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    Amazon Fire TV Cube review: Alexa turns on your TV, and it feels like magic

    When you have a TV leisure system with a bunch of units, a common distant just like the venerable Harmony is the nonetheless finest solution to make it straightforward to make use of. However the brand new woman on the town, Alexa, is now an in depth second, because of the Fire TV Cube ($119 at Amazon.com).

    With the Dice put in, saying “Alexa, activate the TV” from throughout the room will energy up your tv, and AV receiver or sound bar when you have one. No matter you have been watching final — say, TV out of your cable field — seems on the display screen, and audio comes by the audio system.

    “Alexa, change to Xbox” switches inputs so that you’re prepared to choose up the controller and mow down some enemies. “Alexa, watch Stranger Things on Netflix” switches inputs once more and begins streaming the Upside Down instantly through Fireplace TV (in 4K and HDR, in case your gear helps it). “Alexa, tune to CBS” switches once more to your cable field, adjustments the channel and increase — hi there, Choose Judy.

    “Alexa, play Talking Heads” fires up the Spotify app and Psycho Killer performs by the audio system in your TV, receiver or sound bar — bypassing that cruddy Alexa speaker — and the Speaking Heads playlist seems on-screen. “Alexa, subsequent” performs the following track, This Should Be the Place. “Alexa, quantity up” cranks these audio system even greater. Completed? “Alexa, flip off the TV” powers all the things down.

    When you’re used to urgent buttons on a distant, or God forbid, multiple distant, utilizing Alexa on the Dice could make you’re feeling like Gandalf himself.

    You are able to do all of that stuff by urgent buttons on a Concord distant too, and in lots of instances, like shopping for reveals, fast-forward and pause, buttons are simpler than utilizing voice. And for Concord homeowners (like me) who use Harmony’s existing Alexa voice skill with their Echo audio system, including a Fireplace TV Dice to the association most likely is not value it. 

    The Dice is not a full-on Concord substitute. Its included Fireplace TV distant would not management quantity or mute, a giant misstep on Amazon’s half that I hope it fixes within the subsequent technology. You may nonetheless have to preserve your cable field distant if you wish to do extra than simply change channels — the Dice cannot management the field’s DVR (but). It can also’t command Blu-ray gamers, Apple TV ($170 at B&H Photo-Video), Roku or different non-Fireplace streamers, so plan on maintaining these remotes useful, too. And like all Alexa veteran is aware of, you may’t anticipate it to acknowledge and execute your instructions accurately the primary time, each time.

    None of these points can spoil the sensation of marvel that comes with getting your dumb, irritating leisure system to obey spoken instructions. I bought a dose of it when Amazon launched Fire TV control via Echo speakers final yr, however that system could not tame your audio gear or change inputs. The Fireplace TV Dice is a type of particular units that breathes new life into your current tech gear, making it extra enjoyable and straightforward to make use of than ever. 

    The Dice consists of an Ethernet adapter, further IR emitter and the usual Fireplace TV distant.


    Sarah Tew/CNET

    Get to know the Dice

    • The $120 Fireplace TV Dice is designed to sit down close to your leisure middle as a result of it plugs into your TV, receiver or sound bar through HDMI.
    • It has all of the capabilities of the $70 Fire TV streamer, together with 4K HDR video and Dolby Atmos sound. It lacks HDR10+.
    • It additionally has all of the capabilities of the $50 Echo Dot speaker, together with a built-in speaker and a mic array to choose up your voice instructions. It is at all times listening for the “Alexa” wake phrase.
    • Audio from music, TV reveals and films are piped by your TV, sound bar or AV receiver audio system by default, considerably enhancing audio high quality. Usually Alexa’s voice is, too, however typically she comes by Dice’s built-in speaker.
    • Features a Fireplace TV distant, which additionally accepts voice instructions whenever you press the mic button and communicate into it (you do not have to say “Alexa”).
    • Constructed-in infrared emitters contained in the Dice blast the room with infrared alerts to manage your gear.
    • Features a separate corded IR emitter with an Eight-foot wire to succeed in gear behind cupboard doorways, and an Ethernet adapter in case you do not wish to use Wi-Fi.
    • The perimeters are shiny black plastic and a shiny Alexa LED response strip is alongside the highest entrance face. High keys management quantity, mute, and activate, similar to a late-model Echo speaker.
    • It is small — someplace between a Dot and a full-size Echo — however not an ideal dice, measuring three.9 inches huge and deep by three inches tall.
    • It is solely obtainable within the US for now, however the $120 worth converts to about £90 or AU$160.

