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Amazon Fire TV Cube (3rd gen)
What we like
What we don't like
Amazon Fire TV Cube (3rd gen)
Amazon’s The Rings of Power is an ambitious series. It sets out to cover a lot of ground, bouncing between the Harfoots, the arrival of Orcs in the Southlands, and the creation of the rings themselves, highlighting each storyline with varying degrees of success (sorry, Harfoots). While we’re not here to talk about big-budget television, there are parallels between The Rings of Power and Amazon’s top-tier streaming device for 2022, the Fire TV Cube (3rd gen). Can the expensive streamer balance its strengths as both a Fire TV hub and Echo speaker evenly? Find out in our Amazon Fire TV Cube (3rd gen) review.
What you need to know about the Amazon Fire TV Cube (3rd gen)
- Amazon Fire TV Cube (2GB RAM, 16GB): $139 / £139 / €159 / CA$189
The third-generation Fire TV Cube — the “all-new Fire TV Cube,” as Amazon calls it — arrived in October 2022 as the new flagship of the Fire TV fleet. It’s touted as the most powerful Fire TV player yet, adding Wi-Fi 6E (if you have a compatible router) and a beefed-up octa-core processor to the mix. It packs 4K streaming with compatible services and TVs, supporting HDR10+ and Dolby Vision, as well as the increasingly popular AV1 codec. Most of the Fire TV Cube (3rd gen)’s specs hold steady from the last generation with 2GB of RAM and 16GB of expandable storage right out of the box, though the latter is double the storage of the Fire TV Stick 4K Max. Amazon has also packed in a faster octa-core processor compared to the second-generation Fire TV Cube, which it claims provides a 20% performance boost.
While you’ll probably notice the internal upgrades more over the life of the Cube rather than immediately, the external tweaks are just as important and far more obvious. The glossy black finish is gone in favor of a soft-touch fabric that matches the rest of the Echo models, but it keeps the familiar blue bar for when Alexa is active. Moving to the back of the box, the Fire TV Cube (3rd gen) has two extra ports to work with. It now packs an ethernet jack and an HDMI in port, and the micro-USB port has been swapped for USB-A 2.0. The updates are joined by the standard power outlet, HDMI out port, and IR extender, though the last one isn’t much good without Amazon’s compatible cable ($15).
Amazon’s most expensive streaming device now costs $140, an increase of $20, but it still comes with the basic Alexa Voice Remote. It’s slightly different than the remote included with the Fire TV Stick 4K Max, with a new settings button and a button for your recent apps, but it skips programmable buttons and backlighting. If you want those and other features, you’ll have to shell out for the Alexa Voice Remote Pro ($35) separately or in a bundle. The included remote does support HDMI-CEC, which means it can take the place of your previous remote and control functions like power and volume.
The Fire TV Cube (3rd gen) has just as many external upgrades as internal, but the changes come with a price hike.
You’ll need to sign up for or log into an Amazon account when you set up the Fire TV Cube, though you don’t necessarily need a Prime subscription. However, Amazon puts its original programming and Prime Video offerings above all else, and the remote has dedicated buttons for Prime Video and Amazon Music.
As you can probably guess, the best place to buy the Fire TV Cube (3rd gen) is from Amazon in North America, Europe, and other global markets. The box includes the Cube itself, the remote, a power cable, and some basic paperwork, but you’ll have to provide your own HDMI cable.
If you’re not a dedicated Prime subscriber, you might be enticed by a few alternatives from the broader streaming device market. The Chromecast with Google TV offers more flexibility among Android devices at a much lower price, while the Apple TV 4K (3rd gen) delivers a tailored iOS experience with extra storage at a similar cost. NVIDIA’s Shield TV Pro is more expensive, but it adds two USB 3.0 ports and gigabit ethernet to the mix, with an impressive track record of software updates.
It took Celebrimbor a few tries to create the fabled rings of power (yes, I’ve been enjoying the show — can you tell?), and it’s taken Amazon just as many to nail the Fire TV Cube’s design. The switch from glossy, fingerprint-loving plastic to fabric goes a long way in unifying the Cube with its Echo siblings and making it more presentable. It now blends in on my TV shelf instead of reflecting glare from lamps and other lights. Sure, you could hide it in a cabinet and use the optional IR extender instead, but that means an extra cable and extra cost associated with an already expensive device. Nevertheless, it’s great to have the option if you like to keep your tech out of sight.
While the Fire TV Cube’s new ports might not be the latest or the greatest, they make life much easier overall. The HDMI input allows you to connect a cable box, gaming console, or even another streaming device, all while keeping an Alexa overlay on the UI if you want. You can then swap back and forth with a simple Alexa command, eliminating the need to fumble for a remote. And when you do use the remote, communication between the Fire TV Cube and another device will now be handled by the far smarter HDMI input, not infrared, which allows for more granular interactivity. It’s not perfect: Some gamers might bemoan the HDMI port’s 60Hz passthrough limit as it’ll limit the framerate in certain games, but that won’t matter for a lot of folks. Most games will still look and perform just fine, and you won’t notice if you’re connecting a cable box.
