Fire TV Cube vs FireStick: Which is Best for Streaming?

These products from Amazon offer similar functionality, but the Fire TV Cube is a bit more advanced. Both are great tools for turning your TV into a smart TV and allowing you to stream all the content you want.

Main Differences Between Fire TV Cube vs Fire Stick

The main differences between Fire TV Cube vs Fire Stick are:

  • Fire TV Cube is more than $100, whereas Fire Stick retails for less than $50.
  • Fire TV Cube controls your entire home theatre system, whereas Fire Stick does not.
  • Fire TV Cube has completely hands-free controls, whereas Fire Stick does not.
  • Fire TV Cube must have a line of sight to your soundbar, whereas Fire TV Stick plugs in behind your TV.

Fire TV Cube

The Fire TV Cube is a powerful streaming device that allows you to control your home theatre and your home all with your voice. While it has a remote, that’s a bit antiquated these days, don’t you think? It also supports 4K video and has built-in Alexa.

Design

The Fire TV Cube is just that: a cube. It’s a little black cube with a bar of LED lights on the top. While it doesn’t hide behind the TV like other streaming players, it’s not an unattractive design, either. It’s simple and understated so you probably won’t mind seeing it every day.

Four buttons on top of the cube control muting, volume, and waking up Alexa. You can also summon Alexa with your voice, so there’s really no need for the button.

Perhaps the most attractive selling point is that you can give your TV commands through the Fire TV Cube rather than using a remote. It has eight microphones, so it’s bound to hear you. It can pick up your voice better than the Echo or the Echo Show.

On the back of the Fire TV Cube, there’s a power connector, an IR extender, a micro USB, and an HDMI port. While almost everything back here works as you might expect, the HDMI handling is a bit unique.

With HDMI CEC, you can control your TV and other smart home devices via HDMI or IR, meaning you can use your Fire TV Cube remote or your voice. However, the Fire TV Cube doesn’t come with an HDMI cable.

Considering how cheaply you can buy HDMI cables, it feels like an oversight that a device costing more than $100 wouldn’t include the cable you need to connect it to your TV.

Setup can be somewhat tricky with the HDMI and IR features because it has to be positioned just right among your other devices. It needs to be far enough away from your speakers that the volume doesn’t overwhelm your microphones. However, it still has to have a line of sight to your TV, AVR, and soundbar.

It might sound complicated, but it doesn’t take too long, and you can always reposition it if you find it’s not working as expected.

With this setup, Alexa can control the input on your TV, the volume, and the channel with just your voice.

Content

One thing I know for sure is the Amazon devices are loaded with Amazon content. If you don’t mind being bombarded by content licensed by Amazon, then you’ll have plenty to watch. The home screen contains rows of suggested shows and movies from Amazon Prime TV.

You have a featured row at the top, your favourite apps on row two, and sponsored content under that. Beyond that, most of the content is recommended from Amazon.

If you’re looking into the Fire TV Cube as a streaming option, you likely already have an Amazon Prime account, which means you’d have access to most of this content already, so it might not bother you.

However, if you don’t want Amazon content to get pushed on you over anything else, it might not be the device for you.

Even though Amazon likes to feature their own content, you can still download apps for your favourite streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, HBO, Starz, Crackle, and PlayStation Vue as well as other services like NFL, AMC, The CW, and a lot more.

Fortunately, you can now download the YouTube app, which wasn’t available a few years ago when Amazon and YouTube were feuding.

You also have access to a Live section on the right that shows you what is currently playing on Amazon Prime or cable alternatives like YouTube TV and Sling TV. You can watch live sporting events like Thursday Night Football or the PGA Masters.

You can also stream music through Spotify, Amazon Music, or Amazon Music Unlimited. And if you don’t find the content you need on the Fire TV Cube, it also supports casting, much like the Chromecast.

Performance

While performance has always been solid on the Fire TV Cube, the newest version is even faster. It has a Hexa-core processor for fast load times and the Amlogic graphics card produces crisp images.

It also supports 4K Ultra HD content and Dolby Vision, which is something that not every casting or streaming device has.

Switching back and forth between apps is seamless and takes mere seconds with no lag or pop-in issues in the middle. The powerful Wi-Fi antenna prevents buffering so you can begin watching content as soon as you select it.

Because Dolby Vision and HDR content look so fantastic, the Fire TV Cube has included a 4K HDR row that features content produced in HD, so you can take advantage of the best displays your Cube has to offer.

The Fire TV Cube is one of the fastest and most powerful streaming players on the market.

Alexa

The Amazon smart assistant is integral to the operation of the Fire TV Cube. It comes with a remote, but one of the selling points is that you can use your voice. And while Alexa is versatile, she has some frustrating limitations.

With a compatible smart camera, you can see live video on your TV of what your camera sees. You can also prompt Alexa for restaurant recommendations, TV shows, movies, and music. All of this is enhanced by the visual display of information related to your search queries.

You can use drop-in and calling setup with your Fire TV Cube and if you like to do home shopping, you will see pictures and prices of Amazon store items on your TV, too.

The downside to all of this is that Alexa requires more precise language than a lot of other smart assistants. To play an episode of your favourite TV show, you can’t say ‘play’, ‘begin’, or ‘start’. You have to say ‘select’.

This isn’t an isolated issue, either. There are plenty of other commands that require this precise language, and if you’re not used to it, it can be frustrating to learn what makes Alexa tick.

In order to be completely hands-free, you have to get this language down or you won’t be able to use your voice. Alexa also has a problem misinterpreting the things you say and will often say, “I don’t know how to help with that yet.” You may even get no response at all.

