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Amazon Fire TV Cube blends Fire TV with Echo Dot

Amazon on Thursday introduced the Fire TV Cube, the most recent tool within the tech massive’s circle of relatives of Fire TV media streamers and the most recent to make use of its Alexa virtual assistant.

The new media streamer first leaked after a file from AFTVNews closing September. Amazon later showed that it used to be running on a tool referred to as the Fire TV Cube, however didn’t divulge any main points excluding that.

It seems the unique leak used to be spot on. The Fire TV Cube is absolute best described as a sparkly, cube-shaped model of the 4K- and HDR-compatible Fire TV field Amazon introduced closing yr with an Echo Dot good speaker constructed into it and an IR emitter tacked on.

The tool shall be to be had for preorder on Thursday and officially move on sale on June 21. It’ll value $120, regardless that Amazon is operating a promotion during which customers of its Prime carrier should buy the field for $90 on Thursday and Friday. The present 4K Fire TV field prices $70.

It does Echo issues

The Fire TV Cube is a small field that bears the standard markings of an Echo tool. There’s a gentle strip that runs round its best and glows blue whilst you name for Alexa. It will chime to recognize when the assistant is listening. There are 4 buttons at the best of the tool for adjusting quantity and muting the integrated microphones.

There are 8 of the ones far-field microphones in overall. Amazon says they’re specified by a flat, front-facing trend right here as a substitute of a round trend discovered on usual Echo audio system. The corporate says that placement, plus some “extra tuning” round echo cancellation and microphone bias, must lend a hand the tool select voice instructions even in louder settings.

Alexa at the Fire TV Cube can’t do the entirety it could actually on an ordinary Echo speaker: in a briefing in New York City this week, Sandeep Gupta, Amazon’s vp of good TV and residential merchandise, in particular discussed that it doesn’t have any capability in the best way of communications. That way no texting, messaging, or video calling out of your TV, via Gupta mentioned the corporate is operating at the closing of the ones.

Besides that, maximum of Alexa’s many different “skills” nonetheless paintings. If you permit the “TV” portion of the Fire TV Cube off, it’ll paintings like an Echo Dot. Gupta mentioned its speaker high quality is similar to that of the Dot, so it must be deficient for song however wonderful for elementary requests.

With the TV on, the Cube is corresponding to a large Echo Show, the touchscreen-equipped good speaker Amazon introduced closing yr. You can ask it for the elements and it’ll display a visible graphic of the forecast. You will have it display within sight eating places or film theaters. You can ask for a flash information briefing, and with some shops you’ll see a video rundown of the day’s headlines. You can move song and, a minimum of with Amazon Music, see lyrics as a track performs. You can play a handful of video games (suppose Alexa’s “Jeopardy” talent), view the reside feed of a well suited safety digital camera, and so forth.

Pushing a hands-free far flung

Amazon’s major function, regardless that, is to have Alexa sub in in your remotes. Like the previous few Fire TV fashions, the Fire TV Cube helps HDMI-CEC (“Consumer Electronics Control”). Broadly talking, that permits gadgets hooked up to a TV’s HDMI ports to keep up a correspondence backward and forward with the TV via one far flung. Here, it most commonly way Alexa can flip a well suited TV on and off with voice instructions.

HDMI-CEC has been somewhat of mess, regardless that: some TVs don’t give a boost to it altogether, others do however don’t paintings to the spec’s fullest extent. To lend a hand quilt for that, the Fire TV Cube additionally works like an IR emitter. It comes with a little bit IR dongle that connects to the again of the tool and we could Alexa keep watch over quite a lot of TVs, cable packing containers, soundbars, receivers, and the like. Amazon says the Cube will quilt “more than 90 percent” of houses with cable or satellite tv for pc, together with packing containers from Comcast, Dish, DirecTV, Spectrum (Charter), and Verizon. It gained’t paintings with all A/V apparatus—Amazon mentions common remotes, projectors and soundbars paired over Bluetooth as now not being controllable, for example—however IR most often casts a large internet.

With a cable field, for example, you want to inform Alexa to “play CBS on cable” and it’s going to bounce from the Fire TV interface to the best channel via your cable enter. If then you inform it to “switch to channel 11,” it’ll robotically input “0-1-1” and alter channels like a ghost that were given cling of your far flung. Gupta mentioned Amazon will ask in your zip code and what cable field you’re the use of all over setup to learn your native listings.

Amazon says all of this can be utilized for multistep instructions. Gupta gave the instance of the use of a word like “I’m home” to turn on a TV via CEC, activate and regulate the quantity of a soundbar via IR, and activate Philips Hue lighting fixtures via their Alexa talent. You input what sort of TV you are the use of and the way you’re outputting audio all over the setup procedure, and Gupta says the corporate makes use of “cloud-based protocols” to acknowledge the way to execute positive instructions, be it via CEC, IR, or an Alexa talent.

