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What better place to announce new entertainment gadgets than at IFA 2019, Europe’s largest tech convention? At the iconic Bolle Festsäle in Berlin this evening, Amazon took the wraps off of over 20 new Fire TV devices to fill out its growing portfolio, including a refreshed Fire TV Cube, a Fire TV Edition Soundbar, and a slew of new Fire TV Edition television sets.
Amazon also announced new partnerships with Discover and Eurosport for Fire TV customers in Europe. Starting today, every customer in France, Italy, and Spain who purchased a Fire TV Basic Edition will get a free over-the-air update that includes Alexa, and this week, the Alexa Voice Remote will become available in those regions alongside the Fire TV Stick 4K and Fire TV Stick.
“Customers have told us how much they use and love Fire TV Edition smart TVs in the United States and Canada, with millions of devices sold and an average rating of more than 4 stars across all models,” said vice president of Amazon Fire TV Marc Whitten in a statement. “Today we’re thrilled to introduce innovative Fire TV Edition smart TVs and the first-ever Fire TV Edition soundbar from global brands that customers know and love. We can’t wait for customers to experience these new devices with the Fire TV experience built-in.”
Fire TV Cube
The new Fire TV Cube, which comes roughly a year after the debut of the original Fire TV Cube, packs a speedy six-core processor that Amazon claims is twice as fast as its quad-core predecessor. Support for 4K and Dolby Vision HDR content up to 60 frames per second is in tow, as is a far-field microphone array for voice commands.
The new Fire TV Cube processes a handful of common controls on-device, boosting its response time by up to four times. The mics use beamforming technology — the same featured in Amazon’s Echo speakers — to combine the signals from individual microphones and suppress noise, reverberation, content playing on the Fire TV Cube, and competing speech. There’s also a bundled remote with an integrated microphone for situations when viewers are out of audible range.
Like its progenitor, the new Fire TV Cube leverages a combo of infrared technology and HDMI-CEC to control a range of soundbars, TVs, surround sound systems, and cable and satellite boxes. Enter your ZIP code and cable provider during setup (e.g., Comcast or DirecTV), and you can switch channels by saying commands like “Alexa, switch to channel 15” and “Alexa, switch to ESPN,” or adjust the volume of a TV or soundbar when you’re viewing content on a different HDMI port.
Otherwise, the new Fire TV Cube offers the array of standard features Fire TV device owners have come to know. Users can launch apps (“Alexa, launch Starz”); search for movies by actor, director, and genre (“Alexa, find drama”); control playback (“Alexa, pause the movie”); or even ask about the weather (“Alexa, what’s this week’s forecast?”) with voice commands, or program routines that trigger multiple devices all at once. For instance, “Alexa, good morning” could switch on the TV, speaker system, and other Alexa-compatible smart appliances connected to the same Wi-Fi network.
Other highlights include access to thousands of apps from the Amazon App Store, such as streaming services HBO, Showtime, and Starz, through Amazon’s a la carte Amazon Channels service.
“Fire TV Cube was the first hands-free streaming media player powered by Alexa, and since launching last year we have gathered a wealth of feedback from customers about how they use voice in the living room,” said Whitten, who added that Fire TV’s 37 million active users worldwide now stream over a billion hours of content a month and that more than 80% of Fire TV Cube have home automation routines. “We have continued to expand and advance the Fire TV Cube experience based on this feedback with dozens of new features including Multi-Room Music, Follow-Up Mode, and Alexa Communications. These key learnings carried over and guided the development of the second-generation Fire TV Cube, and we are excited to introduce this new-and-improved experience to customers around the world.”
The new Fire TV Cube is available for preorder starting at $120 (£110), and it’ll hit store shelves in the U.S., Canada, U.K., and Germany on October 10 (and Japan on November 5). Alternatively, you can pick one up bundled with Amazon’s Ring video doorbell for $250.
Fire TV Edition TVs and soundbar
Amazon’s ever-expanding lineup of entertainment equipment includes soundbars, as of today. Anker’s Nebula Soundbar — one of the first Fire TV Edition soundbars out of the gate — outputs a Fire TV interface and content in up to 4K resolution, with support for Dolby Vision and HDR 10+ passthrough as well as Alexa control. Details were tough to come by at press time, but the price wasn’t: The Nebula is available for preorder starting in the U.S., Canada, U.K., and Germany at $230 (£180) ahead of a November 21 ship date.
For the sake of comparison, that’s a $50 premium over Roku’s comparable Smart Soundbar, which was also announced today. But Amazon’s sweetening the pot with a 90-day extended free trial of Amazon Music Unlimited.
It wouldn’t be a Fire TV event without a raft of new Fire Edition TVs, and Amazon didn’t disappoint in this regard. It debuted 15 total from brands like Skyworth, Arcelik, Insignia, TPV, Compal, and MediaMarktSaturn, including a 10-speaker, 4K OLED Grundig model in both 55- and 65-inch versions starting at €1,200 for a base model (or €1,300 for far-field voice control) and lower-end models starting at $260 (€239). JVC’s new 4K LED set will hit U.K. shores for £349, from retailer Currys PC World, while Toshiba’s 65-inch Fire TV panel with Dolby Vision will go on sale this October for $599.
Amazon also announced it’s expanding Fire TV Edition sales to Germany and Austria.
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