Pros:

  • 4K HDR and Dolby Vision support
  • Voice controlling
  • Remote control

Cons:

  • No HDMI cable included
  • The home screen is a lot of Amazon content
  • Requires precise language

Fire TV Stick

The Fire Stick is one of the most popular streaming sticks around. If you don’t have a smart TV, it turns your TV into a smart TV with all of the apps, games, and content you might want. It combines the voice power of Alexa with your favorite streaming services.

Design

The Fire TV Stick is a compact rectangle-shaped device that you plug into the HDMI port on your TV. While you can plug your stick directly into the TV if there’s room, there’s also an HDMI extender cable to make it a bit more maneuverable.

The extender cable can also improve your remote control performance and your Wi-Fi connection. It has an Amazon arrow logo on the front. On the side of the stick, there is a micro USB port that powers the device.

The remote is sleek and lightweight. It fits nicely in the hand and features buttons that allow you to power the TV up directly to your favorite streaming service. There’s also a D-pad, volume buttons, a power button, and a microphone button to talk to Alexa.

Setup and use

Setup is seamless because of the simple UI and versatile remote control. Plug your device into the wall and the HDMI port on your TV with the cables provided in the box. It will prompt you to set up your remote and pair the device with the TV.

The UI is easy to understand and navigate, even for those who’ve never used one before. You can find recently viewed content, recommended content, and your favorite apps. There’s a Live TV option here, too, much like the Cube.

Downloading apps is easy, you can link social media profiles as well.

Performance

The UI is responsive, allowing for easy switching between apps. It loads quickly and your selection of streaming apps is huge.

The remote is easy to use and helps you navigate the UI effortlessly. It’s powered by Alexa, so if you hold the microphone button, you can talk to Alexa like you would on the Echo or the Cube to find the things you want to watch.

The downside is that voice search won’t work with every app, so if you’re searching for something and it doesn’t come up, you may have to type it in the search field to find it. You also can’t skip to the next episode with voice controls.

When searching by voice for something that Alexa can’t respond to, your current content disappears and you have to select it from the home screen again. It’s highly annoying, but you can use the voice commands for plenty of other things like to turn on your TV, control your other smart devices, and see what’s on your camera feed.

Another thing some users might find irritating is that Amazon will prioritize its content over anything else, so if your voice search for Psych returns Amazon Prime Video rentals for $2.99 when you know it’s free to stream on another service, it’s because Amazon would rather you pay for theirs. It makes sense, but it’s still bothersome at times.

Overall, voice commands are very good if you get the terminology right and there are plenty of great apps available for download so you can stream content on services you’re already subscribed to.

The Dolby Vision and 4K support are great features at this price point, and the Fire TV Stick 4K is a bargain.

Pros:

  • 4K and Dolby Vision support
  • Responsive UI
  • Variety of content
  • Voice assistance

Cons:

  • Amazon biased recommendations

Comparison Chart

Here’s a chart for a quick comparison of the two.

  Fire TV Cube Fire TV Stick
4K support Yes Yes
Dolby Vision support Yes Yes
Alexa voice commands Yes Yes
Controls other smart home devices Yes Yes
Design Cube Stick
Dimensions 86.1mm x 86.1mm x 76.9mm 85.9mm x 30mm x 12.6mm
Remote Yes Yes
Wake up Alexa without remote Yes No
Line of sight required Yes No
HDMI cable included No Yes
Control TV Yes Yes
Control home theatre devices Yes No

FAQs

Here are some frequently asked questions to make your buying decision easier.

What can Fire TV Cube do?

The Fire TV Cube is a streaming media player that allows you to turn your TV into a smart TV with the Amazon interface. You can watch your favourite movies and shows on a variety of apps like Netflix, Hulu, and more.
It’s also the only streaming device that allows you to control your TV, your home theatre, and your compatible smart home devices. Most other streaming devices only control your TV. While it comes with a remote, it’s the only streaming device that you can control completely with your voice.

Is the Fire TV Cube worth it?

This is something only you can answer. It’s pricey, but it offers unique functionality that’s not available on any other streaming devices. The UI is responsive, but you do have to have a line of sight to some of the devices you want to control while still maintaining a proper distance from the speakers.

What TVs are compatible with Fire TV Cube?

While the Fire TV Cube is compatible with most modern TVs, it is not compatible with projectors or older TVs. You also cannot control more than one TV with a single Cube. You need a dedicated Cube for every TV or home theatre system you want to control.

Is there a monthly fee for Fire Stick?

The only cost associated with the Fire Stick is your initial purchase price. However, there are monthly subscription costs associated with any of the streaming services you want to use or content you want to purchase.

While the Fire Stick enables you to watch content on Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, and more, you have to pay separately for those services.

How does the Fire TV Stick work?

Just plug your Fire Stick into the HDMI port on your TV, follow the setup instructions, and download the apps you want. You can begin watching content almost immediately. Setup is easy and takes just a few minutes.

Can you watch normal TV on Amazon Fire Stick?

Yes! If you want to continue to watch your cable box, simply switch the input on your TV and you can watch cable like normal. If you don’t have cable, there’s a TV Player app on the Fire Stick that gives you access to freeview channels through Wi-Fi.

The Verdict

The Fire TV Cube is the most popular streaming device because of its completely hands-free controls. A lot of people like it because it also controls your entire smart home if you connect compatible devices.

However, the Fire TV Stick is a lot more affordable and does almost everything the Cube does, with the exception of the hands-free controls and the smart home connections. If you already have an Echo or a smart assistant controlling your smart home, you won’t need the Cube.

They’re both fantastic purchases and great options for turning your TV into a smart TV with a small, simple device.

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