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Published on June 22nd, 2018 | by Brad Gibson

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Opinion: Even with a $35 trade-in, Amazon’s Fire TV Cube is a ride to the basement

Tens of millions of Americans now own an Echo device and Alexa has become a fixture in many a home, no thanks to Apple doing little to expand the reach and depth of its own smart speaker creation known as Siri.

On the back of its popularity, Amazon has released a new device that combines Fire TV and Echo into one with the goal of controlling your TV with your voice. Nice try.

We’ve had a chance to play with the Fire TV Cube in the last few days and to say the experience is a good one would be far from the truth.

For one, it’s slow. Really slow.

“Alexa, play the movie Terminator.” Expect to wait 10 seconds or more.

“Alexa, rewind 30 seconds.” Instead, Alexa shows you movies titles with the numerals ’30’ in them.

Alexa’s artificial intelligent software has never been great and when you ask it to go the extra mile and do more complicated things like control video and find additional titles it falls flat. Really flat. 

Granted, Google Assistant and Apple Siri suffer from similar shortcomings, but this experience is much worse. Voice control is much slower than using an actual TV remote, but even there you expect something better and find a disappointment. 

The Amazon remote with this product feels like the equivalent of the prize you get in a Cracker Jack box. The Fire TV remote that comes with the cheaper $70 Fire TV stick is what you get with this more expensive $120 product and you feel like you got ripped off. When you resort back to using the remote to execute demands, you feel like you’re playing with a cheap, plastic toy. Sure, simplicity should be a major factor in a remote, but this a major disappointment, to be frank.

There are some definite pluses to this device. Support for 4K and HDR content is probably the biggest, but when you get that with an Apple TV 4K model, you start to wonder if Apple’s streaming device is actually better, the overall user interface experience is better and the price difference of $60 is worth it.

The experience of the Fire TV Cube is designed so that you never have to touch your remote. Too bad that isn’t the case. While the device’s slow software can probably be improved with a software update, Alexa’s artificial intelligence capability needs major improvements to better control video content.

Right now, Amazon is offering a $35 credit for anyone who wants to trade-in an old Apple TV. That would make the Fire TV Cube final price $85. While that sounds like a good deal, the fine print reveals they’ll only accept 4th-generation Apple TV models and newer. $35 off is nice, but a 4th-gen Apple TV is still considered high-end even at this age. Bluntly put, you likely can get far more selling such an Apple device on your own or using it in a second bedroom if a 5th-gen Apple TV is your primary streaming device.

Some might see this trade-in offer as a desperate attempt to sell a product that has real issues, and they might be very right. I see it as a mistake for Apple TV users, even if you feel your experience is less than great. Switching to a Fire TV Cube would be like moving from the penthouse to the basement.

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About the Author

Brad is co-founder and editor-in-chief of BESTAppleTV.com. He has been a technology reporter since the late 1980s having previously worked for MacUser, MacFormat, and iCreate magazines, as well as MacNN.com, MacObserver.com, MacCentral.com, MacMinute.com, and Macworld.com. He hosted and produced the MacFormat This Week podcast for three years. He was also a reporter, editor, and producer for the Associated Press and United Press International.



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