The Amazon Fire TV Cube (2022) has always stood out in a lineup of much-more affordable Fire TV streaming devices. Originally sold as "the Fire TV that can control your cable box," the Fire TV Cube has gotten smarter while cable's become less relevant. And, now at $139, Amazon's streaming box is $10 more expensive — and arrives with a big new upscaling feature to make that price bump more acceptable.
Amazon's also made this new Fire TV Cube simply better all around. A new processor means it's not just one of the best streaming devices, but one of the fastest at that. A new design means you don't need an adapter dongle for hard-wired Ethernet connections, and plugging in media drives and webcams is easier than ever. Oh, and it has an HDMI-IN port, so those of us with a ton of HDMI devices have one less cable to juggle.
But in a world of Fire TV-equipped Smart TVs, and other TVs that have all of the streaming apps, does the Fire TV Cube make a strong case for buying one more thing? We think so, but there's still room to improve, not only in Super Resolution Upscaling, but in the Fire TV's ad-heavy interface.
Amazon Fire TV Cube (2022) review: Specs
|Header Cell - Column 0||Roku Express (2022)|
|Resolution||4K Ultra HD|
|Ports||HDMI out, HDMI input, USB input, Ethernet, power, IR extender|
|Dimensions||3.4 x 3.4 x 3.0 inches|
|Video||Dolby Vision, HDR10+|
|Remote||Fire TV Alexa Voice Remote|
Amazon Fire TV Cube (2022) Price and release date
The Fire TV Cube 2022 is available now (its scheduled release date is Oct. 25, 2022). It's available for order on Amazon for $139 (opens in new tab), which makes it $10 more expensive the 2019 model and than the new Apple TV 4K 2022 ($129 for Wi-Fi only, $149 for Wi-Fi + Ethernet), though we haven't reviewed that model yet — and will therefore be testing it against the Apple TV 4K 2021 (originally $179, now on sale at $109). The $99 Roku Ultra (2020) is the cheapest of the bunch.
Your $139 gets you the Fire TV Cube itself, a remote, batteries for said remote and a power adapter. Notable by its omission is the HDMI cable needed to use the Fire TV Cube. Amazon's betting you already own one (and it can sell you one if you need it). The Roku Ultra includes that cable (as well as headphones for private listening), the Apple TV 4K does not.
Amazon Fire TV Cube (2022) review: Design and ports
The Fire TV Cube's upper-side shows off the primary reason some will buy it: this Fire TV device is a full-on Alexa speaker, as evidenced by its blue light bar and four Alexa buttons (trigger, mute, volume up and volume down).
Still not technically a cube, the new Fire TV Cube 2022 (3.4 x 3.4 x 3.0 inches) is the same size as the 2019 model. The Roku Ultra 2020 (4.9 x 4.9 x 0.9 inches) and Apple TV 4K (3.7 x 3.7 x 1.2 inches for 2022, 3.9 x 3.9 x 1.4 inches for 2021) are wider and shorter.
The sides of the Fire TV Cube 3rd Gen, however, are wrapped in mesh fabric instead of glossy plastic. This doesn't just allow it to actually look more like an Alexa speaker, but it enables front and side-facing Alexa speakers (the 2019 model's speakers were downward-firing).
The best changes are in the back. Amazon's added an internal Ethernet port so you won't need to use an external Ethernet adapter with its microUSB port. That tiny adapter's departure is a "good riddance" moment if ever there were. A full USB-A port replaces that tiny USB port, and you can use that for either external media storage or a webcam.
As for that new HDMI IN port? It's a welcome addition for me, as I already have three gaming consoles and a DVD player, constantly meaning one device is needing a port to plug into. Amazon could have done a better job of integrating it, as that port isn't included in the Equipment Control menu.
Amazon Fire TV Cube (2022) review: Remote
Amazon's new Fire TV Cube comes with a remote that's best described as "Oops! All Buttons." For this remote, Amazon's added a multitasker button that lets you see recent apps, as well as a system settings button.
