Amazon just announced its latest and most powerful Fire TV Cube to date. Like past models, the $139.99 streaming player has built-in microphones for voice controls and a speaker for playing back Alexa’s responses. It’s the most capable of the company’s streaming players and retains the 360-degree IR blaster found in the previous Fire TV Cube that can power on and control other devices in your home theater system, like a TV, soundbar, or receiver.
Preorders for the new Fire TV Cube start today, and it will ship on October 29th. Amazon has refreshed the Cube hardware by adding fabric to its sides, though the standard Alexa LED status bar and physical buttons for volume (and muting the microphones) remain present on top. The processor has been upgraded to a new octa-core chip that Amazon says is 20 percent more powerful than the last Fire TV Cube. Perhaps more importantly, the 2022 Fire TV Cube will also support Wi-Fi 6E, which promises cleaner bandwidth for streaming and less overall wireless network congestion.
The new Fire TV Cube includes what Amazon calls “super resolution upscaling,” a feature that upscales high definition content so that it looks closer in sharpness and detail to native 4K video. We’ll need to see this firsthand before we can pass judgment or compare it to something like Nvidia’s AI-based upscaling on the Shield TV.
As for the I / O around back, it includes ethernet, USB (for media storage or connecting a webcam), and an IR extender, and for the first time, Amazon is including both HDMI in and HDMI out so that you can plug a cable box directly into the Cube and have Alexa surf channels for you by name. This aspect of the Cube might stir memories of the Xbox One for some people; no company has ever really nailed HDMI passthrough for cable boxes, but Amazon is giving it a try nonetheless.
Amazon is also introducing a standalone Alexa Voice Remote Pro. The remote control is now backlit and has two programmable buttons that join the branded shortcut buttons. You can assign these programmable buttons to your favorite streaming app, but they can also be mapped to Alexa Routines — or any Alexa utterance that you often find yourself speaking into the voice remote. The Alexa Voice Remote Pro is priced at $34.99 and will be available in November. Most helpful of all, like Roku’s “pro” remote, you can retrieve Amazon’s clicker when it’s lost in the cushions or under the couch by asking where it is with a voice command.
Last, the Fire TV software experience is coming to another of Amazon’s devices: the Echo Show 15. Amazon’s large Alexa-on-your-wall display has been used for video streaming and entertainment more often than the company expected. So it’s embracing that reality and porting the Fire TV user experience to the device, which will easily let the Echo Show 15 serve as a secondary or kitchen TV. All the usual apps are there, including live TV services like Sling TV.