It's been almost four years since Amazon first introduced the Echo smart speaker and its virtual assistant Alexa. It's also been just over four years since the the company first released its Fire TV set-top video box. Now, the two products are converging in a way they haven't before, in the form of the Amazon Fire TV Cube.
As you might expect, it's a cube-shaped box you plug in to your TV; it runs the expected suite of apps like Netflix, Hulu, PlayStation Vue, HBO Go, Sling and Amazon's Prime Video service. And like the current Fire TV Stick and Fire TV box, you can talk to Alexa to search for movies and shows as well as access thousands of third-party "skills."
But the Fire TV Cube is essentially a full-featured Echo, as well. It's always listening for the Alexa wake word, and you can talk to it even when your TV is off. The new box has eight microphones built in, similar to existing Echo hardware, which means you can speak to Alexa whenever you want as well as navigate the Fire TV Cube's interface with your voice.
The other major differentiator for the Fire TV Cube is how it works with other home theater devices you may have in your living room. The slick glass sides of device hide a multidirectional IR blaster (they also pick up dust very easily, unfortunately). The Cube also supports the more modern CDC (via HDMI) technology, so the Cube can power up your TV, sound system and even cable box, if you want it to. In a demo, Amazon showed off a routine where you can just say "Alexa, I'm home" — the home theater gear all came to life, along with the lights in the room. You can customize the routine to match the smart home gadgets you have that Alexa can control, or just use a simple "Alexa, watch TV" to start everything up.