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    Amazon Fire TV Cube: This Echo and Fire TV mash-up is an Alexa-powered universal remote, too


    Sarah Tew/CNET

    A number of Alexa homeowners park their little voice assistants in the kitchen, however Amazon’s newest model goals to dominate one other room fully: the lounge.

    The Amazon Fireplace TV Dice infuses your TV and different leisure gear with the flexibility to be managed with simply your voice. Designed to take a seat fortunately in your AV system, this diminutive little field goals to exchange a coffee-table filled with remotes with “Alexa” voice instructions. Or no less than preserve you from reaching for the clicker fairly a lot.

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    Amazon Fireplace TV Dice: “Alexa, management my TV and AV system”


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    The Dice, first rumored in September 2017 and teased by Amazon final month, is lastly official Thursday. It ships June 21 for $120, however Prime members can order one beginning now for $90. (It is US-only for now, however that pricing converts to about £90 or AU$157 and £67 or AU$118, respectively.)

    Fire TV Cube: Amazon’s new bid at smart-home simplicity

    If you happen to’re accustomed to Amazon’s merchandise already, take into account it a mash-up of the $70 Fire TV, a 4K HDR media streamer with Prime video and oodles of different apps and video games, and the $40 Echo Dot, a little bit speaker with built-in microphones — with some particular sauce thrown in. The Dice has all of the 4K HDR video and Dolby Atmos audio capabilities of the Fireplace TV, hands-free Alexa built-in, an HDMI output to feed your TV and an included Ethernet adapter in case you do not wish to use Wi-Fi. Its infrared blasters ship management alerts to different gear, just like the TV, cable field, even an AV receiver or sound bar.

    ‘Alexa, activate the TV’

    That infrared management of different units is what separates the Dice from the usual Fireplace TV and Echo mixture, which Amazon enabled in full last year to spectacular impact.

    The blasters are constructed into the Dice itself in addition to a separate, included module that may hit gear you have tucked into a cupboard. Sandeep Gupta, Amazon’s vice chairman of Product Improvement for Amazon Fireplace TV, walked CNET’s Ben Rubin and I by a demo.

    20-amazon-fire-tv-cube20-amazon-fire-tv-cube

    The tiny Dice (left) accountable for a Samsung TV and a Sony sound bar.


    Sarah Tew/CNET

    The phrases “Alexa, I am dwelling” from Gupta turned on the TV, fired up the sound bar and made the Fireplace TV dwelling web page seem onscreen. He moved by different instructions, like “Alexa, present me dramas,”http://www.cnet.com/”Alexa, mute” and even “Alexa, present me cat movies on YouTube.” Every labored simply as anticipated, with YouTube launching the Silk browser and navigating proper to these cuddly kitties, Google vs. Amazon feud be damned. 

    Because the Dice “is aware of” some particulars concerning the state of your units, saying “Alexa, watch Red Oaks” whereas your system is off would trigger it to activate the TV and different related gear. Along with infrared instructions, the system can work with CEC, a protocol that sends instructions through HDMI cables, and Gupta stated the Dice can robotically acknowledge and arrange your related TV.

    How cable packing containers and sound gear slot in

    Whereas the dice can management some elements of a cable field, subscribers might want to cling onto their outdated remotes awhile longer.

    Say “Alexa, watch cable TV” to change the TV enter to the cable field, and “Alexa, Watch TNT” or “Alexa, tune to channel 65” to vary the reside channel on the field channel. The Dice is suitable with packing containers from Comcast, DirecTV, Dish and others, overlaying what Amazon claims is greater than 90 p.c of households with a cable or satellite tv for pc subscription.

    06-amazon-fire-tv-cube06-amazon-fire-tv-cube

    An included IR blaster permits management of units inside cupboard doorways, like this cable field.


    Sarah Tew/CNET

    Extra superior instructions, for instance, looking the information, scheduling recordings or enjoying stuff from a DVR, cannot be carried out with voice. If you do not have a cable field, saying “Watch CNN” or one other channel can tune to the reside channel contained in the PlayStation Vue app.

    In Gupta’s demo setup, sound was routed by the Sony sound bar, not the TV’s audio system, so the Dice was truly controlling the bar’s quantity when he stated stuff like “Alexa, quantity up” or “Alexa, mute.” He stated the system can also be suitable with AV receivers, though I will wait until the complete evaluation to see how nicely it handles enter switching. 

    In fact, utilizing a sound bar or AV receiver gives a giant enhance in sound high quality over a Dot or Echo speaker, making the Dice a compelling music participant too. Since it may well hearth up your system at a phrase, it is probably simply as straightforward to make use of as a standalone speaker. Gupta demonstrated music by saying “Alexa, let’s get together,” which brought about music to start out enjoying over the sound bar, courtesy of Amazon Music, and lyrics to look onscreen.

