Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 11 November 2019
Updated: 17.27hrs, 13th November 2019.
Quite some time ago now, I purchased from Amazon their 4K TV Box, which I sent straight back because it did not include HDR, unlike the Prime Video App on my LG OLED TV. Sometime later Amazon did release a 3rd Generation 4K TV Box (Pendant Type) with HDR which I purchased. The Device has continued to give good Service but was still somewhat disappointing for the following reasons:
1. No Ethernet Adaptor included. (I had to buy one)
2. A very short cheap looking built-in HDMI cable, which meant the 4K TV Box hung (hense Pendant type) from my Receiver HDMI Input, because it would not reach any shelf on my Hi-Fi Rack.
3. No Slot to increase Internal Storage Capacity.
Now we come to the All New Amazon 4K TV Cube with an Alexa Voice Remote (2nd Gen). The specification list reads rather well so much so that I purchased one. For me the highlights were Full 4K at 60 Hz, the 4+2 Core Processors (2.2GHz+1.9Ghz), GPU @ 800MHz, Dolby Atmos, 16Gb Internal Storage and the inclusion of an Ethernet Adaptor. This adaptor does allow a USB storage device to be added using a Micro USB adaptor (Optional)***. It should also be mentioned that all the current HDR Standards seem to be included with this 4K TV Cube which does now have a proper HDMI slot allowing the use of a decent Quality & Length HDMI cable (not included). Although of no relevance to me, it is a nice touch, for some customers, that an IR Extender is included with this package. The 2nd Generation Alexa Voice Remote now has Power, Volume + / - and Mute buttons which are worthwhile additions offering extra user convenience.
*** Update: I was able to plug a Micro USB Flash Drive into to rear of the TV Cube, Format it as External Storage, and was detected by the Cube as External Storage. However, the same USB Drive does not work when plugged into the Ethernet Adaptor despite there being provisions to do so. Perhaps this is something Amazon Tech Department can explain. I am using the Ethernet Connection not Wi-Fi. ***
As usual with Amazon Products, the Amazon 4K TV Cube is well packaged and arrived Next Day in perfect condition. Build quality and finish of the Cube, Remote Control, Ethernet Adaptor, IR Extender and Power supply is excellent. The piano black surfaces are covered with quality protective plastic film and a warning label on the back of the Cube. The 4K TV Cube looks understated and is cool enough to have it displayed in clear view and be proud to do so. Connecting this Cube to the Home Cinema Receiver (HDMI Input) with a really nice quality HDMI Cable was simple as was attaching the Ethernet Adaptor to my Broadband Router/Hub and the power supply.
After turning on the Amazon 4K TV Cube-TV-Receiver/Amp, Registering the Device with my Amazon Account details, setup is a matter of following simple Onscreen Instructions and Options. I decided to follow the Onscreen, “Add Equipment”, Instructions which basically added my TV & Home Cinema Receiver to the Amazon 4K TV Cube Control Setup. I was now able to use the extra Alexa Remote (2nd Gen) buttons to adjust the Volume-Mute of my Home Cinema Receiver as well as using the Power button to turn my Amazon 4K TV Cube, TV and Receiver On or Off simultaneously. I should mention that I was already able to achieve this level of Hands Free functionality with my Amazon Echo, to control all my Hi-Fi Devices because I had enabled the Logitech Harmony Alexa Skill App, allowing many of the Logitech Elite Remote Controller Commands to be Hands Free. Similarly the Amazon Cube was able to control my Home Lighting thanks to the appropriate Alexa Skills Apps already being enabled. I have to say, the Navigation speed and responsiveness of the various Amazon Menus, is impressive compared with my previous Amazon 4K TV Box. This is a very quick bit of kit.
Basically the All New Amazon 4K TV Cube is an Amazon 4K TV Box combined with an Amazon Echo Dot (2nd Gen). The Cube’s Sound Quality, as a stand-alone Device is very much like the 2nd Generation Echo Dot. However when the Amazon Cube - Hi-Fi Devices are all on, then the Sound Quality is determined by your Home Cinema Sound System. With the Prime Video Interface on the TV screen, when you ask, “Alexa My Weather”, a topic appropriate onscreen image is presented to the viewer to accompany Alexa’s Voice Description. When done you are returned to the Main Screen. When you activate Alexa, there is a scrolling Blue Bar at the top of the screen, which apes the light bar on the Cube. All very nice.
