by Michael Crider on
A universal remote is the go-to solution if you want to control everything in your entertainment center without juggling pieces of plastic. Here are the best options on the market at the moment.
If you like Amazon’s Fire TV platform, and you could use an extra Echo Dot around the house, Amazon’s newest Fire TV Cube could be perfect for you.
Amazon can’t seem to stop releasing new Alexa-powered gadgets, but strangely the Fire TV platform has treated Alexa as an after thought. While you can use voice commands through the included remote, you can’t just speak your command into the air and hope to get an answer. That changes with the Fire TV Cube. This little box can tap into Amazon’s video ecosystem while also passively listening for Alexa commands.
This raises the obvious question “How is this different from buying a Fire TV and an Echo Dot?” For the most part it isn’t, but you get a few unique benefits. You can use it to control your smart home, but you can’t send messages or place calls like you can with other Echos. However, when your TV is on, the Cube can show information on the screen like it would with an Echo Show. So, for example, if you ask for the weather, you’ll see the forecast on the screen. This is a little more helpful than a regular Echo Dot, but it’s not a show-stopper.
The biggest advantage is the built-in IR blaster. Amazon wants the Fire TV to control other devices like your cable box or sound bar. Combined with HDMI-CEC control of your TV, this should let you use voice commands to manage just about everything. We say “should” because IR blasters and HDMI-CEC are notoriously convoluted and even universal remotes have issues trying to do everything. We’re keeping an open mind, but Amazon is tackling a tough task. The company already says it won’t be able to handle complex tasks like scheduling a DVR, but if it can control changing inputs or your soundbar’s volume, it might be worth it.
The Fire TV Cube will cost $120 when it goes on sale June 21st, but if you’re a Prime member, you can order it right now for $90. Notably, the existing Fire TV 4K costs $70, and the combo that comes with an Echo Dot costs $95. So even with the combo, you’re saving about $5 on the Fire TV Cube and getting all the IR blaster features. Assuming you don’t already have a Fire TV and Echo Dot, it might be worth grabbing the Cube.
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