    Alexa heard me over the music

    One of many first issues I needed to check on Fireplace TV Dice was its means to “hear” me from throughout the room with the music blasting. Because it’s designed to sit down close to your TV, the Dice might be nearer to your (probably very loud) audio system than it’s to your mouth. In my check setup sitting round 10 ft away, it labored superbly.

    68-amazon-fire-tv-cube68-amazon-fire-tv-cube

    The little Fireplace TV heard me very nicely over the blasting audio system.


    Sarah Tew/CNET

    With a speaker lower than 2 ft away from the Dice and blasting music, I stored saying “Alexa, quantity up” and it stored working. I needed to increase my voice barely when it bought actually loud, however I discovered myself doing so naturally, simply to compensate for the music. I solely needed to shout “Alexa” when it bought ridiculously loud.

    As soon as the Dice acknowledged “Alexa” it lit up and paused the music (or TV present or no matter) so it may higher hear the remainder of my command, similar to an Echo. If it wasn’t capable of pause, for instance after I was watching a present on my cable field, it as a substitute despatched a mute command to my sound bar or receiver’s audio system. In each instances it was value ready a second or two for silence earlier than issuing the command, one thing that took me awhile to get used to.

    Both approach, the Dice was an outstanding listener in my check setups. Your mileage might fluctuate relying on the way you place it relative to your audio system. When you have points, attempt to put as a lot distance as attainable between the Dice and your audio system, and keep away from aiming them on the little field for those who will help it.

    Amazon Fire TV CubeAmazon Fire TV Cube

    Fireplace TV Dice between an unique Echo (left) and an Echo Dot.


    Sarah Tew/CNET

    I did not check the Dice with different Alexa audio system in the home, however after I requested Amazon’s representatives what multi-Alexa households may do to keep away from confusion, they really helpful inserting non-Dice audio system in different rooms, so far as attainable from the Dice. You possibly can additionally change the wake phrase, for instance calling one of many different audio system (or the Dice) “Echo” or “Computer.”

    Machine management through voice, Cubed

    Positive the Dice can do all that Fireplace TV and Echo speaker stuff — stream Netflix, Hulu and YouTube, give a climate report and management your lights and thermostats, all through voice or utilizing the Fireplace TV distant — however its actual differentiator in comparison with current Alexa merchandise is system management. Amazon reps advised me it might command “tens of 1000’s” of units, roughly 90 p.c of units within the US, however did not cite a selected quantity.

    For the file, it labored efficiently with each system I attempted, together with:

    • TVs: Samsung UN55H6350, Vizio P65-E1, LG OLED65C8P
    • Receivers: Denon 3808CI, Marantz NR1508, Sony STR-DN1080
    • Sound bars: Sonos PlayBar, Yamaha YAS-107, Vizio SB3621
    • Cable field: Motorola QIP 7232 (Verizon Fios)
    60-amazon-fire-tv-cube60-amazon-fire-tv-cube

    My check setups included a bunch of substances.


    Sarah Tew/CNET

    The Dice’s setup menus record myriad different units and types — the TV model record alone went from Accele to Zyowaiyu (nope, I’ve by no means heard of them, both) and took me 21 seconds to scroll by at breakneck velocity. I’ve no cause to doubt Amazon’s 90 p.c declare. In case your model one way or the other is not listed, nonetheless, the Dice will not be of a lot use to you till Amazon provides help — there is not any “studying” operate as seen on many common remotes.

    Utilizing infrared instructions, or often HDMI CEC, the Dice efficiently turned my units on and off, modified inputs, adjusted quantity and, within the case of the Fios field, switched channels. Extra superior instructions, for instance altering encompass modes on a receiver, image modes on a TV, aren’t supported (but). I used to be additionally unable to carry out any DVR features on the Fios field, together with pausing stay TV, shopping this system information, or scheduling or taking part in again a recording.

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