Fire TV Cube: 1st impressions and menu map

Fire TV Cube: 1st impressions and menu map

I’ve been using the

Fire TV Cube (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

for about a day now.

It’s Amazon’s new streaming device/home assistant…for most people, the shorthand is that it combines an Echo and a Fire TV.

However, I have multiple Echo devices and two Fire TVs in this room (I was only currently using one), and it does things that none of them do (but also doesn’t do some things that the Echo does do).

Let’s hit the high level first.

It is a quantum leap forward in TV control. It doesn’t completely eliminate our remotes (we have a fancy Logitech Harmony Home Control – 8 Devices (White) (at AmazonSmile*)), for one thing), but for most simple operations, it is a new, simpler way to do things.

However, it’s certainly imperfect, and I expect to see big improvements in the future. Nowadays, that doesn’t necessarily mean waiting for a second generation of hardware…a lot of it could be done with software updates.

If you get one, you are an early adopter…but it’s a more mature technology than, say, the first Kindle.

My first actual impression on opening the box was that it was a lot smaller than I expected. Maybe the size of two Echo Dots stacked on top of each other, or your two fists side-by-side.

Second, set up was easy. One of the biggest things it does is use infrared to control your devices, and your remote probably does. I didn’t have to tell it what brand and model my TV was (as I do with my Harmony)…it just detected it. I did need to know my wi-fi password, but even though it’s long and random, I have that memorized (I’m cool like that). 😉

You plug it into the HDMI port on your TV, plug it into power, and then just run through the prompts.

Oh, that brings up the biggest headscratcher!

They give you two cables you may not need: one for a cabled connection (as opposed to wi-fi) to the internet, and one to improve the infrared connection if you keep a device inside a cabinet. That’s nice of them, although I didn’t need either.

Weirdly, though, they didn’t include a cable you absolutely need: an HDMI cable to connect it to your TV. I used the one from the Fire TV it is replacing, but I can see a lot of people making the plunge into streaming/SmartHome with this, especially as a gift, and not having one.

Amazon sells their own branded, six-foot cable for $6.99: even if they ended up charging a few dollars more for the device, it seems like it only makes sense to have it usable out of the box for just about everyone. I would guess there are people who would return it when they realized that wasn’t included, again receiving it as a gift. Here’s that Amazon cable, but there are a lot of options: AmazonBasics High-Speed HDMI Cable, 6 Feet, 1-Pack | 4.6 stars out of 5 | 15,490 customer reviews at time of writing.

One interesting thing: during the guided set-up, it did suggest Hulu for my homescreen…but not Netflix (we use both, in addition to Prime video and Tubi). You could still download Netflix, it just wasn’t one of the first options.

It appeared that apps that were compatible with our 2nd gen Fire TV were compatible with this, so I just had to download them again…and sign into them, in some cases.

The one big issue we’ve had with apps is that Hulu has failed to launch…repeatedly. It eventually does, but that’s not a problem we had before. I’m guessing an update will come that will resolve that.

As to the voice control: I was generally impressed! When I asked to watch a program, it took me to where I was watching it before…and started with the right episode. We have more than one Netflix profile, as one example, and it appeared to know to go to the one where we had last watched that show (rather than picking a different profile and starting at the first episode).

One thing I thought it was going to do was turn on the TV if needed to watch something…it hasn’t been doing that, so I do ask it to both turn on the TV and then to find the show.

The search is a bit…kludgy. Not bad, but for example, when I asked for “science fiction movies”, it showed me a lot of science fiction TV shows, too. Minor thing, but it should know the difference.

I do end up using the remote some (and I set up the Harmony to work with it…it’s important for my Significant Other that the option be there for everything to work just the way it did before. I’m eager to learn new ways with tech, and my SO is less so). The remote that came with it, the Harmony, and voice control are all working with the new device, and I don’t have to tell it which one to use each time. Also worth noting: my Bluetooth headset (I use a currently unavailable inexpensive SoundBot pair) also paired with no problem. That means that I can do all the Alexa stuff it does hearing it in the headset. Since you can whisper to an Alexa, that means I can keep things pretty quiet if I’m awake and my SO isn’t.

Similar to our Echo Show, it will display some things on the TV screen, which is really nice! When I use the Jeopardy skill, I like to be able to read the questions, not just hear them…and they looked great on our TV! Similarly, asking for the weather gave us some visual information in addition to an audio response.

