Amazon’s Fire TV streaming devices have always been among my favourites, with a speedy (albeit cluttered) interface and excellent performance. Among the Fire TV Sticks, which are also quite popular in the UK, the Fire TV Cube always stood up as the top device in the Fire TV line – but at a high cost. And recently – Amazon decided it was time for an upgrade.
The Amazon Fire TV Cube 3rd Gen, which was released in late 2022, takes everything that was good about the 2019 model – and improves on it.
It combines a streaming device with an Echo/Alexa speaker, which you can use to voice control your home entertainment setup (without even needing the remote), while supporting Dolby Vision and HDR10+, Dolby Atmos sound, an even more powerful processor, an HDMI-in port, and Amazon’s vast library of streaming apps.
But as before, these features and specs come at a price – which is now even higher than the 2nd generation Fire TV Cube. So, while this is still the very best Fire TV device out there – who is it for, at this price point? And is it a worthy upgrade to those who already have the previous generation?
Having used it for several weeks – I’m now ready to dig in deeper into the pros and cons…
Quick Look – Amazon Fire TV Cube (3rd Gen)
What is it: Updated version of Amazon’s top 4K streaming device, with a wide variety of apps and streaming services, and Echo/Alexa voice control (with built-in microphones and a speaker).
Interface / Usage
Value for Money
- Even more fast and powerful than before
- Most of the major streaming apps supported
- Excellent 4K/HDR picture quality and resolution upscaling
- Dolby Vision, HDR10+, HLG and Dolby Atmos support
- Built-in Alexa functionality can control your entire home entertainment system
- HDMI-In port you can use to control additional devices
- The Fire TV user interface is cluttered and confusing
- Resolution upscaling doesn’t make much of a difference
Features and Specs
- Size: 86 x 86 x 77 mm
- Video Quality: Ultra HD 4K / HDR, HDR10+, HLG, Dolby Vision
- Audio: Dolby Atmos, 7.1 surround sound
- Processor: Octa-core (4x 2.2GHz, 4x 2.0GHz)
- Storage: 16GB
- Apps: Netflix, Prime Video, Disney+, NOW, Apple TV, BBC iPlayer, ITVX, All4, My5, YouTube and thousands more
- WiFi: Up to Wi-Fi 6E Tri-band (with backwards 802.11a/b/g/n/ac/ax support).
- Connections: HDMI 2.1 Output and Input, USB-A 2.0, Ethernet (10/100), IR Extender
- Extra Features: Microphones and improved speakers for Alexa – control your devices with your voice, automatic upscaling for lower-quality videos.
In my book, this is still the best streaming device out there – even though the 3rd generation is more of an update than a major upgrade. It’s fast, responsive, and supports a huge selection of apps, but the Fire TV interface is showing its years and is still as confusing as ever. And there’s the price – which makes the cube a Premium level device and out of reach for some.
Table of Contents
Who Is The Amazon Fire TV Cube For?
Most of the streaming device wars these days take place at the sub £50 level, with cheap and cheerful sticks from Amazon, Roku and Google. But for those who want a little something extra – there’s a “premium” tier of streaming devices.
In that tier, you’ll find the Apple TV, the Nvidia SHIELD, and – Amazon’s Fire TV Cube.
It’s not just the fastest Fire TV device out there, with all the pluses (and minuses) of Amazon’s eco-system – but it’s also a hybrid device that brings an Echo / Alexa speaker into your room.
And indeed, it’s the Alexa voice control capabilities that make the Cube unique and turn it into a complete home entertainment solution that can control your entire setup – from your TV to your soundbar, and even other “Smart” devices you have around the house (such as lamps and security devices/cameras).
The 3rd Generation also adds an HDMI-Input port, that lets you connect 3rd party devices directly to the Fire TV – a Freeview recorder, for example, or even your Sky box. This not only adds another HDMI port (in case you run out of them on your TV) – but also lets you use Alexa WHILE you’re using the 3rd party box, and see on-screen overlays.