The Fire TV Cube 2022 remote gets menu and content navigation right, with both a directional pad, all the standard buttons to let you play/pause, fast forward, rewind, go home and go back by one screen. Then, you've got volume and channel controls, along with the Live TV menu button. Those channel controls might not make sense to cord-cutters, but they work with connected cable boxes.
One neat little touch is that the mute button is the only concave button, so it's easy to find without looking. I wish Amazon would have also added an input switch button, which the Chromecast with Google TV has.
The Apple TV 4K remote is smaller and has far fewer buttons, but at least it doesn't have the Fire TV Cube's hard-encoded app buttons (Prime Video, Netflix, Disney Plus and Hulu). The Roku Ultra has the best remote of the group, the Roku Voice Remote Pro, which has a headphone jack for private listening (and comes with free headphones for that), programmable buttons and a rechargeable battery.
Amazon now offers an even better remote, so check out our Alexa Voice Remote Pro review for the full scoop.
Amazon Fire TV Cube (2022) review: Performance
Thanks to a new octa-core processor, the Fire TV Cube is one of the fastest streaming devices there is.
Navigating menus, opening apps and streaming on the Fire TV Cube (2022), my first reaction was "this is fast." But while the Fire TV Cube 2022 has speedy performance, its speed isn't outperforming its $139 price tag — especially when we already thought the $129 Fire TV Cube (2019, 2nd Gen) was also fast.
If you're paying $40 more than you would for the Roku Ultra, you should have YouTube open in 4 seconds, nearly a third of the 11 second time the $99 Roku posted. The Apple TV 4K 2021 took 3 seconds, which is what I'd call within the margin of error when I'm using my phone's stopwatch. Disney Plus opened in 5 seconds (1 shy of Apple TV's 6 seconds and 4 shy of the Roku's 9 seconds), while Peacock opened in six seconds (Apple TV: 6 seconds, Roku Ultra: 9 seconds).
Amazon Fire TV Cube (2022) review: Audio and video
The Fire TV Cube (2022) produces crisp and beautiful video, or at least it will enable your TV to reach its potential. The Cube supports all of the top audio (Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby Atmos) and video (Dolby Vision, HDR 10, HDR10+, HLG) standards. Testing the Fire TV Cube on my 4K LG TV (model number OLED55C7P), I saw nothing at all wrong, though TV shows have that little moment of all-black with a simple logo that helps them preload the next scene.
But picture quality stayed super-crisp as I fast-forwarded around the first episode of Bad Sisters on Apple TV Plus. From the fuzz of Becka (Eve Hewson)'s pink sweater to the texture of the gravel that a reckless biker took a spill on, and when I fast-forwarded to the insurance office scene, I could clearly see a lotto ticket barcode behind Tom Claffin (Brian Gleeson). And that's all without the Ethernet cable plugged in. The only slowness-to-4K I saw came when loading up the start of a House of the Dragon episode, and the granite in the opening credits looked quite soft for a second or two.
The Dolby Vision support complemented For All Mankind's scenes on the moon well, with the black skies looking especially inky. Dolby Atmos ensures that the sound surrounds you, but since I don't have a soundbar, I can only speak to the fact that the
Game of Thrones House of the Dragon theme song had all the bravura and power that you'd normally expect.
Since Amazon told me its Super Resolution Upscaling works on anything played through the Fire TV Cube, I plugged my Blu-ray/DVD player into its HDMI-in port and pulled out two movies I own on SD DVD and higher-resolution optical media.
For example, the 720p DVD of The Big Lebowski, skipped ahead to the "over the line" scene where John Goodman's Walter Sobcheck pulls a gun on Smokey the hippie looked as grainy as the day I bought it, and I didn't see much improvement when Super Resolution Upscaling was turned on, maybe a little smoothing of skin tones. Testing that same scene out on the Blu-ray of the same movie, it seemed like some smaller details like Smokey's salt and pepper hair, The Dude's mop of hair, and floral print pants, looked slightly crisper — but not by a huge margin.
