Fire TV Stick vs Fire TV Cube: A Detailed Comparison for Streamers

For those looking to cut the cord on cable TV and move to streaming, Amazon offers a compelling lineup of options with the Fire TV series. Two of their most popular models are the Fire TV Stick and Fire TV Cube. But with similar sounding names and partial feature overlap, it can get confusing to decipher which is the best fit.

In this in-depth, side-by-side guide, we’ll sort through all the specs, capabilities and use cases. You’ll learn:

  • The core functionality and limitations of each streamer
  • How connectivity and technical performance compares
  • Where they differ in smart home control and Alexa integration
  • Which provides better value depending on your budget

So read on for the full breakdown on Amazon’s lineup and to determine the best Fire TV option given your needs and existing ecosystem.

Overview of the Fire TV Lineup

Let‘s first lay the groundwork on the Fire TV series more broadly before diving specifically into the featured comparison:

Fire TV Stick

This refers to a grouping of four streaming media dongles that plug directly into your TV‘s HDMI port. Models range from $29.99 to $54.99 depending on features. They all provide access to popular streaming apps like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video in up to 4K resolution. You control content with the included Alexa voice remote.

Fire TV Cube

Priced at a premium $139.99, this box consolidates streaming capabilities with the full Alexa smart speaker feature set. You can not only launch videos completely hands-free, but also control smart home devices, check weather, get news briefings and more. It acts as a media hub for your living room.

With those high level definitions in mind, let‘s explore the two devices and highlight factors you should weigh as a prospective buyer.

Fire TV Stick vs Fire TV Cube: Side-by-Side Comparison

Fire TV Stick 4K MaxFire TV Cube
Price Range: $29.99 – $54.99$139.99
Video Resolution: Up to 4K UHDUp to 4K UHD
HDR Formats: Dolby Vision, HDR10+, HDR10Dolby Vision, HDR10+, HDR10
Audio Format: Dolby AtmosDolby Atmos
Processor: Quad Core, 1.8 GHzHexa-core 2.2 GHz + 1.9 GHz
Storage: 8GB16GB
Memory: 2GB2GB
Alexa Integrations: Voice remoteBuilt-in Alexa speaker + IR/remote
Smart home hub: NoYes
Ports: HDMIHDMI, Micro USB, IR, Power

As shown in the table above, you can expect an extremely comparable viewing experience no matter which model you opt for. The latest Max variant of the Fire Stick matches the Cube for support of leading HDR formats and immersive Dolby Atmos audio.

Storage and memory capabilities are also similar, despite the Cube having double the internal space. For a streaming-focused use case, 8GB is typically sufficient for buffering and app data needs.

Where the Cube justifies its higher cost is through expanded Alexa abilities thanks to its built-in speaker, as well as IR-connectivity to serve as an automation hub. We‘ll explore the implications of those features more below.

First, let‘s cover the core viewing experience you can expect with either streamer choice.

Streaming Picture Quality

If top-notch 4K streaming is your priority, rest assured the Fire Stick 4K Max hangs right with the pricier Cube.

Ultra HD and HDR

Both devices display content natively in up to 2160p resolution for UHD streaming sources. So if you have a compatible premium TV, details will be crisp and lifelike on movies or shows that support it from providers like Netflix, Prime Video and Disney+.

You also gain access to leading High Dynamic Range (HDR) formats like Dolby Vision, HDR10+ and baseline HDR10. These expand the color spectrum for more vivid, accurate hues in footage mastered to take advantage of it. Tones will pop while blacks stay inky dark.

Smooth Streaming

In terms of technical specs, the Fire Stick 4K Max actually holds a slight edge for fluid streaming performance. It incorporates Wi-Fi 6 support which enables faster connectivity speeds for less buffering across supported apps.

The Fire TV Cube oddly lacks Wi-Fi 6 despite its premium price tag. Both can handle multiple streams across accounts without quality dips however.

Dolby Atmos Passthrough

Home theater buffs will also appreciate that both models allow Dolby Atmos transmission from supported services. So if you have surround sound speakers or advanced soundbars, the dimensionality of 3D audio effects fully shines through.

In all, while pricier, the Fire TV Cube offers no discernible bumps to core viewing quality for movies, shows and channel apps. Expect excellence either way.

Alexa Voice Features

Here is where the Cube justifies its expanded feature set. It essentially merges full Echo smart speaker functionality into the streaming TV access. That enables both convenience features and smart home expansions unavailable on the Stick.

Hands-Free Operation

As the Fire Stick relies on the voice remote, you must manually press a button before issuing Alexa commands. That allows search, content navigation and playback control.

But the Cube has far-field microphones always listening for cues. That means you can request media across the room completely hands-free without reaching for the remote.

Smart Home Hub

More significantly, the integrated microphone array also lets Cube serve as the nerve center for an Alexa-powered smart home. Treat it as you would an Echo speaker to control lights, locks, switches, thermostats and appliances that have skill connectivity.

Manage feeds from Alexa-compatible security cameras. Ask for weather and news updates even with TV off. Pair for whole home audio streaming to other speakers. This convenience does come at a premium, but with more affordably priced Echo Dots and Alexa soundbars available, its best positioned as a combined media/smart hub for those invested in the ecosystem.