I would really love for it to be able to do videocalls on our TV, but it doesn’t do calling at all (and doesn’t have a camera…that might be solved by having it link to another camera. That’s a big limitation compared to other Echo devices…it can do home automation, the weather, Prime music (sounds good on our TV), and so on.

Important to note: it actually sounds pretty good when you aren’t using the TV. Much better than an Echo Dot.

It hears pretty well, but I think I’ll follow their recommendation and move it further away from the TV. It’s about a foot from it now, and sometimes we have to call its name twice for it to hear us. It may learn our voices better later and get better at discriminating them from the TV…

Let’s do a quick menu map (just looking at the Settings):

  • Notifications (these are notifications from Amazon…you may have nothing there, but it told us that a package was coming that day…not when it actually arrived)
  • Network: that’s how you join a wi-fi network…you do have options for WPS PIN or Button
  • Display & Sounds
    • Screensaver (you have it show your photos)
    • Display
    • Audio (in addition to sound style, you can turn off the navigation sounds here, which I always do)
    • Second Screen Notifications
    • HDMI CEC Device Control
  • Applications
    • Collect App Usage DAta
    • Appstore
      • Automatic Updates
      • External Market Links (since you can use browsers now)
      • In-App Purchases (important as a form of “parental controls”)
      • Manage My Subscriptions (for now, this suggests you go to Amazon)
      • Notifications
      • Hide Cloud Apps
    • Prime Photos
      • Allow Guest Connections (hm…this says guests can connect to your TV to cast photos and videos to your screen.  I have to learn more about this! Is this the return of mirroring, or something more limited?)
      • Access Prime Photos (on or off)
    • GameCircle
    • Manage Installed Applications (very useful…I sometimes end up force-stopping an app if it’s “misbehaving”)
  • Equipment Control (this is a new menu compared to the old Fire TV)
    • Equipment Control
    • Manage Equipment
      • Add Equipment
      • TV
        • Volume Increments (we definitely wanted to change this one! By default, it jumped up 5 when we said we wanted it louder, which was too loud. We changed the increments to 1)
        • Infrared Options
        • Power Controls
        • Change TV
        • Restore TV Defaults (after I’d changed the increments)
      • Fire TV Cube
      • Advanced Settings
        • Power Timing
    • Set Up Equipment Again (I may do this at some point…I don’t have it controlling our cable box…which we almost never use. It wanted me to use the remote at one point, and it didn’t seem to recognize our Harmony for this…I don’t know where the original remote is right now)
  • Controllers and Bluetooth Devices
    • Amazon Fire TV Remotes (a voice remote comes with it…the hardest thing in the whole set up is getting the battery case open) 😉
    • Game Controllers
    • Other Bluetooth Devices (this was for both the headset and the Harmony…when I set up my Harmony, by the way, it didn’t recognize “Fire TV Cube”, but it worked with “Fire TV”)
  • Alexa
    • Alexa App (yes, you’ll want to have that…I think you can do what you need to do on a computer, if you don’t have a SmartPhone)
    • Things to Try
    • Favor This Device (that seems new…and it was defaulted to On. I noticed that our Echo Show did light up when the TV talked about Alexa during the demo videos…but did not execute the commands)
  • Preferences
    • Parental Controls
    • Data Monitoring (turning it on gives you the below choices)
      • Set Video Quality (who would guess that was here?)
      • Set Data Alert
      • Monthly Top Data Usage
    • Notification Settings
    • Featured Content (this has a marvelous setting that lets you turn off Video/Audio Autoplay when you are searching! I’ve recently been having a discussion at AT&T because the DirecTV Now app now plays something in the background all the time, which means there could be spoilers if they happen to be at a crucial part of the “live” video. I’ve told them I basically can’t use the service unless that changes)
    • Location (you can enter your ZIP code for weather here)
    • Time Zone
    • Metric Units (Yay! That’s what I use, but I’ll leave it on English for my SO)
    • Advertising ID
  • Device
    • About
    • Developer options
      • ABD debugging
      • Apps from Unknown Sources
    • Legal & Compliance
    • Sleep (I thought this would let me choose screensaver timing, but it just put the Cube to sleep
    • Restart
    • Reset to Factory Defaults
  • Accessiblity
    • Closed Caption
    • VoiceView
    • Screen Magnifier (I have used this…it lets you use button combinations on your remote to magnify part of the screen)
    • High Contrast Text (Experimental)
  • Help
    • Help Videos
    • Quick Tips
    • Contact Us
    • Feedback
  • My Account
    • Amazon Account (to deregister and reregister)
    • Sync Amazon Content

Overall? I already walked into another room and wanted to use it on a TV there. 🙂 I have a lot more to learn and to try, and it’s going to improve, but it was already worth it. There’s been a leaked Prime Day of July 16th for this year…I don’t know that they’ll just flat put this on sale, but they might bundle it. We Prime members already got a discount in the beginning…I think they could repeat that discount.