The Fire TV Cube's updated fabric design is much easier on the eyes and less prone to fingerprints and glare.
The dedicated ethernet and USB-A ports also set us free from one of the weirder dongles we’ve seen — the old micro-USB to Ethernet and micro-USB splitter. Amazon’s ethernet approach doesn’t offer gigabit speeds, but it’s a good enough option if you haven’t upgraded to a Wi-Fi 6E router. If you have the latest Wi-Fi hardware in your home, I recommend using it instead, but it’s good to have built-in options for improved stability. It would’ve been nice to see microSD expansion, but USB-A remains better than the previous micro-USB, as you can easily mount external hard drives (or even a webcam for Skype/Alexa Drop In video calls) without the need for an adapter.
Amazon’s Fire TV Cube (3rd gen) offers a basic form of upscaling, which can boost 1080p content to 4K in most situations. It’s not as advanced as the NVIDIA Shield TV’s approach with its adjustable sharpness, but it should keep some life in your favorite shows as 4K becomes more prevalent — as long as you have a sharp enough TV. Meanwhile, AV1 codec support should help with even hazier video quality in old YouTube videos and the like.
I had no problems plugging in and setting up the Fire TV Cube (3rd gen) once I realized I would have to provide my own HDMI cable. The most challenging parts of the setup are typing your Amazon and Wi-Fi logins with the remote, but restoring from a previous Fire TV device can save you time finding your previous apps. I chose to restore from my Fire TV Stick 4K Max and left it to run through the downloads while I went about the rest of my day.
Sometimes I’ll brush off the upgraded processor in a streaming device, as they often offer incremental boosts. However, the Amazon Fire TV Cube’s new octa-core setup does deliver a bit more kick. You won’t notice them when browsing apps or menus, but they reduce lag if you jump into live video from another app. That means you could be watching a soccer matchup, bounce over to Netflix for a few hours when it ends, and then come back to the same channel for the next game like you never left. I noticed this feature would sometimes lag on the Fire TV Stick 4K Max, but it’s much smoother on the third-generation Fire TV Cube.
The octa-core processor shines brightest when you jump into live TV after streaming in another app.
Of course, the Fire TV Cube’s headline draw is the fact that it doubles as a Fire TV and an Echo speaker. That means access to Alexa with the big, blue button on the Voice Remote or completely hands-free. I’m lazy when I watch TV, so I love the hands-free option, but it’s even more important to note that the hands-free commands still work with your TV turned off thanks to the built-in speakers. You can also use voice commands to control other Alexa-enabled devices, making the Fire TV Cube a handy central hub for your smart home, if you need it to be one.
The Fire TV Cube’s microphones and speakers are good enough that you might find yourself skipping the remote more than expected. I asked questions about the weather and this week’s slate of NFL games while loudly streaming a World Cup match or from another room in my apartment and got clear, accurate responses.
See also: The best streaming apps for Fire TV
What’s not so good?
It’s difficult to find out-and-out deal breakers on the Fire TV Cube (3rd gen), but there are still some head-scratching features, especially given the high price tag. For starters, the extra ports add features but shy away from premium speeds. The ethernet port is capable of 10/100Mbps, and the USB-A port is on the 2.0 standard instead of 3.0, which is ten times faster. Faster ethernet and USB ports (or a USB-C port instead of USB-A) would have offered additional future-proofing, though the current standards are still usable.
What’s more of a letdown, however, is that the Fire TV Cube (3rd gen) doesn’t offer support for either Google Cast or Apple AirPlay. It does support the sideloading of Android apps if you’re prepared to jump through some hoops, but the two most popular methods of beaming content directly from your phone are not available with Amazon’s most expensive streamer. It does support Miracast and Intel’s Wireless Display (“WiDi”) casting, but those are far less ubiquitous.
The simple Voice Remote and abundance of ads are disappointing given the Fire TV Cube's climbing price.
Rising prices have become a fact of life, and the Fire TV Cube is no exception. The third generation comes in $20 more expensive than the previous model, but I’m not sure it offers enough value. Faster Wi-Fi and built-in ports are good, but competitors like the Apple TV 4K and NVIDIA Shield toss in their premium remotes at no extra cost for a similar price. While it’d be great to get the motion-sensing backlighting and lost remote features, all I really want from the Voice Remote Pro is the programmable buttons. There are four hotkeys on the regular remote, but there’s currently no way to change their functions. If you don’t subscribe to one of the four services, it just becomes dead space. However, adding the $35 Voice Remote Pro pushes the Fire TV Cube’s already steep asking price even higher.
Building off of the increased price, the Fire TV Cube (3rd gen) remains laden with ads. It’s been toned down from previous generations, but I’d like to see Amazon follow the YouTube Premium approach of paring back the ads for those who pay for Prime. Jeff Bezos will get his money one way or another, but it seems like the $139 price tag (again, not including the Remote Pro, either) and an Amazon Prime membership should be payment enough. As it stands, sponsored content takes up two of the first three rows when you turn on your TV, and the Prime membership doesn’t add much more than access to Prime Video and Amazon Music.
