Android Central Verdict
There's not much competition when it comes to streaming devices priced at more than $100. Amazon's new Fire TV Cube (2022) hits a lot of the checkboxes, while also making it easier for those who haven't cut the cord to control everything with a single remote.
Hands-free Alexa is incredible
Supports Wi-Fi 6E
The fastest Fire TV out there
HDMI passthrough input
Home screen is still riddled with ads
The new Alexa Voice Remote Pro is sold separately
Lacks AirPlay or Cast support
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When you're looking for the best streaming devices, you're probably looking at something like the Fire TV Stick 4K or the Chromecast with Google TV. But there's still a market for options on the higher end of the price spectrum, which don't make you feel like you have to make any sacrifices if you want the absolute best of the best.
That's where the Amazon Fire TV Cube comes into play, taking on the likes of the Apple TV 4K (2022), Roku Streambar Pro, and NVIDIA Shield TV. This marks the third iteration of Amazon's top-tier streaming box, following the original Fire TV Cube released in 2018 and the 2nd generation model launched in 2019. And while the latest model provides some valuable upgrades, is it really enough to warrant its steep price tag?
Amazon Fire TV Cube (2022): Price and availability
The Amazon Fire TV Cube (2022) was announced in September 2022 before officially launching near the end of October 2022. There's only one option available, with a retail price of $139.99, but Amazon is also offering bundles that include the new Alexa Voice Remote Pro or Amazon IR Extender Cable. This option comes equipped with 2GB of RAM and 16GB of onboard storage, with no higher storage configurations available.
Amazon Fire TV Cube (2022): What you'll like
To put it plainly, if you want one of the fastest and best streaming devices on the market, then the Fire TV Cube (2022) is easily at the top of the list. Part of that has to do with the lack of competition in this price bracket, with only a handful of other devices being capable of matching up. Going into this, I've had plenty of experience with the various Fire TV Sticks that Amazon has released over the years, but this is the first time that I've had the opportunity to try out or even use Amazon's top-end streaming box.
In my current living room setup, I primarily rely on last year's Apple TV 4K, which has performed quite well, even if there are a few things missing from tvOS. Because I usually end my day sitting on the couch watching some TV with my partner before hitting the hay, I decided to replace the Apple TV in favor of Amazon's solution, just to try and get some additional feedback.
The first thing that I noticed was the design, as it's just a little box that sits on the TV stand, wrapped in fabric, which is a change from the glossy design of the last Fire TV Cube. Presumably, this was done to help provide some continuity with the likes of the best Alexa speakers, such as the Echo, Echo Show, and others. There's still an LED ring around the top, letting me know when Alexa is listening and when my Wi-Fi connection decides to randomly crap the bed.
Besides the improvements to performance, the real selling point of the Fire TV Cube comes when you look at the back. Amazon added an HDMI input port, USB-A port, and an Ethernet port, in addition to the existing power adapter, HDMI output port, and IR extender. The HDMI In port has the potential to be quite useful, but if you don't have cable and just rely on streaming services for your TV-watching needs, you'll likely end up just having an empty port on the back.
When it comes to performance, I only really have the Fire TV Stick 4K Max and Apple TV 4K (2021) to compare this to, and I came away genuinely impressed. Scrolling through the different rows of apps and suggestions was a breeze, and being able to say "Hey Alexa, watch Thursday Night Football" is a convenient touch if I don't feel like reaching for the remote. I even paired a spare game controller and fired up Amazon Luna to see how that is handled, and came away enjoying games more than I thought I would.
And thanks to the Google Nest Alexa Skill, I'm able to check and see who's at my front door or check my other Nest cameras without feeling the need to swap everything out for the best Blink or best Ring security cameras. Alexa Skills really help to bridge the gap when it comes to integrating with other systems, and it's something I recommend everyone checks out before replacing their existing devices. Of course, there are some trade-offs to this, but surprisingly, I'm even able to use picture-in-picture with the Nest Alexa Skill.
Plus, you have the option to either press the dedicated Alexa button found on the included remote, or you can just enjoy hands-free control if you're doing something else and don't have the remote in your hand. Surprisingly, Amazon did reduce the number of total microphones with the new Fire TV Cube (2022), but I haven't run into any instances when Alexa couldn't hear me ask it a question. So it's likely that the four microphones being used are simply better or at least just as good as the eight microphones found in the 2019 iteration.
If you're like me and have cut the cord with cable, instead relying on something like YouTube TV or Hulu with Live TV, then you'll also be happy to know that there's better integration with those services. I can say "Alexa, watch ESPN" and after a few moments, it will automatically open the YouTube TV app and tune it to the right channel. Provided that you have the appropriate app installed, this seamless experience also extends to the "Guide," making it quick and easy to channel surf without actually opening the app itself.
Amazon Fire TV Cube (2022): What you won't
Going through the setup process was mostly a breeze, with the only hiccup coming when I was trying to control my soundbar with the included Fire TV Remote. Even after plugging in the IR extender, and following the on-screen steps to set everything up, only to find that I needed to still use my soundbar's dedicated remote to control the volume. It's not like this is the end of the world, but it's definitely a frustration that I didn't expect to deal with.
There are a few other things about the Fire TV Cube that are worth noting, specifically when it comes to game streaming through cloud services. While the upgraded performance thanks to the octa-core processor are definitely evident, if you plan on using your Fire TV Cube for gaming, your options are a bit limited. As it currently stands, the only service that you can even use is Amazon Luna, which makes sense, but I'd really love to see Xbox Cloud Gaming make its way to the Fire TV Cube.
