Companies everywhere are scrambling to come up with better and better smart home tech. But smart technology isn’t just voice assistants and smart lighting. One of the bigger types of smart appliance in the industry is the TV dongle. These dongles turn a normal TV into a smart TV capable of streaming and using applications. One of the frontrunners for this type of tech has always been Amazon’s Fire Stick and Fire TV.

Last month Amazon released their newest version of these dongles called the Fire Cube. The Fire Cube has a built in speaker, has its own built in voice assistant and even support 4k resolution. We’re pretty excited about this because what could be better than controlling your TV with your voice without needing any external attachments (which can be a hassle) and watching 4k TV?

Of course that doesn’t mean it all works well. So we decided to put it to the test and see if these additions make it worth an upgrade.

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Fire Cube: Look & Feel

As its name implies, it is in fact a cube. Well, it’s more of a rectangular cuboid to be honest. The cube is wider than it is tall sized at 3.4 x 3.4 x 3 inches and is sized a little smaller than the full sized Echo. Small enough so that it should fit nicely among your living room setup. One of the things that we found rather annoying is how fast the cube gets dirty. I know that it’s supposed to just sit there out of sight, but something about its shiny surface just attracts dust to it. So be prepared to either hide it or dust it regularly.

On the top of the cube there are four buttons, two of which are to adjust the Fire Cube’s volume. The other two buttons are to wake the cube and finally you have a mute button. These buttons are pretty much for adjusting the voice assistant features on the cube. The cubes volume won’t affect the volume of the TV.

In addition to the controls on top of the Fire Cube, the package also will include a standard remote control. These remotes are no different from any other Amazon Fire products and have all the features that you would expect. The remote includes a microphone in case your cube can’t hear a command for whatever reason.

Fire Cube: Installation

Just like all of Amazon’s Fire products installation is easy as pie. Of course, that’s assuming you were able to tear though all 10 pounds of plastic wrap it comes packaged in. After you finish digging through all of your packaging you might notice something a little disconcerting.  No, Amazon did not forget to package an HDMI cable with your package. For whatever reason, they decided not to include an essential cable with your product.  So they didn’t forget to put it in the box, but rather left it out on purpose. Hopefully you have a cable lying around like I did, but that’s probably not the case for most people.  So if you don’t have one lying around, you might want to add the price of the cable to the total cost to your Cube.

On top of having an HDMI port, on the back you’ll also find an infrared port, a micro USB port, and of course a power port. The USB port can come in handy in a lot of ways so it’s good that they included one. You can add an external Ethernet adapter through it or add a mouse and keyboard to navigate around the UI a lot easier. For the infrared port, the Cube comes with an extender that plugs into it. This way if you want to use your cube to interact with devices that the Cubes built in IR blast can’t reach. Which means you can pretty much control anything in the area with the Fire Cube. According to Amazon, it should be able to control 90% of the cable boxes out there.

Once you get an HDMI cord plugged in and the Cube is powered all you have to do is follow the on-screen instructions and you’re done.

Fire Cube: Voice Assistant

You might thing that having a voice assistant right by a bunch of loud speakers doesn’t make a lot of sense, but the eight far-field microphones do a really good job picking up commands from far away. I testing the microphone while playing music by telling Alexa to turn the volume up by increments and I was pretty impressed with the results. I didn’t even have to raise my voice until the music got very loud.  By the time I had to shout a command I couldn’t even hear myself. Keep in mind this is with the cube right by my speakers.

Of course voice control is far from a perfected technology. Expect to have to repeat yourself every now and then and sometimes Alexa just has no idea what you’re saying, but that’s not the fault of the Fire Cube.

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