Amazon Fire TV Cube (3rd gen) specs
|Amazon Fire TV Cube (3rd gen)|
Up to 4K UHD
Yes, with remote or hands-free
Memory and storage
16GB Expandable storage
Octa-core with 4x 2.2GHz and 4x 2.0GHz
Standard Alexa voice remote included
Alexa Voice Remote Pro optional
Amazon Fire TV Cube (3rd gen) review: The verdict
Like the one ring to rule them all, the Amazon Fire TV Cube (3rd gen) towers over the rest of the Fire TV lineup. Amazon adds enough features — a new octa-core processor, Wi-Fi 6E support, and extra ports — to out-muscle other Fire TV devices. While we’ll probably see the improved processor and Wi-Fi 6E support come to Fire TV Sticks in the future, the additional HDMI and ethernet coverage will likely remain out of reach, given the size limitations. It’ll also still have the advantage of doubling up as an Echo speaker, too. The voice command experience isn’t too different from the Echo Dot, but the Cube’s streaming apps and TV controls offer flexibility that a dedicated speaker can’t match.
All things considered, the Fire TV Cube sounds like a great way to kill two birds with one stone as you start your smart home journey. However, it might not be the most cost-effective way to do so. At $140, the Fire TV Cube (3rd gen) is more expensive than an Echo Dot and a Fire TV Stick 4K Max ($79 at Amazon) combined, but it doesn’t offer many killer bonus features over the pair, and by buying two separate devices, you can give Amazon a presence throughout your home instead of tethering it to your TV — for better or worse. Yes, Wi-Fi 6E is technically better than what you’ll find on the Fire TV Stick 4K Max, but compatible routers are relatively expensive. Meanwhile, the difference between Wi-Fi 6E and the latter’s Wi-Fi 6 is barely noticeable for video streaming purposes, and Amazon’s game streaming options are essentially limited to its own, underbaked Amazon Luna service.
White the Fire TV Cube dominates the Echo and Fire TV lines, the major streaming rivals are better than they've ever been — and often more affordable.
Ultimately, the Fire TV Cube’s undoing for the non-Alexa faithful might be the result of a fellowship of capable alternatives. Amazon’s box is powerful, flexible, and has some welcome upgrades over its predecessor, but there are so many other excellent options. You could absolutely save money with a different Fire TV device, but you could equally choose one of the many premium streaming rivals — most of which offer slightly more bang for your buck and are less niche with their sales pitches.
Thanks to remarkable software support, NVIDIA’s Shield TV and Shield TV Pro remain some of our favorite streaming devices years after their release. The Shield TV Pro ($199 at Amazon) might be more expensive, but it has more ports than you can shake a stick at, including faster USB-A ports and gigabit ethernet, while the compact Shield TV ($149 at Amazon) keeps the key specs — and excellent remote — but with a smaller, tubular footprint. Both Shield TV devices also support Alexa and Google Assistant, have superior AI upscaling, and offer immediate access to NVIDIA’s game streaming services and the many titles on Android TV‘s Play Store. The Shield TV Pro, meanwhile, is compatible with Samsung SmartThings and can also function as a Plex Media Server, which is great for building your own streaming library.
If you’ve already started to build an Apple or Google Nest-centric smart home, it might be even tougher to convince you to switch. Google’s Chromecast with Google TV ($45 at Amazon)) is far cheaper than the Fire TV Cube and integrates easily with existing Google Nest devices. Like the Shield TV, it also supports an extensive library of Android apps and, of course, Google Cast. Google doesn’t have a premium remote to buy, so it’s good to know that what you see is what you’ll get. Everything the Chromecast does for Google, the Apple TV 4K $129.99 at Amazon does for fans of iOS. It includes Apple’s premium remote, easy casting through AirPlay, a wonderful library of games via Apple Arcade, and (if you buy the $150 version) Thread support for an even more advanced smart home experience.
Those of you after true smart home freedom can also consider the Roku Ultra ($99 at Amazon). It snubs the ecosystem dependency with support for AirPlay, Apple Home, Alexa, and Google Assistant, making the premium Roku an option for just about anyone. You’ll still have to deal with ads, but even Roku offers its rechargeable Voice Remote Pro as part of its premium package.
Top Amazon Fire TV Cube (3rd gen) questions and answers
The Fire TV Cube technically has a speaker that could play audio, it will default to your TV’s speakers or an external soundbar to play audio when connected via HDMI. It also does not have an optical audio out port. You can, however, connect the Fire TV Cube to a speaker via Bluetooth to make it act like a pseudo smart speaker.
The Fire TV Cube (3rd gen) will work with any TV with an HDMI port.
The Fire TV Cube (3rd gen) adds Wi-FI 6E support and a faster processor compared to the second-gen Cube. It also adds ethernet, USB-A, and HDMI in ports to enhance its connectivity options with other devices even further.
At the time of writing, the following services are compatible with the Fire TV Cube:
- Comcast Xfinity
- Charter Spectrum
- Dish Network
- Verizon Fios
- Altice Optimum/Suddenlink
- AT&T U-verse
- GCI Communication
You can check Amazon’s support page for more information.