The primary Fireplace TV Dice from Amazon was actually three merchandise in a single: a Fireplace TV streaming machine, an Alexa sensible speaker, and a common distant for different units hooked as much as your TV. It provided the identical streaming expertise as Amazon’s different Fireplace TVs, however the built-in microphones allowed the Dice for use solely hands-free by means of voice instructions. It might additionally management cable packing containers, soundbars, and A/V receivers with the assistance of built-in IR blasters. However the authentic Dice lacked Dolby Imaginative and prescient HDR, and finally, Amazon launched a less expensive Fireplace TV Stick 4K that did have Dolby Imaginative and prescient for much less cash, leaving the do-everything Dice in an ungainly spot.

So for 2019, Amazon has refreshed the Fireplace TV Dice to make it the clear flagship of the lineup. It’s received the identical precise design as earlier than, however it now has Dolby Imaginative and prescient, a extra highly effective processor, and quicker response occasions. Amazon is attempting to minimize the Dice’s dependence on the cloud, with a brand new “native voice management” characteristic that processes primary instructions on the machine itself. And the brand new Fireplace TV Dice can nonetheless management your house theater elements and dim the sensible lights if you sit down for film night time — all with simply your voice.

The Fireplace TV Dice seems utterly unchanged on the surface. It has the identical controls as an Echo speaker on prime (with a matte texture) with eight tiny microphone holes, and it’s shiny all over the place else. I get that Amazon selected this design for optimum IR sign passthrough, however the factor stays an enormous mud magnet nonetheless.

Round again is an HDMI output, energy, an enter for the included IR extender, and a Micro USB port for the Ethernet adapter (additionally within the field) when you want it. You’ll wish to use the skinny IR extender wire if a few of your house theater elements are out of sight or tucked into a cupboard. Sadly, Amazon nonetheless isn’t together with an HDMI cable with the $120 Fireplace TV Dice.

Amazon recommends that you just place the Dice no less than one foot away from any speaker. Even with audio blaring from a Sonos Beam, I discovered the mics to be fairly good at choosing up my voice and the “Alexa” sizzling phrase at a standard talking quantity.

Dolby Imaginative and prescient and HDR10+ are new to the second-gen Fireplace TV Dice; the primary mannequin solely had primary HDR10 help. HDR passthrough labored simply superb on my TCL TV, with the show robotically recognizing when Dolby Imaginative and prescient or HDR10 content material was being performed and making use of the precise expanded coloration and brightness settings. With all main codecs now supported, you’ve received loads of decisions for streaming 4K between Netflix, Prime Video, Vudu, and different apps. As a Fireplace TV, this yr’s Dice is objectively superior to the unique.

Nevertheless it’s nonetheless solely so-so as a common distant. The Fireplace TV Dice can management most TVs, receivers, and soundbars — plus some cable packing containers. You’re requested to decide on your units throughout setup, after which Alexa will know the ins and outs of your gear. Typically, the IR emitter works nicely at getting instructions by means of to your house theater elements and turning the whole lot on in sync. However for different {hardware} like sport consoles or Blu-ray gamers, Alexa can’t do very a lot in any respect. The Dice will change to the precise HDMI enter, however then you definately’re by yourself. That’s all you possibly can actually anticipate from IR blasters, however firms like Caavo are attempting to do extra with on-screen machine studying.

Nonetheless, Alexa does really feel extra responsive this time round. Native voice management leads to sure primary voice instructions being executed as much as 4 occasions quicker than earlier than as a result of the Dice handles them straight and doesn’t want any assist from Amazon’s servers. The awkward pause after a voice command is gone — however solely typically.

Native management works in your widespread features like navigating the UX. You’re actually telling Alexa which solution to scroll or choosing a quantity to open the app or content material that you just wish to watch. (“Alexa, play quantity 5.”) Apps like Netflix and Hulu have been optimized for hands-free voice management with these on-screen numbers subsequent to alternatives, however that’s not true for a lot of different streaming apps. In these circumstances, you’re nonetheless higher off simply utilizing the bodily Alexa distant. And the Dice will nonetheless must test with the cloud for lots of instructions, even when the fundamentals at the moment are significantly speedier.

The Fireplace TV Dice contains the Alexa Voice Distant for if you don’t really feel like doing the whole lot along with your voice.

As for its secondary perform as a wise speaker, the Fireplace TV Dice has turn into a greater Alexa speaker, because of continued software program updates. It now helps calls, voice messages, and the Drop In characteristic, so it’s principally on equal footing with an Echo. You too can add the Dice to a multiroom music setup with different Alexa units. Do not forget that the Dice at all times performs music requests by means of your soundbar or TV audio system; the built-in speaker is ok for Alexa’s voice responses however isn’t appropriate for a lot else.

Amazon says the Dice now has a hexa-core processor, and the Fireplace TV interface has felt snappy in my time utilizing it thus far. However some house owners of the unique machine discovered that it slowed down over time and exhibited an irritating quantity of lag, and I haven’t had sufficient time to rule out that risk. Amazon is adamant that the Fireplace TV Dice is now its quickest Fireplace TV, nevertheless, whereas the Fireplace TV Stick 4K set the bar earlier than. So it ought to be extra constant and in a position to run Kodi, Plex, and different apps with out problem.

The software program expertise largely matches that of different Fireplace TV units. All of the apps you’d need are there, and Amazon has lastly patched up the YouTube gap that existed final yr. YouTube TV is now obtainable as nicely, although Sony’s PlayStation Vue gets preferred treatment amongst streaming TV providers and is built-in straight into Amazon’s dwell information.

My ordinary nitpicks with Fireplace TV’s residence display screen stay: Amazon can push its originals somewhat too aggressively, and it additionally steers prospects in direction of Prime Channel subscriptions for HBO, Starz, Epix, and different networks. However if you seek for a style or particular film or present, the platform does a very good job of displaying you all over the place it may be streamed. And seeing visible responses for Alexa queries (like asking for the climate or looking for close by eating places) is a pleasant contact. However these options aren’t distinctive to the Dice; they’re now a part of Fireplace TV OS as an entire.

I believe the Fireplace TV Dice makes probably the most sense for people who find themselves simply getting began with Amazon’s ecosystem. If you have already got an Echo Dot in your lounge, the Fireplace TV Stick 4K makes extra sense. It provides the entire identical Dolby and HDR help and prices simply $50. Plus, the Alexa Voice Distant bundled with that machine can also be able to controlling your TV and soundbar. You’ve actually received to need the Dice’s hands-free powers — and its skill to drag double responsibility as an Alexa speaker when the TV display screen is off — for the $120 to be price it.

Images by Chris Welch / The Verge

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Published On: April 20th, 2020 / Categories: Amazon Fire TV /