And something that won't affect too many people, but is worth pointing out, is that if you plug in your Xbox Series X or PS5 to the Fire TV Cube, the output refresh rate is capped at 60Hz. Again, this might not be a dealbreaker, but if you have a 120Hz-compatible TV and wanted the Fire TV Cube to control everything, you're better off taking up two HDMI ports on your TV.
This trend continues when it comes to flexibility, as the Fire TV Cube isn't compatible with either Apple AirPlay or Google Cast. So if you find yourself wanting to throw something up on the TV from your phone, you're pretty much out of luck, unless you use Amazon Photos or manage to find a reliable third-party app.
One of the stranger omissions from the Fire TV Cube isn't anything to do with the box itself, but instead, that Amazon doesn't include its latest and best Alexa Voice Remote with its most expensive streaming device. Along with announcing the Fire TV Cube (2022), Amazon also introduced the Voice Remote Pro which includes customizable buttons, a Remote Finder feature, and even a button that makes it easy to pair your Bluetooth headphones with the Fire TV.
However, if you were hoping to see the Voice Remote Pro included with the updated Fire TV Cube, you'll be a bit disappointed. Making matters even worse, Amazon not only increased the price of the Fire TV Cube, but if you want Amazon's superior remote, you'll have to wait until it arrives in November. It's nice to see Amazon offering a bundle that includes the Voice Remote Pro and Fire TV Cube (2022), but it would have made more sense to include Amazon's best products together.
Lastly, and it's something that I'm going to try not to harp too much on this time (see my Fire TV Stick 4K Max review), the ads on the Fire TV OS just aren't acceptable. I'm willing to concede that ads help keep the costs down for the Fire TV Sticks, even the more expensive 4K Max. But my issue is that you'll have to deal with the same amount of ads even with the Fire TV Cube, which is twice as expensive as the 4K Max.
You can go through and remove some of the different rows of suggested movies and apps, keeping the ones that you want, but not all of them. For example, if you go to the Fire TV Cube's home screen, you can set five different apps as your "favorites" for easy access. But scroll down just one row, and you're instantly greeted with a row named "Sponsored" with apps, movies, and shows that likely have nothing to do with anything that you actually enjoy watching or using.
It's not that I want Amazon to create a different interface for its higher-end streaming devices, but it would be really nice if I could stop being inundated with ads. As I said previously, it makes more sense for the cheaper options as that's how Amazon is able to meet that price segment of the market. But maybe we could see a Fire Tablet approach taken, the lower price Fire TV includes all the ads, but you can pay a few more bucks and get a clean and ad-free interface.
Amazon Fire TV Cube (2022): The competition
The competition at the higher end of the streaming device market is nowhere near as cutthroat as the best cheap streaming devices. Amazon's biggest competitor is the Apple TV 4K which was just updated for the second time in two years, bringing with it a lower price, either 64GB or 128GB of storage, and faster performance (compared to last year's model.) Plus, Apple includes its excellent Siri Remote, which was also upgraded with USB-C charging this year and is made from aluminum.
From there, the next closest competition comes from NVIDIA's Shield TV or Shield TV Pro, which might seem as though they are getting a bit long in the tooth. But the truth is that because these are focused more on gaming, the performance is still top-notch, while also providing a high-end option for those who want Google Assistant and/or Android TV.
Lastly, Amazon has to be mindful of Roku with its Streambar and Streambar Pro. Unlike the Fire TV Cube, the Streambar gives you a plug-and-play solution for both your streaming services and a soundbar, all in one. It's also compatible with Apple AirPlay and Google Assistant, along with the ability to instantly improve the audio coming from whatever TV you decide to plug it into.
Amazon Fire TV Cube (2022): Should you buy it?
You should buy this if:
- You want the best Fire TV streaming device.
- You're already entrenched in the Amazon Alexa ecosystem.
- You want to integrate your cable box (or console) with your streaming device.
You shouldn't buy this if:
- You don't want to deal with ads for things you probably don't care about.
- You already have a 4K streaming device.
- You want to use this for other cloud gaming services besides Amazon Luna.
I'm still going to beat the "fewer ads" drum for as long as I need to, especially considering that there are rows on the home screen that cannot be removed at all. I don't care that they're appropriately labeled as "sponsored," I want to get rid of them completely, only showing content for services that I'm actively subscribed to or apps that I use regularly.
That being said, I have actually enjoyed my time with the Fire TV Cube (2022) more than I expected to. It's easily the fastest streaming device from Amazon, and if you still have cable, the HDMI Input port is a nice touch, as is the addition of Ethernet and the USB-A port. I'm also a fan of the design, moving away from a glossy block to one that fits in quite nicely with other smart speakers, including the company's lineup of Echo speakers.
I'm not 100% sure whether it's really worth the price tag, especially if you already own something like the Fire TV Stick 4K Max. But if you're in the market for a new higher-end streaming device, and are already familiar with what Fire TV OS has to offer, then you won't be disappointed.
Amazon's best gets better
The Amazon Fire TV Cube (2022) might not bring with it an increase in storage capacity, but that can be remedied with the new USB port on the back. If you're in the market for a true set top box replacement for streaming, this is probably the one for you.