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3rd Gen Amazon Fire TV Cube Review – Could Be Better

3rd Gen Amazon Fire TV Cube

The 3rd generation Amazon Fire TV Cube was released in October 2022. As an avid Fire TV user, I was eager to get my hands on the latest model and put it through its paces. After using the new Fire TV Cube daily for over two weeks, I‘m ready to share my in-depth review.

There are definitely some great upgrades with the 3rd gen Cube, especially the faster processor, additional ports, and Wi-Fi 6E support. However, there are also some disappointing drawbacks compared to the previous generation. While the new Cube is a capable media streamer overall, it falls short of being a must-have upgrade for current Fire TV owners.

Overview of New Features

Before diving into the details, here‘s a quick rundown of the key new features on the 3rd generation Fire TV Cube:

  • Faster octa-core processor for snappier performance
  • HDMI input port to connect cable boxes, game consoles, etc.
  • USB 2.0 port for expanding storage and connecting accessories
  • Wi-Fi 6E support for faster wireless speeds
  • Super Resolution upscaling for improving HD video quality
  • Hands-free Alexa built-in with far-field microphones

The Cube still provides access to all the major streaming services like Netflix, Prime Video, Disney+, etc. It supports 4K Ultra HD, Dolby Vision, HDR, and Dolby Atmos audio.

On paper, it looks like Amazon packed a lot of great upgrades into the new Cube. But do they deliver in real-world use? Let‘s find out…

Speedy Octa-Core Processor

The most noticeable upgrade on the 3rd gen Cube is the faster processor. It now packs an octa-core CPU with four 2.2GHz cores and four 2.0GHz cores. How does this translate into actual performance?

In my experience, the interface feels much more responsive now. Scrolling through menus and launching apps is extremely snappy. The Cube now rivals the speed of top Android TV boxes like the Nvidia Shield TV.

I never felt the 2nd gen Cube was slow, but the new processor is clearly faster at everything. Heavy multi-tasking doesn‘t cause any hiccups. Graphics-intensive games load quickly and run smoothly.

Overall, the speed boost is very welcome. The snappy interface makes the new Fire TV Cube feel much more premium. This added horsepower should also give it more headroom to handle future software updates.

HDMI Input for AV Sources

One useful new addition is an HDMI input port. This allows you to connect other devices like cable boxes, Blu-ray players, or game consoles. You can then control those sources through the Fire TV interface.

Hooking up my cable box worked seamlessly. The live TV feed displayed perfectly through the Fire TV input app. I could use the voice remote to change channels and access the program guide.

There is a small amount of input lag when using the HDMI passthrough, around 30-50 milliseconds based on tests. This isn‘t noticeable for streaming video and regular TV watching. But it could be a problem for gaming where lag needs to be minimized.

Overall, the HDMI input works great for integrating your cable/satellite box or streaming device. Just don‘t plan to game through it. Keep game consoles directly connected to your TV instead.

Handy USB 2.0 Port

Previous Fire TV Cubes only had micro USB ports, requiring an adapter to connect peripherals and external storage. The new model finally adds a full-size USB 2.0 port.

I tested the USB port with a 1TB external SSD. It immediately recognized the drive and I could view stored video files through the pre-installed media player app.

The USB port also works with webcams. You‘ll soon be able to make Zoom calls directly from the Cube. And you can connect wired game controllers or a USB ethernet adapter.

It‘s a handy port to have and makes the Cube feel much more versatile. My only gripe is that it‘s limited to USB 2.0 speeds. A USB 3.0 port would have been nicer for even faster data transfers.

Improved Wireless Performance

This is the first streaming device with support for Wi-Fi 6E. This newer protocol offers better performance thanks to extra bandwidth in the 6GHz range. How much of a difference does it make in the real world?

In my tests, the Cube achieved extremely fast wireless transfer speeds – over 400 Mbps download and 180 Mbps upload over Wi-Fi. For comparison, my 2017 Fire TV (non-Cube) maxes out around 90 Mbps on the same network.

Of course, your actual speeds will vary depending on your router capabilities and internet plan speeds. But the Cube clearly takes advantage of Wi-Fi 6E for much faster wireless performance.

Streaming and downloads felt flawless over Wi-Fi. I didn‘t experience any buffering issues even when testing 4K HDR content.

If you have a Wi-Fi 6E compatible router, the Cube can surely maximize your wireless network performance. For most people though, the gigabit ethernet port will be the better wired option.

Mediocre Upscaling for HD Video

One of the touted features of the 3rd gen Cube is "Super Resolution", its built-in video upscaling technology. The idea is to enhance HD streams into near 4K quality.

I tested Super Resolution thoroughly with 1080p content from Netflix, Prime, and Plex. Unfortunately, I struggled to see any difference in video quality compared to my older Fire TV.

The upscaling doesn‘t appear to be as sophisticated as solutions like Nvidia‘s AI upscaling. HD video looked the same to my eyes with Super Resolution enabled or disabled.

Upscaling tech still has room to improve, so I hope Amazon refines it over time. But for now, I wouldn‘t consider Super Resolution a reason to upgrade to the new Cube.

Reliable Hands-Free Alexa

Like previous Cubes, this model has far-field mics so you can control it completely hands-free using Alexa voice commands. This feature worked flawlessly in my testing.

The mics picked up my voice across the room, even while the TV was playing loud. Alexa consistently heard me correctly and responded immediately to requests like "Alexa, pause", "Alexa, rewind 2 minutes" etc.

You can search for content, launch apps, play music, check weather, and control smart home devices completely hands-free. Alexa on the Cube feels very snappy.

Just note that you need to place the Cube somewhere out in the open, not hidden inside an AV cabinet. Also know that it lacks a privacy shutter to electronically disable the mics.

What I Like About the 3rd Gen Fire TV Cube

  • Faster processor provides a very smooth experience
  • USB 2.0 port for connecting storage and accessories
  • Wi-Fi 6E support for fast wireless performance
  • Reliable hands-free Alexa capabilities
  • Ethernet port for wired connectivity
  • Dolby Vision and Atmos support
  • Extensive app selection including virtually all streaming services

What Could Be Better

  • Super Resolution upscaling doesn‘t provide a meaningful boost in HD video quality
  • Still based on dated Fire TV interface rather than newer Fire TV experience
  • No user profiles or multiple home screen customization
  • 8 GB internal storage is still paltry (16 GB model costs $20 more)
  • No USB 3.0 support
  • HDMI input has mild lag for gaming
  • No HDR10+ support

Final Verdict

The 3rd generation Fire TV Cube brings some nice upgrades like the faster processor and Wi-Fi 6E. Hands-free Alexa works flawlessly and the ports are useful. However, the upscaling tech is disappointing and the interface still feels dated.

If you‘re still using a 1st or 2nd gen Fire TV device, the Cube could be a worthwhile upgrade for the speed boost alone. But for owners of recent Fire TV Stick 4K models, I don‘t think the Cube provides enough extra benefits to justify upgrading.

The new model remains a capable streaming box with excellent Alexa integration. But with an MSRP of $140, it‘s hard not to expect more. Roku, Google, and Apple still offer slicker and smarter user experiences. Here‘s hoping Amazon steps up their software and services to match the capable hardware.

I give the 3rd Gen Fire TV Cube: 3.5 out of 5 stars


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