The speaker has also been improved over the previous generation’s Fire TV Cube. This is no longer a tiny speaker that can only be used for speech – and you can actually hear some decent music on it now, although it’s still not a full replacement for a standard Echo device.
All that being said, if you already have an Echo device in your living room – there isn’t much reason to add another one via the Cube, and a cheaper streaming stick like the excellent Fire TV 4K Max will do just fine.
But if you ARE in the market for a voice assistant, you’ll also get a few premium functions on the Cube that the 4K Max can’t quite handle.
Setting Up The Fire TV Cube
Setting up the device is quite easy and straightforward – even though you might find ourself waiting a while for the newest software updates to install first.
In the box, you get a special version of the Alexa Voice remote (the newest version, but sadly NOT the Pro remote, which is sold separately), batteries, a power adapter and a minimal instructions manual.
You’ll notice the Cube does NOT come with an HDMI cable, so you’ll have to provide one yourself – and it also doesn’t come with an Infrared (IR) extender, which is useful if you place your Cube away from your other devices, and still want to control them via Infrared. The previous generation had it in the box – this one does not.
Comparing the 3rd Gen Cube to the 2nd Gen, you’ll see they’re almost identical in size – but look quite different, with the new Cube sporting a a black fabric wrap (similar to the one found on Echo devices), instead of the glossy walls of the previous Cube.
The back of the 3rd Gen cube is also quite different from the 2nd Gen, with a few additional ports.
You get an HDMI-In port this time around (to connect additional 3rd party media devices), an HDMI Out port, an IR Extender port (which, as mentioned, is now sold separately), a USB connector to optionally connect a Webcam for video calls or an external hard drive, and – an Ethernet port, which was absent from the 2nd Gen Cube, so you no longer need an Ethernet adapter.
There are also four control buttons on the top of the Cube (Volume up / down, microphone mute, and a ‘Select’ button) – but with voice control AND a remote, you won’t be using those a lot.
If you choose to connect the Cube via WiFi, you’ll notice another upgrade – the Cube now supports Wi-Fi 6E, giving customers with a compatible router an even smoother connection, with less interference from other WiFi devices in their house.
That being said, you’ll be hard-pressed to find WiFi 6E routers from the UK’s ISPs (even WiFi 6 is still rare), and even if you do get a 3rd party one – there’s only so much improvement you can get (or need) when it comes to streaming videos, unless you’re in a particularly big – and WiFi-crowded – home.
Worry not, however, as everything is backwards compatible, so you won’t have any issues connecting the Cube to your WiFi network even if you have an older router.
Once you begin setting up the device, you will be asked to log in to your Amazon account. If you buy the Cube directly from Amazon, it can come with your account already pre-installed (you don’t need to have a Prime subscription – but you must have an Amazon account to use the Cube).
Once updates are installed, the Cube will ask you questions about your other devices – your TV manufacturer, and your soundbar model (if you have one). You can later add more devices to control, via the Alexa connectivity. This is so that you can use the Cube – and your voice – to control things like the TV’s volume, switch HDMI inputs, etc.
Lastly, if you’ve ever had other Fire TV devices, you can choose to install all your previously installed apps – or start from scratch (with a few pre-installed “starter” apps).
Using The Fire TV Cube 3rd Gen
The first thing you’ll notice – especially if you’re coming from a Smart TV or an old streaming stick – is how fast everything is.
The interface reacts instantly to every button press, and more impressively, apps (such as Netflix or Disney+) load up within a second or two.
Having said that, even though the 3rd Gen Cube has a more powerful Octa-core processor (compared to the 2nd Gen’s Quad-core), you won’t notice much of a difference between the two. The previous Fire TV Cube was blazingly fast – and the new one is… still blazingly fast.
The new processor is possibly used for some of the ‘tricks’ the new Cube can do. For instance, it now has a “Super Resolution Upscaling” feature, which promises to provide enhanced picture quality by converting HD content into 4K for greater detail, contrast, and clarity.
