By: Nick Gambino
The Amazon Echo and all of its minions (Dot, Spot, etc.) have found a permanent place in many households thanks to the convenience of its voice-activated assistant, Alexa. With the resident voice, you can listen to music, receive the weather forecast, turn on compatible appliances, all by just making a request out loud.
Now with the newly announced Fire TV Cube, you can watch and control your TV with the same convenience. Think of the new device as an Echo paired with the Fire TV.
The Cube, like similar streaming devices such as Apple TV and Roku, has resident apps that allow you to stream. Netflix, Hulu, Prime Video – all of them are here. Just ask Alexa to play a title and it’ll pop up and start playing.
Taking it a step back, the Cube not only controls content, much the way Siri does on the Apple TV, but it also controls your TV, set-top box and any connected sound bar. Much of this is done using the IR blasters pointing in every direction from every side of the Cube.
Any device in your set-up that is IR-enabled (most set-top boxes and devices that require a remote are) should be able to respond to commands given to the new Amazon device. If you’ve got a sound bar, you can simply say, “Alexa turn the volume up” or “Alexa mute it” and it’ll do so.
As I mentioned, it’ll also control the TV itself over an HDMI-CEC connection. Surprisingly this is what has me the most excited. The idea that I can just ask Alexa to turn my TV on is worth the price of the little box. You can simply say, “Alexa, play ‘It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’” to turn the TV on and have your content cue up and start playing. That removes several steps, including the one where you have to find the remote.
Inside the box you’ll also receive an IR extender to help you create an uninterrupted signal to any devices that are behind cabinet doors or for some reason out of the way. Just drop the extender into the area that houses said devices and you’ll be good to go.
The Fire TV Cube is available for pre-order now and will be released on June 21st. Prime members can buy it for $89.99 if they purchase it on June 7th or 8th, otherwise it’s $119.99. It’ll only be available for those in the U.S. to start.