The Amazon Fire TV Cube is here. We've used it. We've reviewed it. And there still are so many questions. Such as this: Should you upgrade to an Amazon Fire TV Cube?
That depends on a lot of things, actually. It depends on what you currently have. And in this case, we're going to focus on the other Fire TV entries.
This post was first published in July 2018, after the release of the Amazon Fire TV Cube. We've updated it in October after the announcement of the Fire TV Stick 4K, which replaces the 2017 Fire TV 4K pendant in Amazon's lineup.
With all that said, let's just dive into it.
|Category||Fire TV Cube||Fire TV Stick 4K|
|Max resolution||2160p (4K)||2160p (4K)|
|Operating system||Fire OS 6 (Android 7.1)||Fire OS 6 (Android 7.1)|
|Bluetooth||BT 4.2||BT 5.0|
|Ethernet||Adapter included||Optional adapter|
|Amazon Alexa||Built in||Via voice remote|
Fire TV Cube vs. Fire TV Stick 4K
Internal hardware varies a good bit when you put the 2018 Fire TV Cube up against the 2018 Fire TV Stick 4K — but even that isn't the real tale of what's different here. Sure, there's a different system on a chip, which includes the processor and GPU. That's important. But it's the features that separate these two devices.
The Fire TV Stick 4K is promised to be a lot faster than its predecessor, but we'll have to wait to see how it stands up to the Fire TV Cube. Chances are it'll be fairly close when it comes to performance. But when you talk about the differences between these two products, it's really about Alexa.
The big "upgrade" here for the Fire TV Cube is the inclusion of the Echo Dot-like hardware. The external microphones and speaker. And those are cool additions. On the other hand, you can get nearly the same functionality from a refurbished Echo Dot for just $40.
Both of these devices ship (after Oct. 31, anyway), with the new Alexa Voice Remote, which also allows for controlling the volume on your television. That fixes a pretty big ding we hit the Cube with in our review.
But — and this is a fairly big point — the new Fire TV Stick 4K is the first Fire TV device to support the Dolby Vision for HDR. The Fire TV Cube doesn't.
Which should you get? If you just have to have the "hands-free" Alexa stuff, then you'll want the Cube. But even then, it's really not all it's cracked up to be — fortunately the new remote control will help with that. But if you want Dolby Vision (and if your TV supports it, you want your streaming devices to have it, too), you'll want the Fire TV Stick 4K. Consider this: You can buy a bundle of a $49 Fire TV Stick 4K with Dolby Vision and a $49 current-generation Echo Dot for just $80.
Fire TV Cube vs. Fire TV Stick
Look, we get it. The Fire TV Cube is $119. The original Stick is a mere $39. But you get what you pay for. The Cube handles 4K resolution, the Stick does not. The Cube has newer software, based off Android 7.1. The Stick is older and probably won't get updates as long as the Cube. The Cube is simply way more powerful and will do things faster than the Stick.
And then there's all the Alexa stuff, right? All the hands-free TV control. You can't do that with the Fire TV Stick.
Should you upgrade? If your TV maxes out at 1080p and you're OK with the performance of the Fire TV Stick, then, erm, stick with it. If you've got a newer TV and an older Fire TV Stick, however, then it's time to upgrade, for sure.
Fire TV Cube vs. the old Fire TV box
We'd sort of been hoping that the Fire TV Cube would be a straight replacement for the original Fire TV set-top box. And in many ways it is. It does 4K resolution. It's more powerful. But Amazon kind of blew it when it comes to one feature that's going to matter to a lot of folks — the ability to plug it in directly to a router, using an Ethernet cable.
Yeah, you can still do it with the Fire TV Cube, but you have to use an included Ethernet adapter, which then plugs into a microUSB port. Spacial limitations most certainly are a thing when it comes to physical design, but this needing an adapter is more than just an annoyance. It's one more cable to deal with and most definitely detracts from the overall look and feel of the Fire TV Cube.
That said. ...
Should you upgrade? Probably. If you still have an original Fire TV box — as in the first-generation model — then, yes. Upgrade. Soonest. Both the hardware and software are out of date. The second-generation Fire TV box is still long in the tooth, but at least it handles 4K resolution. So maybe ride that puppy into the ground — but just know that it's getting up there, too.
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