FIRE TV CUBE $120
Alexa’s not perfect, but there is potential
In the beginning, there was a dial. Then the television remote was invented so a viewer wouldn’t have to get off the sofa. Then remote controls multiplied — so viewers could never find the right one and spouses complained that watching TV is so complicated.
Now, the next epoch: Everyone in the house commands the TV by voice. A big step toward the hands-free couch potato has arrived. The Fire TV Cube is the first device to give Amazon.com’s Alexa artificial intelligence control over the TV and the stuff plugged into it.
Amazon, always angling for a bigger role in our living rooms, thinks voice tech can simplify the mess that streaming apps, add-on boxes and sound systems have brought to home entertainment.
And it can — but this version of Alexa still gets a little too tongue-tied for us to give up remotes entirely. It couldn’t understand “Skip commercials” or “Watch the new Beyoncé video” or “Watch the World Cup.”
Yet, the potential lies in walking up to the cube and saying you want to watch a show on Netflix. No need to switch inputs, find the app and hunt. Just one command.
Today, the Fire TV Cube will probably satisfy only home-theater geeks and families already enamored of Alexa and curious to watch its TV intelligence grow.
But there are enough interesting ideas in it that any TV lover has reason to stay tuned.
Microsoft Sculpt Ergonomic $33
Sometimes it pays to stick with the old one
The term “ergonomic” is used freely for mice these days, but decidedly many are not. And those that are truly ergonomic will help protect your hand and wrist from injuries without having to pay an arm and a leg.
Take the Microsoft Sculpt Ergonomic, which feels light, runs on two AA batteries, tracks beautifully, has a thumb rest and a Windows key — no fancy-shmancy gimmickry here. A new edition, the Sculpt Comfort, is smaller, so it depends on your hand size and preference. The Ergo Sculpt can be used all day with nary a complaint from hand, wrist or shoulder. After testing new ergonomic mouses, stick with the one that’s been around for a few years.
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