Echo speakers and Fire TV united: Amazon's Fire TV Cube comes to Germany

Customers in Germany have had far more than a year to wait for the Fire TV Cube to come to Germany. Now Amazon has announced the early launch at the Ifa 2019. From now on the Fire TV Cube to be pre-ordered in the second generation for the price of 120 euros, the delivery should be made from 10 October 2019. The new model has a faster processor and voice control directly on the device, otherwise there are no differences compared to the first generation.

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Unlike in the US, the Fire TV Cube is not cheaper for Prime customers when preordering. In the summer of 2018, US customers received a pre-order discount of US $ 30 and had to pay only US $ 90 instead of US $ 120. Later, Amazon sold the Fire TV Cube to Prime customers for $ 70 in sales. So if you can wait a few weeks or months, you will soon get the Fire TV Cube for well under 120 Euro.

The Cube offers 4K, HDR-10 + support and masters Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos. The built-in hexa-core processor runs at 1.5 GHz and the device has 2 GB of RAM and 16 GB of flash memory, twice as much as the current Fire TV 4K. The cube has eight far-field microphones to understand voice commands as well as possible.

Alexa has been on Fire TV for quite some time, but voice control has been done via the microphones on the remote. In conjunction with an Alexa speaker, it is possible to control a Fire TV on demand, but this requires an additional device. The Fire TV Cube unites these two worlds.

On demand, playback can be paused or resumed, and we can rewind in a movie or series without having to resort to the remote control. The voice control should respond faster on the cube model than a combination of echo speaker and Fire TV. The Fire TV Cube provides a local voice control and executes the most common voice commands directly on the device.

When third-party Alexa speakers are served with a Fire TV over the voice, it takes about three seconds for a paused stream to actually stop – that takes too long and is therefore not reasonably usable.

Fire TV Cube (Image: Amazon)

On the top of the cube are the volume control knobs known by the echo speaker, the manual activation of Alexa and the mute of the microphones. A button to pause or resume playback does not exist.

Fire TV Cube can control TVs and the like via infrared

There is an infrared port, which can also send infrared signals by means of extension in order to be able to operate other devices. This is also possible via HDMI-CEC and with these two techniques, the Cube should be able to control the entire home theater system on demand, so as to turn on the TV and the surround system. In addition to Prime Video, the apps of Netflix, Youtube, ZDF, Waipu TV as well as Zattoo can be controlled with the voice of the market launch. By the end of the year, the voice control should also appear in the apps for ARD, Arte, Prosieben and TVNow.

The Fire TV Cube has a glowing blue edge as soon as Amazon's digital assistant takes Alexa's orders. In addition, the user receives a visual feedback when Alexa listens. It happens again and again that the assistant activates, without the corresponding signal word was said.

The back of the cube has an HDMI and a micro USB port. There is no slot for memory cards, a full-fledged USB port or an optical digital output. The device is connected to the Internet via WLAN-ac and Bluetooth 4.2 is supported. Via an included Ethernet adapter, it is also possible to supply the Fire TV Cube via cable to the Internet.

The Fire TV Cube comes with the new Fire TV remote, which comes with the new Fire TV Stick 4K. The new model has volume keys and a built-in microphone, just like the other Fire TV sets. The built-in microphone could be a useful addition if the device is so unfavorably placed in a large room that voice commands are difficult to understand by the device.

JBL packs Android TV and Google Assistant into a soundbar

A similar approach as Amazon follows JBL with its Link Bar. The Soundbar is available via Android TV as a streaming device and acts through the Google Assistant as a smart speaker that is controlled on demand. In our review of the Link Bar, however, we came across too many limitations in terms of voice control. Unlike Amazon's approach, the JBL device can greatly enhance the sound of the TV. The speaker in the Fire TV Cube is not powerful enough for that and is only meant to talk to Alexa when the TV is off.