Remember those DVD players from years ago, that promised to “Upscale” older, low-resolution films to Full HD? It never QUITE worked, and it doesn’t quite work now.
Sure, the picture quality is excellent, depending on what you’re watching, of course. And it’s excellent for HD, and even better for 4K, but it won’t really turn old HD films and TV shows into 4K-quality extravaganzas, especially if your TV is good enough to show the differences between the two. There’s nothing bad here – but it does feel like a feature that promises more than it can deliver.
The sound quality is also excellent, with Dolby Atmos support – but as always, this depends mainly on your speakers (either on your TV or Soundbar) – if you have good speakers, the Cube will deliver excellent sound.
The Fire TV Interface
While I’m a big fan of the Fire TV Cube in general – I’m not a big fan of Amazon’s Fire TV interface at this point, even after its overhaul a couple of years ago.
If you’re new to the Fire TV ecosystem, but you’ve used streaming apps (like Netflix or Prime Video) in the past – then the basic interface would still look quite familiar, with rows of thumbnails that represent TV programmes, movies and apps.
The Fire TV fully supports user profiles – not just for a specific streaming service, but for the entire interface. So every person in your house can set a different profile – and get personalized recommendations, watchlists and a watch history that fits their personal tastes.
The middle section of the interface holds the Main Menu, with a search function, your personal library of content and even a “Live” tab which is still, years after its launch, pretty barren in the UK.
To the right, you’ll see a few “Favourite” apps you can setup – for those you access regularly.
Beneath this main menu is where things get confusing. Instead of showing you the most used apps, for example – you start getting a mishmash of peculiar content recommendations, Prime Video / Freevee (both owned by Amazon) promotions, and even banner adverts.
Furthermore, content from services you’re subscribed to is mixed with content from services you would need to pay more for, Amazon’s own Prime Video content takes centre stage (even if you don’t have a Prime subscription), app icons are scattered all over the place (good luck finding a streaming service you haven’t used for a while – or, confusingly, even some you did).
Comparing that interface to Google TV’s Chromecast interface, or even Sky’s Glass / Stream interface – and the Fire TV feels like a streaming interface that blew up, with all icons, apps and recommendations just scattered randomly on your screen.
That being said, with the Cube’s excellent voice control, you can simply skip a lot of the interface’s woes, and simply TELL the device what it is you want to do or watch. Instead of searching for the Netflix button – simply say “Alexa, open Netflix”, or even tell it to play a specific show directly.
The Fire TV Apps
The Amazon Fire TV line has been around for years, so you’ll find a huge selection of apps to install (see my Fire TV App recommendations here).
From popular UK TV catch-up services like BBC iPlayer, ITVX, All 4 and others, to US streaming giants like Netflix, Apple TV+, Paramount+ and Disney+, as well as local streaming services like Sky’s NOW.
You’ll also find some of the popular music apps like Spotify, Amazon Music and Deezer, and there’s also the Plex app, which you can use to stream videos and music from a local desktop computer.
At this point, the Fire TV probably has the widest streaming apps support (with fierce competition from Roku).
And unlike the Roku devices, the Amazon Fire TV supports VPN apps – which are useful for privacy, as well as for things like watching American streaming services in the UK.
That being said, as with previous models, the Fire TV’s interface is HEAVILY slanted towards Amazon’s own Prime Video streaming service, and Freevee (formerly IMDbTV), Amazon’s free, ad-supported streaming service.
Most of the content categories you’ll see put content from Prime Video at the front, which is great if you ARE a subscriber – but annoying if you’re not.
All in all, the Fire TV’s interface does do a decent job of showing you varied content from a variety of services – but most of us aren’t subscribed to ALL the streaming services in the UK, and it all becomes very confusing very fast.
