The new Fire TV Cube from Amazon.com extends the company’s efforts to become the nerve center of your house by combining its entertainment ambitions more fully with its push into the smart home.
Amazon on Thursday announced the addition to its television accessory lineup, framing the new Cube as a set-top box that doubles as a voice-controlled smart-home hub. While previous versions of the Fire TV could be controlled by voice, they required people to push a button on the remote control to issue commands. The Fire TV Cube, like an Echo speaker, will instead always be listening for voice commands. It does not have a camera.
(Amazon.com chief executive Jeffrey P. Bezos is the owner of The Washington Post.)
With Fire TV Cube, Amazon said, people will be able to control not only Alexa-compatible lights, televisions and other appliances but also new entertainment devices including cable boxes. The idea is to make the television simpler — no need to fuss with multiple remotes. In addition, working with cable providers gives Amazon a chance to shift its core audience beyond cord cutters.
Adding the more-complex Alexa features has changed the look of the Fire TV. For the past few versions of Fire TV, Amazon has made a streaming stick that plugs unobtrusively into the back of a set. The Fire TV Cube, however, is more like a set-top box and sits in front of your screen. It’s about the height of two Echo Dots, according to Amazon.
Like the Echo Show, which has a screen, the Fire TV Cube will have a visual component to some of the most common Alexa requests. For example, asking for a rundown of the day’s news will prompt the device to show videos and images on your television screen, rather than just an audio recap through the speaker. You can also use the television as a monitor for security cameras and control them through the Cube.
While the Fire TV Cube can be controlled completely by voice, it will still come with a remote control for times when you may not want to shout at your television. Some apps may also still require a remote control to navigate, meaning you can’t completely give it over to your couch cushions.
Pulling together all of these functions ups the price of the Fire TV Cube, which costs $119.99. That’s far more than the $70 Fire TV 4K stick and still pricier than Amazon’s basic $100 Echo speaker. It is, however, still less than the $150 Apple TV.
The Cube is up for preorder starting Thursday and will be widely available June 21.