The Alexa Fire TV Cube was announced and made available for pre-order in the US by Amazon yesterday, and deliveries of the device will begin on 6/21/18. For those who already have both Alexa and Fire TV devices, does this cube represent an upgrade? It depends on the rest of your home theater setup.
Note that this device is currently only being released in the US, but it should be coming to other regions where Alexa is supported soon.
Please also be aware that the information provided here is accurate as of this writing, on 6/8/18, but is subject to change in the future as Amazon releases updates to its devices and software.
Fire TV Cube is Like An Echo With Fire TV Built In
For consumers who don’t already own an Echo or Fire TV, but have been interested in getting them, the Fire TV Cube is a no-brainer purchase. You get all the functionality of a full-sized Echo plus all the functionality of a Fire TV streaming device, plus Alexa voice control over Fire TV functions.
However, those who are expecting the Cube to provide a single-device solution for voice control over an entire home theater setup may be disappointed. Fire TV Cube is a forward-looking device, designed to take advantage of, and work with, technology built into the most recent models of A/V equipment. If your setup is a few years old or more, you won’t be able to use all the voice-control features of Fire TV Cube.
Fire TV Cube Demands HDMI-CEC Technology For Optimal Performance
Amazon added some home theater Alexa voice control functionality to its Fire TV streaming devices a while ago, but it’s far from seamless. You might have to enable a special Alexa skill and you still have to use a Fire TV remote or separate, Bluetooth-paired Alexa device to issue the voice commands. Performance of the cable/satellite service skills tends to be unreliable and functions like turning the TV off and on demand HDMI Consumer Electronics Control (CEC) technology built into the TV.
It’s the same with the new Fire TV Cube: unless your home theater setup includes a TV with HDMI-CEC connectivity, you still won’t be able to control all its functions using only Alexa voice commands. Just as with HD technology, over time HDMI-CEC technology will become standard on all new TVs and home theater components but if your TV doesn’t already have HDMI-CEC and you’re not looking to buy a new TV, you will not be able to use all the intended functions of the Fire TV Cube.
Even With HDMI-CEC, There Are Limitations
As Amazon details on its Fire TV Cube Voice Control Compatibility page:
With Alexa on Fire TV Cube, you can control tens of thousands of devices including TVs, sound bars, A/V receivers, and cable and satellite boxes from popular brands like Samsung, VIZIO, Sony, LG, Yamaha, DIRECTV, DISH, Comcast, Spectrum, and more through the cloud, infrared (IR), and HDMI-CEC. Alexa can also control compatible smart home devices like lights, locks, thermostats, and more through the cloud. However certain devices, like projectors, HDMI switches/hubs, and universal remotes (like Logitech Harmony) are not compatible with Fire TV Cube. Also some devices have limitations with voice control of certain functions, such as input switching.
The FAQ section on that page reveals a few more limitations and gotchas:
I have a Fire TV Edition TV; should I purchase a Fire TV Cube?
While it’s possible to use Fire TV Cube with a Fire TV Edition TV, a better alternative for hands-free control is to purchase an Echo and pair both devices. With a paired Echo device, Alexa can control your Fire TV Edition TV, but cannot control sound bars, A/V receivers, or cable or satellite boxes.
I have a Bluetooth-enabled sound bar; will it work with Fire TV Cube?
With Alexa on Fire TV Cube, you can control IR-enabled sound bars that are connected to your TV. For optimal performance, connect your sound bar to the TV with an HDMI or optical cable. Alexa cannot control your sound bar if it is paired to your Fire TV Cube via Bluetooth.
With Alexa on Fire TV Cube, can I change broadcast channels that are picked up via a TV antenna?
No, you cannot change broadcast channels that are picked up via an antenna that is connected to your TV with Alexa. However, you can ask Alexa to switch to an antenna input.
For those whose home theater setup is fairly state-of-the-art, as well as those intending to upgrade their equipment in the near future, the Fire TV Cube can deliver the whole-system voice control consumers have wanted for so long. Just be sure to read Amazon’s Fire TV Cube Voice Control Compatibility page carefully, to ensure your devices are supported.
It’s also a good pick for consumers who don’t already own an Echo or Fire TV, but have been interested in getting them. This one device will cost you less than buying the two items separately, and deliver all the functionality you’d get from buying and installing both a full-sized Echo and Fire TV streaming device.