Similarly, my 720p copy of The Shining had an overall grain and pixelation, with distortion around the lights on the walls. After turning on Super Resolution Upscaling, these problems remained. Testing out the 1080p Blu-ray version of that same scene, I saw much less grain and distortion, but (again) only minor upgrades with Super Resolution Upscaling enabled. I could see slight differences throughout, and that doesn't match the "better detail, contrast, and clarity" that's mentioned on the Fire TV Cube's product page on Amazon (opens in new tab).
Amazon Fire TV Cube (2022) review: Interface
The Fire TV interface may not be our favorite at Tom's Guide, but it's getting better. Our primary reason for not preferring the Amazon way is that it's full of ads.
Throughout my testing, the carousel banner that takes up the top half of the home screen rotated between a car ad and promotion for House of the Dragon, The Peripheral (a Prime Video Original), the true Crime channel Topic, a Stephen Merchant-led show on Britbox (available via Prime Channels), an ad for Amazon's hub for all things Halloween and Sharon Osbourne's Fox Nation special.
Below that, you have a thin row that users can control over half of, the portion where you see six of your apps. Six is a small amount, as Apple TV has upwards of 20 and Roku shows you nine (and half of three more below). You may only have six apps, but even if that's the case, Fire TV shouldn't be hiding them in that thin sliver of the home screen.
Below that, a neat slightly-smart row (or two) of content related to whatever your cursor has selected appears. That row often includes content directly from your live TV service of choice, and that's a great move. I wish Roku and Apple had this level of integration with paid live TV services.
But if you scroll down on the home screen, you get a grab bag including rows of ads, recently opened apps, suggested content, content from Amazon, sponsored content, live TV, Prime Video channels, a sponsored row of free movies from Tubi and more.
Oh, and any time you're using the Fire TV or the device connected via HDMI, you can still see Alexa overlays, such as the local weather forecast. And you don't even see any interface if your TV is off when you simply ask Alexa a question it can answer verbally, such as "Alexa, what's today's date?"
Amazon Fire TV Cube (2022) review: Search and Alexa
When I got tired of rewatching a House of the Dragon episode, I decided to use Alexa to search for Jordan Peele's movies. I simply said "Hey Alexa, Jordan Peele." And then the device searched that query in HBO Max. That wasn't what I expected — the Key & Peele show, and Space Jam (because Michael Jordan) showed up — but it was a neat trick.
So, I navigated to the home screen, and said "Hey Alexa, Jordan Peele." Up came a grid starting with the most relevant answers: Nope, Us and Get Out (the movies he's directed), then — questionably — Antebellum, which he does not have any role in, but is often compared to his work, followed by his Twilight Zone, then Key & Peele, Candyman (2021), which he produced, and then movies and shows that are similar-ish (American Horror Stories, Ma and Bodies Bodies Bodies), with his under-seen Keanu mixed in. The Apple TV 4K's Siri produces a similar set of results for the actor/director's name. Roku's voice search for Jordan Peele also pulls up YouTube results for the actor, but doesn't surface similar movies nor does it bring up Key & Peele.
When I selected Us on the Fire TV Cube, it offered buy and rental options with the FXNOW app as a secondary option — though I didn't have the app installed (nor do I have a subscription that supports FXM. Roku only recommended Spectrum (an app Fire TV doesn't have). Using Alexa to search for the movie "It" (which I knew is on Netflix, which I had installed), the Fire TV had the 2017 movie as the first result, and showed "Watch Now with Netflix" as the first option after opening the movie. Clicking said button brought me to the Netflix app, where one more click started the film.
Searching for the same movie on Roku showed me I could watch the modern horror adaptation on either Netflix or HBO Max (an option hidden in menus on Fire TV), and searching "It" with Siri on the Apple TV 4K got the right result, but only showed HBO Max — because Apple doesn't tie into Netflix. Overall, using Alexa for Search works well, but I wish the results screen was a little more like Roku's. At least Fire TV can work with Netflix, which Apple can't say.