The Cube also plays well with Amazon’s other devices – so you can, for example, see your Ring doorbell’s video right on the screen when someone’s at the door. Or you can ask Alexa to show you the video feed of your garden’s security camera.
Controlling The Fire TV Cube With Alexa
There are two distinct ways to control the Cube – with the remote, or with your voice (or a combination of both).
The Alexa Voice Remote that comes with the Cube is a Bluetooth remote (so you don’t need to point it at the device), with a circular navigation button, Home / Back / Options buttons, player controls and TV volume controls.
On top, you will find a TV power on/off button, and the Voice button, which you can press to talk to Amazon’s voice assistant – Alexa (but you can skip that part on the Cube and just SAY Alexa).
There’s also a “Live TV” button that sends you directly to the Fire TV’s not-so-useful-for-now ‘Live’ tab, which provides a limited TV guide that’s made up of supported apps that have live broadcasts – such as Channel 5 or Amazon’s own sports broadcasts.
The remote is similar to the one provided with the Fire TV 4K Max, but it also adds a Channel Up / Down button, a dedicated Settings button and a “Recent” button that shows your recently watched content or apps.
At the bottom, there are four ‘Shortcut’ buttons – you can’t change those (as Amazon presumably gets paid for them) – so they’re only useful if you’re a customer of those four services.
The remote is fairly easy to hold and use, though again – you can use Alexa and your voice for almost everything the Cube can do: say things like “Alexa, Play Stranger Things”, and the device will open Netflix and start playing the show.
If there are several options for a show you asked for – the Cube will show you all the options, and you get to choose by saying “Alexa, select number 3”.
You can also use your voice to control other devices via the Cube – “Alexa, turn on the TV” – and it’ll turn it on or off (assuming your TV is connected via HDMI and supports this functionality).
You can use your voice to turn the volume up or down, skip forward (or back) in a movie, or switch to a different device altogether (one that’s connected to your TV via HDMI).
And with this being an Alexa device, you can do many more things that aren’t related to TV – ask to hear (and see on the screen) the weather, ask trivia questions or control smart devices in your home.
Also, with the Cube’s new HDMI-In port, you can connect another 3rd party HDMI device – such as a Freeview play, a gaming console or a pay-TV set-top box, and switch between the inputs with your voice.
And, importantly, the Cube’s microphones were always able to catch my voice and commands – even when the TV (which is right next to it) was on and LOUDLY playing something.
Is it time to bin the remote? Probably not, as it’s still easier to just grab it and Pause when you need to, or scroll through TV programmes and content thumbnails by pressing the circular button.
But having used the Cube for a couple of years now (first the 2nd Gen, and now the 3rd Gen), I found myself doing more and more with the voice control commands. I’ll enter the room, turn on the TV, and start watching something on Prime Video – without having to touch the remote even once.
And with the Cube having better speakers this time around, you can even use it to play music. In most cases you’re probably still better off using your TV’s speakers or soundbar – but it provides decent quality in a pinch.
Bottom Line: Is The Fire TV Cube (3rd Gen) Worth It?
When I reviewed the 2nd Gen Fire TV Cube, I dubbed it ‘The Best Streaming Device in the UK’ – IF money’s not an issue (the Apple TV and the Nvidia Shield are even MORE expensive, and somewhat more niche) .
Well, the same now holds true for the 3rd Gen Fire TV Cube – but the money part becomes even more apparent, as it’s slightly more expensive than the 2nd Gen.
If you’re buying your first-ever streaming device, the Cube might be overkill – both in terms of the price, and its features. And if you already have a 2nd Gen Cube, the new updates probably aren’t that big to justify an upgrade.
But if you’re looking to upgrade your experience over a Smart TV or an older, streaming stick, if you want to add an Echo smart assistant speaker, and if you’re heavily invested in streaming TV and especially Amazon’s eco-system – then this is the perfect device to put in the middle of all that.
Note: The Fire TV Cube was supplied by the manufacturer for this review. As always, this did not influence my unbiased opinion of the product.