Amazon is revamping its Fire TV Cube streaming device, and has partnered with a number of consumer electronics companies for Fire TV-powered devices. In addition to smart TVs, this also for the first time includes a smart soundbar that doubles as a Fire TV streamer.
The new Fire TV Cube looks pretty much like its predecessor, and offers the same kind of features: It’s capable of bringing video from apps like Netflix, YouTube and Amazon’s own Prime TV service to your TV, and comes with integrated far-field microphones for voice control.
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There’s even a small speaker built into the device itself to help Alexa answer queries when the TV is off. And if effectively combining an Amazon Echo with a TV streaming device wasn’t enough, Amazon also crammed an IR blaster and a bunch of other types of device control into the Cube, allowing consumers to tune their TV, turn on accessories and more with voice commands.
The 2019 version of the Fire TV Cube does come with a faster processor, and Amazon also added something the company likes to call local voice control. Essentially, simple commands for on-screen navigation and similar features are being recognized on the device itself, without the need to send the audio to Amazon’s servers, which should vastly improve the response time.
The new Fire TV Cube became available for preorder in the United States, Canada, the U.K. and Germany Wednesday, and is coming to Japan in November. In the U.S., the device costs $119.99, the same as last year’s model.
Amazon also used a press event at IFA in Berlin Wednesday to announce a number of new partnerships with consumer electronics companies for Fire TV-powered devices. Perhaps the most notable team-up is a new smart soundbar made by Anker that doubles as a Fire TV streaming device.
Officially called the Nebula Soundbar – Fire TV Edition, the device can be used to stream video, and listen to music, including when paired with other compatible Echo speakers for multi-room audio. The soundbar doesn’t come with far-field voice contol, but the included remote control does have a mic button. The Nebula soundbar became available for pre-order in the States, Canada, the U.K and Germany Wednesday, and is supposed to start shipping on November 21. Stateside, it costs $229.99.
The Nebula is Amazon’s first foray into smart soundbars, but it’s not the first product of its kind. Earlier today, Roku announced its very own smart soundbar, and JBL began shipping a long-ago announced Android TV soundbar in July. And if Amazon’s press release is any indication, we’ll likely see more Fire TV-powered soundbars in the future as well.
Amazon also announced a number of TV partnerships Wednesday, with a primary focus on the European market. The company will begin selling Grundig-made TVs with built-in Fire TV software in Austria and Germany in November, and is bringing a JVC-made TV with Fire TV software to Currys in the U.K. MediaMarkt and Saturn, two big electronics retailers in Germany, will begin selling house-brand Fire TV sets next year. And just for good measure, Amazon also announced a new 65-inch Toshiba Fire TV set for the U.S. market as well.
Among all those TVs, one stands out for a new feature: Grundig will be making the first TV set with far-field voice control. Officially named Grundig OLED – Fire TV Edition Hands-Free with Alexa, that product may be a mouthful, but it won’t require a remote for voice control.