Using Alexa to open specific apps is really easy, I just say "Alexa, open YouTube, and it's there. Even if the TV was off — the Fire TV turns on the TV and boots up the app you want.
Using Alexa to control a cable box, one of the Fire TV Cube's original use-cases, works really well. With everything plugged in and connected, I said "Alexa, tune to the Travel Channel on Cable," switched the input and the channel, and I was watching some version of Ghost Hunters that I immediately turned off once I realized that the Travel Channel isn't about travel anymore.
Thankfully, Alexa's also ready for the post-cable life, working with some of the best cable TV alternatives including Sling TV. So, when I say "Alexa, tune to TBS on Sling," that works too.
At some points throughout this, these commands didn't work exactly right, but after I reset some settings, it all worked itself out. I'm not especially fond of using voice assistants, but I have to admit that I warmed up when it worked right. To enter my living room, speak "Alexa, open Peacock," and to have the TV turn on and open the Peacock app on the Fire TV? It's neat.
Amazon Fire TV Cube (2022) review: Content and apps
All the best streaming services are available with the Fire TV Cube (2022), but that's to be expected: Amazon's Fire TV platform is in the top 2 in terms of reach, next to Roku. That means everyone has to have a presence, which gives you the Netflixes, the HBO Maxes and more.
All the additive streaming services are here, so you can get Disney Plus, Apple TV Plus, Paramount Plus, AMC Plus and BET Plus. You can also download Shudder for horror and Crunchyroll for anime. Oddly, some apps aren't available solo. Cineaste streamer Mubi and UK-content hub BritBox are only available as Prime Video Channels — which is a bit annoying as it requires a Prime subscription. It's unclear whose fault this is, but I guess Amazon can assume anyone buying a $139 Fire TV streaming device is all-in on the Prime ecosystem. The Roku and Apple TV app stores aren't missing any services that Fire TV has.
Then, there's Luna: Amazon's cloud gaming offering. Cloud gaming enables you to play decent video games without a competent or strong device, as you use server farms to host your games. This category of gaming has not really caught fire yet, unless you count the charred corpse of Google Stadia that's being sent up the river to its grave.
Testing Luna Plus (for an extra $9.99 per month you get more games than with Prime membership) out, I found that it's better for some games than others. Tetris Effect Connected, a joyous music-infused take on the brick-shifting classic, played smoothly. Spooky third-person shooter Control, however, had a weird audio sync issue when you fired your weapon, a common limit of cloud gaming. Annoyingly, Luna's menus didn't always work right, as it took multiple attempts to merely exit a game page.
That said, I commend Amazon for offering at least these interesting games. Apple Arcade offers some TV-formatted versions of its mobile games, and the hyped-Fantasian (from Hironobu Sakaguchi, the creator of Final Fantasy), but I've never really clicked with that title or any others, despite using the Apple TV 4K as my primary streaming device.
Anyone with a USB-A webcam can plug that into the Fire TV for Amazon's "drop in" calls, where you can video conference with other Fire TV devices. If you don't know anyone else who does that, the good news is that Zoom is coming to the new Cube soon.
Amazon Fire TV Cube (2022) review: Verdict
The 3rd Generation Fire TV Cube is the best Fire TV yet, combining best-in-class speed with a new remote and an extra HDMI port for all of us device-jugglers. And now that the Fire TV Cube's Ethernet port is built right in, steady streaming is even easier than before.
That said, it's still pricey, and I am not seeing the value in Super Resolution Upscaling. Hopefully that gets fixed soon. But for anyone who wants to upgrade their Smart TV and cable (or cord-cutter app) life with a streaming device that's also a full-fledged Alexa speaker? The Fire TV Cube may be $10 more than before, but it's also better than ever.