Familiar options

If you don’t hassle with the CEC and IR tips, the Fire TV Cube is very similar to the Fire TV dongle Amazon launched closing yr. The tool nonetheless runs in 60Hz 4K and helps HDR10 and Dolby Atmos with well suited content material. It nonetheless does now not give a boost to Dolby Vision HDR. The again of the field has ports for HDMI, the IR dongle, microUSB, and tool; there’s nonetheless no Ethernet jack, however there may be an Ethernet adapter within the field this time round. There’s no microSD slot. The integrated far flung hasn’t modified, because of this it nonetheless lacks devoted quantity buttons.

Gupta mentioned the Cube has equivalent interior specifications to closing yr’s Fire TV, with the similar 1.5GHz ARM processor, 2GB of RAM, 802.11ac Wi-Fi, and so forth. There’s now 16GB of garage as a substitute of 8GB, regardless that. Gupta mentioned the corporate has carried out extra “optimizations and tuning” be sure that the added speaker capability doesn’t get in the best way of usual streamer efficiency, however on a base degree that is nonetheless a much less tough streamer than some older-generation Fire TVs. We’ll have to check the tool earlier than making any ultimate judgments, regardless that.

The Cube runs on Amazon’s same old Fire TV interface, so on the other hand you’ve felt about that earlier than is most likely the way you’ll really feel about it right here. Personally, I’ve continually discovered it somewhat messy: it nonetheless displays commercials, it nonetheless items replica app shortcuts now and then, it could actually nonetheless contain a just right quantity of scrolling, and it nonetheless has a tendency to prioritize Amazon’s personal content material around the UI. I have observed it fumble non-simplistic searches, and it historically hasn’t had the quantity of HDR- and/or Atmos-compatible content material as different streaming , regardless that this is slowly however undoubtedly bettering in apps like Netflix and Prime Video.

That mentioned, Amazon does come with effects from some third-party products and services like Hulu, Netflix, and HBO in seek now, and Gupta mentioned the ones products and services and others like PlayStation Vue now have devoted rows of content material suggestions at the house display. If you utilize a reside TV streaming carrier like Vue or Hulu, you’ll use Alexa to leap to express channels inside of the ones apps, similar to the way it can paintings with a cable over IR. Gupta mentioned Sling TV and DirecTV Now will give a boost to these types of voice instructions as smartly.

One carrier that gained’t, regardless that, is YouTube TV. Google and Amazon don’t appear any nearer to a truce of their feud, so there’ll nonetheless be no respectable Google apps at the Fire TV Cube. Nevertheless, you’ll use Alexa to drag up movies from the carrier—it’ll simply open YouTube’s Web participant within the Firefox browser. It’s a workaround, to make certain, however asking the tool to “find cat videos on YouTube” did simply that during my demo.

Beyond that, you’ll nonetheless use Alexa to open apps, pause and keep watch over playback, seek for explicit displays, and do the entire different video-centric duties it has carried out up to now. Because Amazon needs to push Alexa as a far flung keep watch over right here, it offers each and every row of the UI a bunch. So if you wish to have Alexa to open a row Netflix-recommended displays, and that row is indexed as quantity six, you’d say “Alexa, select six.” It’d then amplify that right into a full-screen view, from the place you’ll get started observing a display from the checklist in entrance of you.

Here’s the place I make the needful be aware about Alexa and person privateness. In quick, there’s not anything right here that turns out more likely to exchange someone’s present emotions. If you weren’t comfy with an always-listening speaker in your house earlier than, having one that still is aware of what cable TV you prefer gained’t exchange that. For what it’s price, you’re nonetheless ready to mute the Cube’s mics and delete previous recordings, and Gupta gave Amazon’s same old stance at the subject, announcing that the corporate collects information to strengthen how smartly Alexa works.

Much of what Amazon is promoting this is an amalgamation of items it has quietly constructed into Alexa over the last a number of months. My first influence is that the Cube will enchantment extra to those that have by no means owned an Echo or Fire TV however need a spot to leap in. The lounge is a moderately herbal position for voice assistant, and you probably have the proper AV equipment, having the ability to keep watch over a soundbar, a cable field, and good TV apps via one tool sounds at hand.

Still, Amazon is attempting to juggle a couple of varieties of tech via one assistant, so it’s onerous to mention how easily the entirety will paintings till we take a seat down with the tool additional. And if you have already got a Fire TV and Echo speaker, there isn’t a lot incentive to improve right here when the ones two gadgets can reflect many of those tips already. Nevertheless, we’ll take a look at the Fire TV Cube and take a look at to determine its position within the coming weeks.

Listing symbol by means of Jeff Dunn

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