It is the voice control we wanted for the Fire TV from the beginning. It can replace a typical Echo for the most part, but not quite. It can replace your remote for the most part, but sometimes it is going to be easier to use.

One last thing: a few recommendations for free apps (you can get them through your computer and download them from your Fire TV, or get them directly from your Fire TV)

  • Firefox Browser for Fire TV (at AmazonSmile*) (you can also get Amazon’s Silk browser…this multiplies your device’s capabilities. For example, there is a show we want to watch, and we can see full recent episodes at the website. It’s also a way to watch YouTube through your Fire TV)
  • Bookmarker 1 (at AmazonSmile*) (love this one! If you are using the browser, you can use this to launch a saved URL, so you don’t have to go through the awkward “typing” ((using the remote)) every time. This one only saves  one ((and you can specify browser)), but you can also get Bookmarker 2, Bookmarker 3, and so on)
  • Tubi TV (at AmazonSmile*) (this is not the equivalent of Prime/Hulu/Netflix, but we do use it. It’s ad-supported…TV with commercials, whodathunk? 😉 They do have great selections, and they seem to respect them with the way they are cut…the original British Avengers, Fireball XL5, also non-geeky options, including at time of writing Mississippi Burning and A Most Wanted Man. It also remembers where we are nicely from device to device)

If you do want geeky video on a schedule (not on demand), you can go to

Comet TV

in your browser app, and then use a Bookmarker. They have great content for free! It isn’t obvious, but the watch live link is in your top left…and note that the sound may be muted by default. You can then say, “Alexa, launch Bookmarker 1,” or whatever number it is.

Whew! That’s a lot of information for a “first impression”! If you have more questions or opinions, feel free to let me and my readers know by commenting on this post.

Join thousands of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

All aboard The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip at The History Project!

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.


4 Responses to “Fire TV Cube: 1st impressions and menu map”

  1. Edward Boyhan Says:

    I’ve already saved this post on my Edge browser reading list (for later), and also to my pocket account (for long-term reference).

    This is something that would be very handy in my master bedroom where I have my best TV and external 6 speaker audio lash-up. The problem is that I already have an Echo Dot, an Echo Spot, an Echo Look, and a hands-free Echo smartphone (Moto X4) in that room, and I’ve got four other Echo’s in the great room (and they can hear what I say in the MBR just fine — it’s chaos 🤔 ). I’m out of wake words, and given the recent kerfuffle with an Echo waking up and silently sending a message to someone else, I don’t see them dealing with the wake word scarcity any time soon. I’ve thought about pairing Echo devices into groups as a stopgap, but until Amazon gives me more wake words, I don’t see how I can acquire any more Alexa devices (and that’s not even dealing with some 3rd party H/W I might like to get (like a Sonos One).

    So the Fire TV Cube goes on the backburner for now.

    Individual recognition of the person speaking to Alexa might better handle issues with unanticipated wake-ups, and that might make custom wake words more possible.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Ed!

      If I were you, I might consider swapping out one of your existing devices, maybe the Echo Dot…if you have AV equipment to control. You can actually set the Fire Cube to take precedence over other devices, although that’s been imperfect.

      It’s not at all clear to me that the Echo didn’t speak when it sent that message…although they clearly didn’t engage with it if it did.

  2. Round up #176: buy a delivery business from Amazon, Prime Day 2018 | I Love My Kindle Says:

    […] Fire TV Cube: 1st impressions and menu map […]

  3. Patrick Says:

    I have a Harmony hub, which I’ve been happily using for years. I also have a Fire TV Stick, which has also worked flawlessly with the hub. I recently upgraded to a Fire TV Cube, and everything was seemingly working great, except for one annoying thing — when trying to enter a PIN (e.g. due to adding parental restrictions to launching apps), the center button does not work to enter “0”. Mashing the button over and over produces no result, even though the directional buttons work to enter the other numbers. Also, the center button is working fine to navigate the rest of the UI.

    Wondering if you or others have had a similar experience. So far, Logitech support has not been of much help.

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