The Fire TV Cube may just seem like an ordinary Fire TV with Alexa capabilities built in, but its biggest feature by far is the ability to use it as a voice-activated universal remote of sorts.
What Is the Fire TV Cube?
The Fire TV Cube which, as you may have gathered from the name, is the latest Fire TV streaming set-top box from Amazon, but with a bit more added on. It’s pretty much a combination of the company’s Fire TV and an Echo Dot. So instead of having two separate devices, you can have a two-in-one box that fits nicely on your home theater stand.
However, that’s really just the tip of the iceberg and it’s not even the coolest thing about the Fire TV Cube. Nope, the coolest feature is an integrated IR blaster that gives you voice control of your TV, soundbar, AV receiver, and whatever else you have. And of course, you can also use your voice to search for and play various content.
The Fire TV Cube still comes with Amazon’s voice remote, in case you want to control the box the old-fashioned way. And you can still use your regular remotes for your TV and other home theater devices.
Using It As a Voice-Activated Universal Remote (When It Works)
You might already have a setup like this, thanks to Logitech’s Harmony Hub and an Echo. However, the Fire TV Cube has the capabilities of both of these devices (with a streaming set-top box tacked on for good measure) at roughly the same price—you’re basically getting a Fire TV for free (normally $70) when you go with the Fire TV Cube instead of a Harmony Hub/Echo Dot combo.
What may also drive you to go with the Fire TV Cube is its incredibly easy setup process for detecting your home theater equipment, whereas the Harmony line of products aren’t the easiest in the world to set up and get off the ground. They work well once that setup is done, but the initial process is far from user-friendly. Because of this, the Fire TV Cube is great for people looking for a less-complicated way of controlling their home theater setup using their voice.
The Fire TV Cube first tries to automatically detect your TV and other home theater equipment, and if successful, there’s really nothing you need to do other than selecting the brand of your various equipment. At worst, you have to teach it the commands on your remotes, but it does a good job of guiding you through the process.
However, you may find that it doesn’t work very well for your specific setup, as seems to be the case for any IR blaster. With my own setup, the Fire TV Cube has been able to turn on and off my TV and soundbar just fine. However, it then turns off my soundbar after about ten seconds.
I’m not sure exactly why this is happening, but there seems to be some kind of incompatibility between my soundbar and the Fire TV Cube. Your setup may work perfectly, though, but the point of the story is that not just everything will work correctly with the Cube.
You Don’t Have to Use the Fire TV Part
Perhaps what makes the Fire TV Cube unique is its ability to simply act as a universal remote for your home theater devices and nothing else. In an age where companies nearly force you to stay within their ecosystem, it’s refreshing to know that you don’t have to use the Fire TV portion of the Fire TV Cube at all in order to take advantage of its voice-controlled universal remote capabilities.
Long story short, there’s really no reason to favor the Fire TV over competing streaming set-top boxes like the Apple TV, Roku, Chromecast, or Nvidia’s Shield—pretty much every other box has a better interface, as well as a native YouTube app.
The good news is that even if you don’t want to use the Fire TV part of the Fire TV Cube, you can still use it to turn your TV on and off with your voice, as well as control the volume (although it’s pointless because it only changes it by one increment). So I can use the Fire TV Cube to tell Alexa to turn my TV and soundbar on and off, but still use my Apple TV for watching content.
At that point, the Fire TV Cube is nothing more than a voice-activated universal remote, as well as a regular Echo that I can use whenever to control smarthome devices and ask about the weather.
Would this be considered as severely under-utilizing the Fire TV Cube? Yeah, probably. But for the same price as a Harmony Hub/Echo Dot, I can have a similar product that’s way easier to set up and use.