Sunday, October 17, 2021

The Fire TV Cube is a well-built and thoughtful streaming media box

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With every gadget in its new AmazonBasics line, Amazon has been pushing its Prime membership, and now the Fire TV Cube is the latest in a string of hardware boxes that includes Fire TV, Kindle and Echo. It’s a wireless model that fits into a home entertainment center and streams movies, music and photos to your television and the accompanying smart TV. But it’s missing one important feature – Alexa, Amazon’s assistant software, is baked into every other Fire TV device.

The Fire TV Cube first shows up as a smart hub that your televisions come with. But the team within Amazon wants to position the box as a media player, too. You can find movies and music in the Amazon Video catalogue (a simple stream of the Amazon Video app onto your TV would be preferable to a slick Alexa command like “Tell me about the June sisters”) and you can buy video games. The coolest feature, however, might be the set-top-box cameras that feed the Fire TV Cube and offer a plethora of potential features.

You can pop a standard doorbell camera into the Fire TV Cube and not only pull up a live feed of your front door, you can see who’s there or hear their voice. There are cameras on the top of the Cube and on the sides, and one end of the camera posts to the wall and streams on to the TV screen.

With the “Fly” app for Android, iPhone or tablet, you can select which camera from the home camera feeds to send out and be in a live feed, a recording or an overlay on the Fire TV screen. All the photos and videos on your smartphone don’t disappear the next day, so you can just have a floating image of a person on the TV screen. You can also use Amazon’s Go app, which also lets you order stuff from the online behemoth’s warehouses and sees you as a cashier.

The “Flying Cams” app is the usual peek-through window and audio so you can be sure you’re not being surveilled – although it’s an unnerving prospect anyway. You can also hide the camera by bringing up the Settings screen and selecting the feature you want to hide. You can unHide the flycams if you want them back in the future.

The “Flying Cameras” app is where you’ll find the pictures and videos collected on the camera and then download or upload them to Amazon. You can tell the Fire TV Cube to fly to certain places, send files to a computer or the cloud, or show a gallery that shows stills from every shot you’ve taken of your front door.

The Fire TV Cube is available now at a starting price of $99.99 (£89.95). Amazon announced there are no plans to incorporate Alexa into this generation of Fire TV Cube, but the Fire TV Stick, which streams TV content to TVs just like a regular stick, is missing the Alexa app.

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