Now we come to the real test, actually using the All New Amazon 4K TV Cube, totally Hands Free. I own the 4K HDR Movie, “Spider-Man: Far From Home”, via Amazon Prime. I started to watch it but was called away so it was present in my Amazon Prime Recent Banner position No1. Below are my voice commands to the Amazon 4K TV Cube to turn on my TV and Home Cinema Receiver. Then it is a matter of navigating to the Spider-Man Movie and watch it. Just as an exercise, I adjusted the Volume Up then Down, Mute then Un-Mute, Paused the film, returned back to the Amazon Home position and then turned everything off;
1. Alexa Amazon On
2. Alexa Home (if Screensaver is on or Screen is Blank)
3. Alexa Select Recent
4. Alexa Select One
5. Alexa Play This
6. Alexa Volume Up
7. Alexa Volume Down
8. Alexa Mute On
9. Alexa Mute Off
10. Alexa Pause
11. Alexa Home
12. Alexa Amazon Off
All achieved using simple Voice commands, totally Hands Free without any Remote Controls, just the 4K TV Cube’s inbuilt Microphones. My Amazon Cube is also able, Hands Free, to turn On or Off my Freeview Player, Dab Tuner, Blu-Ray Player, X-Box 360s and the Receivers inbuilt Internet Radio. Although you can probably do more or less everything Hands Free, from the Amazon Prime Video Main Screen, at this time I still need to use my Harmony Elite Remote Control-Hub-App, to have full control over my other Hi-Fi Devices. The Logitech Harmony Alexa Skill App does offer a range of Hands Free Commands for my other Hi-Fi Devices, thereby reducing the amount of Remote Control usage required.
The last test is Vision and Sound. I’m a huge fan of Amazon’s Jack Ryan Seasons 1 and 2 all Episodes being 4K HDR (I don’t have Dolby Vision). To me the Picture quality is Great looking, with fabulous fine detail, even in the shadows. With my old Amazon 4K TV Box, it would take about 90-100 seconds before Full Ultra HD HDR was achieved but now only takes about 35 seconds with the All New Amazon 4K TV Cube. This may be more about my Broadband Service than the Devices but this New Cube does seem much faster to achieve Full Ultra HD HDR without any Broadband Service Changes.
I was very keen to hear the Dolby Atmos in action so was disappointed when I could find no mention of it in the Audio Setup Menus, just Dolby Digital and Dolby Digital Plus. I did some research on the Internet which explained what needed to be done. Whilst watching a Movie, use the Alexa Remote Menu Button (no Hands Free Command?) and select Audio. If Dolby Atmos is available on the movie then select Dolby Atmos and continue watching. The Receiver/Amp should then display Dolby Atmos as the current Audio Format. I have always liked Dolby Sound Formats, ever since AC3 was introduced on NTSC Laser Discs, with Dolby Atmos being the latest Dolby incarnation. However my Receiver also handles DTS:X which is another latest Sound Format that is preferred for its emphasis of Bass by some. I was wondering if this could be added to the Amazon Cube via a Firmware Update.
Anyway, Amazon’s Jack Ryan is Great in 4K UHD HDR and complimented by the Fabulous 7.1 Dolby Atmos Soundtrack. During the Setup Process I did turn ON Dialogue Enhancer (Display & Sounds/Audio/Advanced Audio) which produced really punchy Vocals from the Centre Speaker whilst in the Dolby Atmos mode. I would also suggest as you drill down the Audio Settings Menu, select Best Available for Surround Sound. Although I am no technical expert, I do know what I like, so the Amazon Cube’s Image Quality and Dolby Atmos Audio gets a Big Thumb’s Up from me.
It must be mentioned that the All New Amazon 4K TV Cube (2nd Gen) includes the much loved YouTube App which offers Hands Free Searches and works really well. You just say what you want to view after your Wake-Up Word. Just Brilliant.
This Review is only my first impressions of the All New Amazon 4K TV Cube as I have only had this device for a few of days. However, thus far I am really impressed with this Device for reasons described. Although early days, there does not seem to me much wrong with this Device. The only possible slight concern has been the loss of the Cubes Internet Connection twice. I am using the Ethernet connection rather than Wi-Fi. I have no idea why this has happened but fortunately the fix seems to be to unplug the Ethernet Cable from the Router/Hub and then re-connect it. I’m not sure if this is an Amazon 4K TV Cube issue after it comes out of its Sleep/Off Mode or my Broadband Service. So this issue aside and the newly discovered problem with the Micro USB not working through the Ethernet Adaptor, I think this is a really Great Device and is pushing Home Automation Improvements that bit closer to the Endgame. I have absolutely no regrets purchasing this product and feel this could be a real winner for Amazon.