remote control and do everything with the controller included with the Fire TV Cube, turn on the TV and maybe even the connected audio system, or why not, even the game console.
In fact it is bypass the TV operating system by turning it into something definitely faster, complete and updated. The fact that it is made by Amazon brings some advantages for managing the smart home thanks to Alexa. For example, we can display the video from the security cam or the smart intercom in picture in picture, or ask vocally to play our favorite TV series, or simply any request you make to smart speakers: information, actions, jokes, playback music and much more.
Compared to a key, here we have a speaker, an HDMI input port, an output to connect an IR antenna to control third party products with the remote control, even if they are hidden inside a cabinet, an ethernet port to connect the apparatus directly on the network and exploiting the stability, and then of a more powerful hardware that makes the system run at a tremendous speed.
FORM FACTOR AND PACKAGING
Fire TV Cube is a 86 x 86 x 77 mm cube, all connection ports are on the back, on the vertical sides there is the typical dark gray fabric of Amazon devices, very elegant compared to the previous generation which was a bit “Plasticky”. Under the base there is cleverly rubber that in order not to damage the surfaces and ensure stability. Above there are 4 keys: Alexa, microphone on / off, volume + and volume -, just below a blue LED ring that comes alive when the assistant is activated.
Speaking of ports we have an HDMI 2.1 ARC HDCP 2.3 output and an HDMI 2.1 input, USB 2.0 full size, IR Extender and Ethernet 10/100 Mbps.
In the package you will find the power supply and two AAA batteries for the remote control. About the remote control we find the same included with the latest generation Fire TV Stick 4K (in the image above), there are no programmable keys of the latest version (Alexa Pro) which was presented right together with the Cube.
The remote control is equipped with an IR port, it can be programmed to control other devices as well, unfortunately, however, we no longer find the IR extender antenna in the package.
- CPU: Amlogic POP1-G (Amlogic – AML Popcorn)
- 4 ARM Cortex A73 2.2 Ghz + 4 ARM Cortex A53 2.0 Ghz
- GPU: ARM G52 MP8, 800 Mhz
- RAM 2 GB LPPDDR4X
- Storage: 16 GB
- Speaker: 11 Watt integrated
- Doors: HDMI 2.1 in, HDMI 2.1 out, IR Extender, Ethernet 10/100 Mbps
- WiFi 6e (2×2 MIMO)
- Bluetooth 5.0, BLE
- Dolby MAT transcoding (Streaming and HDMI Input)
- Dolby MAT Input
- AC3 (DD and DD +)
- MPEG-H (passthrough)
- AAC (up to 8 channels)
- MPEG-4 HE AAC (up to 8 channels)
- MPEG-4 HE AACv2 (up to 8 channels)
- AAC ELD (up to 8 channels)
- xHE-AAC (up to 8 channels)
- MIDI (type 0 and type 1)
- MP3 (up to 48 kHz)
- Vorbis (.ogg, .mkv)
- PCM / Wave (6 channels, up to 96 kHz)
- Opus (up to 8 channels)
- Dolby Vision
- H.265 (HEVC) 2160p 60 fps
- H.264 1080p (60 fps)
- AV1 (2160p 60 fps
- VP9 (2160p 60 fps)
- HDR 10+
AUDIO AND VIDEO CODEC TEST
We have verified the functioning of the Fire TV Cube 3rd gen in multiple contexts of use, in particular when playing content through the HDMI input port, the USB port and streaming.
This new port is interesting, which was not there in the previous generation: it basically gives you the ability to control external devices by selecting the source directly from the Fire TV interface, without having to use the TV remote control. It is in effect an additional input that compensates for the HDMI port that you will occupy on the TV by connecting the CUBE.
The specification speaks of HDMI 2.1, but you will need to know that it does not support VRR and 120 fps. So if you want to connect a latest generation console this is not a good solution. On the contrary, we have checked the operation with a external media player and it went greatespecially with regards to passthrough which is “true” for both audio and video.
For those situations where you have an excellent panel and a performing hardware on the decoding front, the Fire TV Cube is truly the only one that guarantees you an almost complete passthrough. Almost because the DTS audio is not conveyed anyway.
Positive is the fact that by enabling passthrough the framerate matching is also respected, which instead does not happen with streaming and with integrated media player with the exception of Prime Video.
If you do not activate the passthrough, the decoding takes place without problems and without any hitch even for large files. Of note is the lack of DTS Audio support, while Dolby Atmos is read correctly.
All compatible formats are read without problems from the USB port, the frame rate matching with the integrated player is not respected, while using Nova Player it is possible to bypass this problem.
HDR 10+ files with correct reading of dynamic metadata also do well. Speaking of multimedia content on the network, it is possible to use apps such as Plex that have not shown particular uncertainties or limitations, just like for other Amazon HDMI sticks.
In streaming the behavior is basically the same as the Fire TV Stick 4K Max, no particular problem if not some lack due more to the individual apps than to the Cube. For example on Disney Plus there is no cadence synchronization and Dolby Atmos tracks are not read; on Netflix, on the other hand, Dolby Atmos works but not frame rate matching; Prime video is the best supported platform, where basically everything works.
Still with respect to Prime Video, a note concerns the live broadcast of the games which is always read at 25 fps instead of 60 as it should be, exactly as it happens with the Fire TV Stick 4K Max.
There are no significant updates on this front compared to the previous generation, the Cube does not behave like a real smart speaker, in the sense that it cannot simply play music, but is used to give voice to Alexa. The convenience is to be able to give voice commands to the TV, even without having to activate the function from the remote control.
So there are all the usual Alexa functions that you can ask for anything from smart home control to weather information etc. At this point the TV will become almost a huge EchoShow and will be able to show you the streaming of the security cameras or the intercom, with the plus of being able to do it also in picture in picture modewithout forcing yourself to abandon what you were viewing.
CONCLUSION AND PRICE
The Fire TV Cube is available from today on Amazon.co.uk to 159 Euros of the list. Compared to the previous generation, connectivity, power and versatility have improved thanks to the second HDMI-in port on the back. On the other hand, the characteristics of a real set top box do not change, excellent at 360 degrees for playing multimedia files even in high quality.
Of course the price difference with the excellent Fire TV Stick 4K Max it is important and for many contexts of unjustified use; the Cube, however, is more complete and versatile, it saves you an HDMI port and adds voice commands without having to use the remote control.
Among the venial sins, on the other hand, certainly the limited Ethernet port that cries out for revenge in the gigabit era, a shame also for the absence of a richer package, which also loses the IR extender.