    The Dice has its personal built-in speaker too, so Alexa can reply (and even play music) with out having to show in your total system.

    I requested what number of whole units the Dice can management and whereas Gupta stated help could be in depth at launch and extra could be added afterward, he did not cite a quantity. I requested particularly whether or not competing streaming units, like Roku or Apple TV, could be supported — for instance, in the event you wished to look at in Dolby Imaginative and prescient HDR, which solely the Apple TV helps. He stated they would not be at launch, however could possibly be added sooner or later.

    07-amazon-fire-tv-cube07-amazon-fire-tv-cube

    A brand new microphone array helps the Dice “hear” over the music. Or you may speak into the distant.


    Sarah Tew/CNET

    Listening to ‘Alexa’ over the blare

    One potential problem with putting the Dice close to your AV system is interference out of your audio system — when a film is blasting it could be robust for it to “hear” the Alexa key phrase, flip down the amount and pay attention to your subsequent command. The Dice has a redesigned array of eight microphones that work from throughout the room, and Amazon claims that “Superior beamforming know-how combines the alerts from the person microphones to suppress noise, reverberation, content material at the moment enjoying, and even competing speech.”

    Like Fireplace TV, the Dice comes with a daily voice distant too, so in case your instructions cannot be heard, you may all the time speak into the clicker.

    Targeted on voice

    As ordinary, every command must be prefaced with the “Alexa” wake phrase, however Gupta stated there was no have to specify the machine — you may simply say “Alexa, watch CNN” as a substitute of “Alexa, watch CNN on the cable field.” Grouped instructions, aka Alexa routines like Gupta’s “Alexa, I am dwelling,” can have any identify you need.

    Different instructions that work, after you say the “Alexa” key phrase:

    • “Activate/off the TV”
    • “Flip up/down the amount” or “Mute”
    • “House” or “Go dwelling” returns to Fireplace TV dwelling web page
    • “Launch Netflix” or “Launch Hulu” to launch apps
    • “Play ‘Transparent“http://www.cnet.com/” or “Play ‘Sneaky Pete“http://www.cnet.com/”
    • “Present dramas” or “Present current films”
    • “Pause,”http://www.cnet.com/”Cease,”http://www.cnet.com/”Play,”http://www.cnet.com/”Rewind” and “Quick-forward”
    • “Go down” or “Scroll down” navigates by the web page
    26-amazon-fire-tv-cube26-amazon-fire-tv-cube

    Numbers on thumbnails assist ease voice navigation.


    Sarah Tew/CNET

    Past Amazon Prime video itself, and Amazon Channels like HBO, Starz and Showtime, different apps that permit direct voice instructions embrace Hulu and PlayStation Vue. Amazon says it is working so as to add extra app help quickly.

    An up to date model of the Fireplace TV interface contains numbers subsequent to choices to ease voice instructions. For instance, confronted with a display screen filled with selections you may say “Play quantity 2” as a substitute of “Play Clear.”

    Ought to Concord (and Caavo) fear?

    harmony-remote-product-photos06.jpgharmony-remote-product-photos06.jpg

    Logitech’s Concord remotes work with Alexa and instructions your gear too.


    Sarah Tew

    Presently I exploit a Logitech Harmony remote together with a my Alexa at dwelling, and it does a lot of the same things. I can say “Alexa, watch Netflix” and my TV and AV receiver will activate and swap inputs, and my Roku will hearth up the Netflix app. After that, nevertheless, I’ve to choose up the Concord distant to do something worthwhile.

    With its skill to stream exhibits from Fireplace TV at your command, the Dice goes one step additional than Concord by way of voice management. However the Dice’s included distant lacks the flexibility to manage any of your gear — it would not even have quantity or mute keys — so I do not see it truly changing a Concord system anytime quickly. 

    It is also price mentioning Caavo, a bold common distant and AV swap that additionally works with Alexa. It is flawed by lack of HDR and a excessive value, however it competes in the identical area as Concord and Dice.

    The 2 totally different takes on leisure management, voice vs. distant, remind me as soon as once more that voice would not essentially make issues simpler. I might fairly browse stuff onscreen utilizing a distant than instructions like “Alexa, scroll down,” or pause by clicking the pause button fairly than saying “Alexa, pause.” However having the choice to do each, particularly when the distant goes lacking, is fairly cool. 

    After Amazon’s demo I am excited to play with the Dice myself and see the way it works, specifically how straightforward it’s to program every little thing. However with the corporate’s glorious observe report making Alexa units play nicely with others, the Dice seems to be fairly slick up to now.

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