Amazon Fire TV Cube review

hcchighreccomendThe Borg and Rubik were both right. It’s hip to be square.

Impressively specified, with fully integrated Alexa, the Amazon Fire TV Cube is easily the company's most versatile and sophisticated media player to date. But if you’ve already got a Fire TV stick, is it worth upgrading?

Clearly the form factor is completely different to what we’ve seen before. It also has an appreciable footprint (around 9cm wide and deep), so plan to allocate some rack space. A strip light signals its status, while control buttons – familiar from Amazon's Echo speakers – sit up top.

And like the Echo, and unlike its Fire predecessors, you don’t need to speak into the supplied remote’s mic to interact – the Cube integrates both far- and near-field microphones. Of course, if you don’t like the idea of it always listening, you can mute these at the touch of a button.

A fully certified Echo unit, the Cube can control other connected Alexa devices, like Philips Hue lights, or act as an intercom when you need to relay your demands for more popcorn to a connected Echo speaker in the kitchen.

But while the Cube functions much like any other Echo device, don’t think of this as a substitute for a smart speaker. Unfortunately, it sounds even worse than the budget-priced Dot – its 40mm midrange driver is provided purely to interact with Alexa.

The Fire TV Cube has more ambitious tricks, including the ability to IR-control connected kit. I found this only partially successful. After a few failed attempts to turn things off as well as on, I quickly returned to using dedicated zappers.

The Cube’s superior AV chops are its raison d'etre. There’s support for Dolby Vision, HDR10+, HLG and regular HDR10, as well as Dolby Atmos and (up to) 7.1 surround.

Connections comprise HDMI and micro USB, and it ships with an Ethernet adaptor if you prefer to hardwire instead of stream wirelessly. There’s also Bluetooth 5.0, which supports third-party speakers and headphones for private listening.

Performance-wise the Cube nails it, assuming your broadband is sufficiently robust. 4K Dolby Vision playback via Netflix is crisp and dynamic. Haunted fantasy Locke and Key, with its preponderance of dark shadows and jarring highlights, is the perfect demonstration. There’s no overt banding, and near-dark handling is excellent.

Dolby Atmos audio is also given every opportunity to impress, the Cube delegating channels with deft precision. Doors slam to the rear, while creaks unsettle from above. It's a completely immersive experience.

During setup, you can leave Dolby Vision on as a default by selecting Always HDR (this applies an HDR boost to all content) or Adaptive. The former works well and is preferable if your AV receiver is unable to pass through HDR10+ but can handle DV. The Cube can also be assigned to adjust to native frame rates, which is highly recommended.

There are caveats though. Subscribers to Amazon Music HD will find the Cube a frustration. The music streaming service offers a selection of Dolby Atmos music mixes within its library of high-res audio tracks, but while this device is Atmos-enabled, the app isn’t. Let’s hope there’s a firmware update soon to resolve this. Navigation also leaves a lot to be desired, particularly when you’re browsing Prime.

The jewel in the crown of Amazon’s Fire TV streamers, the Cube can be considered an excellent addition to any modern AV setup, and the provision of universal HDR makes it a worthy upgrade for owners of the brand's earlier streamers. And even if you have some of its VOD apps on your smart TV, accessing them via the Cube is a step up, not least because it avoids using HDMI ARC, which could introduce lip sync errors. When it comes to performance and value, the Cube is squarely unbeatable.

HCC Verdict

Amazon Fire Cube TV

Price: £110

We say: An impressive Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos capable media streamer, with Alexa smarts thrown in for good measure.

Overall: 4.5/5


Drivers: 1 x 40mm midrange
Connections: HDMI output; microUSB
Dimensions: 86(w) x 77(h) x 86(d)mm
Weight: 465g

Features: 16GB internal storage; integrated dual-band Wi-Fi; Bluetooth (5.0); Amazon Alexa onboard; Dolby Vision, HDR10+ and HDR10 support; Dolby Atmos/7.1 passthrough; Amazon Prime Video, Netflix, YouTube, Disney+ and assorted catch-up apps; adaptive frame rate control; hexa-core processor

Amazon UK