Connectivity and Setup

In terms of physical setup, both streaming solutions keep wiring straightforward: just connect the single HDMI cable between the device and TV. The Stick dangles off the port which lends itself better for wall mounting. The Cube has a more A/V component appearance that fits cleanly into an entertainment console.

But the Cube does add integrated IR transmission capabilities to enable control of cable boxes, sound bars and AV receivers. That allows comprehensive voice navigation of your full home theater gear, not just built-in smart TV functions.

If relying less on physical remotes appeals (while keeping streaming simple for guests or housemates), the Cube makes a strong case for purchase despite its premium.

Pricing and Value Comparison

Let‘s bring the final verdict home with a value assessment given the unique pros of each streamer tier.

Budget Streamer:

If all you need is smooth 4K UHD viewing from top streaming platforms, the Fire Stick 4K Max provides incredible quality for just $54.99. This fits the standard streamer mold with some nice modern touches like Wi-Fi 6 and TV volume/power control from the Alexa remote.

Given those smart TV-like features at a fraction of the price, it‘s impossible to beat for shoppers that just want to cost-effectively cut the cord. Dolby Vision and Atmos support also keep home theater buffs happy without breaking the bank. If smart home control doesn‘t appeal, this is the way to go.

Premium Streaming Hub:

Homes invested in Alexa ecosystems will get far more functionality from the Fire TV Cube at $139.99. Built-in mics for hands-free control already set it apart. But the device‘s interoperability with other Echo devices, security cams and IoT devices cements its role as a living room hub.

It serves both diehard streamers who want seamless content across services, and smart home owners who appreciate the consolidation into a set-top box form factor. Lose the listening remote and gain IR-blasting to wrangle the rest of your gear too.

If that premium price still gives you pause, remember you can accomplish much of the same by pairing a Fire Stick 4K Max with an Echo Dot. But serious Alexa enthusiasts who want the convince of the all-in-one Cube will find the cost compelling for the utility gained.

Fire TV Stick vs Roku and Apple TV

To give additional shopping context, it‘s worth comparing the Fire TV lineup briefly to the other major streaming device ecosystems…

Against Roku, Amazon simply offers far more advanced voice control integration via Alexa over Roku‘s basic assistant. Fire also often sees slightly faster access to new apps and content compared to the neutral-platform Roku.

Apple TV offers some nifty features like tight iPhone integration and gaming offerings. But the Fire ecosystem is more open to various content sources and typically cheaper for basic 4K streaming purposes. Apple still charges a premium for hardware that services its walled software garden.

For open-ended streaming without being locked into any single universe, Fire TV presents a nice middle ground. With price points spanning from $30 to $140 across the Stick and Cube ranges, budget viewers and smart home enthusiasts alike can be served.

FAQs About the Fire TV Series

Here are answers to some frequently asked questions to help further differentiate capabilities across the Fire streaming devices:

What does the basic Fire Stick do compared to the Cube?

The Fire Stick operates like a Roku or Chromecast device – it streams content from various apps with navigation and search conducted through the Alexa remote. The Cube consolidates that media access and playback control into a device with full Alexa smart speaker capabilities for home automation control.

Is it worth paying more for the Cube?

The worth comes down to how much you‘ll utilize the Alexa and smart home features that come with having a built-in Echo speaker. If you won‘t leverage the multi-room audio, automation control, or hands-free voice support, then save money with the 4K Fire Stick instead.

What are the disadvantages of the Fire Stick line?

With excellent 4K/HDR streaming support at just $55, it‘s hard to criticize the Fire Stick 4K Max too heavily. It does not provide the fastest general interface or newest processor however. And being a pendant device, it dangles inelegantly off wall-mounted TVs. For media playback itself though, it punches far above its cost.

Are there monthly fees to use a Fire Stick?

Nope – the only reoccurring costs would be if you sign up for streaming subscriptions like Netflix, which is optional. The Fire TV hardware itself is just a one-time upfront purchase without recurring licensing or usage costs from Amazon.

What content do I get free or discounted as an Amazon customer?

Prime Video comes bundled with an Amazon Prime subscription, which grants unlimited access to Amazon‘s deep library of exclusive hit shows, movies, and selections licensed from other studios. You also unlock a library of free music via Amazon Music, the Kindle ebook lending library, and unlimited photo storage on Amazon servers.

Which Device Fits Your Streaming Needs?

In closing, both the Fire Stick 4K Max and Fire TV Cube give you excellent, lightning-fast 4K streaming in popular apps like Netflix and Prime Video. Support for Dolby tech ensures proper playback on high-end TVs and audio gear too.

If smart home control is appealing for convenience or independence, only the Cube extends an Echo-like experience with Alexa. Casual viewers who simply want to affordably cut cable TV can stick with the Fire Stick though.

Hopefully breaking down these use cases gives clarity for shoppers on which direction best aligns with their budgets and lifestyles. With its combo of solid price points for both entry-level and more advanced streamers, Amazon‘s Fire TV platform makes itself easy to recommend to both types of buyers.

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