We’re well acquainted with Amazon’s line of Fire TV Stick streamers by now, as they’ve been adding and enhancing the smart functionality of our TVs for nearly 10 years. Today, there are a wide variety of Amazon streaming sticks to suit different budgets and usage scenarios; whether that’s the super budget Fire TV Stick Lite at the lower end of the range, all the way to here, the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max.
As the lengthy and somewhat complacent title suggests, this is Amazon’s top-notch stick-style streamer. It’s supposed to provide the ultimate plug-and-play 4K streaming experience, but is that really the case?
The Fire TV Stick 4K Max is the most expensive offering in Amazon’s streamer range if you don’t count the non-stick-shaped Fire TV Cube. Priced at £65 / $55 / AU$99, the top-of-the-line streaming stick still has a fairly wallet-friendly price, especially when you consider that it’s only a fraction more expensive than the standard Fire TV Stick 4K.
The obvious non-Amazon alternative is the Google Chromecast with Google TV, which is essentially the same price at £60 / $50 / AU$99.
Opt for the Fire TV Stick 4K Max and you get 8 GB of internal storage, 2 GB of RAM (up from the 1.5 GB of the standard Fire TV Stick 4K), and a quad-core CPU running at 1.8 GHz with a 750MHz GPU. Amazon says it’s the fastest Fire TV Stick on the market, with a 40 percent performance gain over the regular 4K model. We have no reason to doubt this, as we navigate the menus with ease and don’t have to wait for apps to launch. The Fire TV Stick 4K Max also gets an exclusive feature in the form of Wi-Fi 6, more on that later.
Amazon also offers an additional accessory in the form of the Alexa Voice Remote Pro, which costs £35 / $35 / AU$59. It’s an optional addition that’s slightly larger and more comfortable to hold, adds backlighting to the buttons, includes a “find my remote” feature (a godsend for those who often misplace their Fire TV remote between the couch cushions ) and a few new hotkeys including settings, Bluetooth audio, up and down channel and even two customizable hotkeys that you can program yourself. It’s certainly not an essential accessory, but it easily trumps the included remote.
The Fire TV Stick 4K Max is virtually indistinguishable from its brethren and predecessors. It’s still a plastic elongated shape reminiscent of a USB stick, with an HDMI connector protruding from one end and a micro USB port on the side for power.
It would have been nice to see a slimmed down design this year, because while the Stick 4K Max still packs easily into a pocket to carry around, on many TVs it blocks the HDMI port next to it. That is certainly the case with the Sony A80K with which we test the Fire TV Stick. It can be avoided with the included HDMI extender adapter, but it’s still a slight annoyance. As for things we wish were updated this year, a switch from micro-USB to USB-C would have been nice, as the included detachable cable uses the older, non-reversible cable that has largely been phased out in favor of the new standard.
Amazon adds its Alexa voice remote to the Fire TV Stick 4K Max, and it does us a favor by letting us navigate the Fire OS software. It feels fairly light in hand and includes the necessary buttons to cycle through apps, play content, pause, fast-forward and rewind, and control volume. There are also some handy shortcuts at the bottom for Prime Video, Netflix, Disney+ and Amazon Music. Something that seems to plague many Fire TV remotes is a loose battery compartment, and this model is no exception, as the rear sliding door slides off the remote far too easily.
As the name of the product suggests, this Fire TV streams in 4K, providing you have the TV, apps and relevant subscriptions to do so. It is possible to stream content from Netflix, Prime Video, Disney+, Apple TV and even BBC iPlayer in beautiful 4K resolution. You may have already downloaded these apps natively to your 4K TV and are probably wondering why an additional device is needed; the short answer is that in many cases it won’t – streamers like these are most useful for making an older, dumb TV smart, or for filling the occasional app gap that even the latest and best TVs can have. For example, LG’s TVs lack the UK’s BT Sport app and this is a fairly cheap way to add it. In some cases, the picture and sound quality may also be better, especially if your TV is older, and regular app updates are likely to take longer.
The Fire TV Stick 4K Max also streams in HDR and supports a range of standards here, including HDR10, HDR10+, Dolby Vision and HLG. This means compatibility shouldn’t be an issue for different TV models that only include limited HDR formats, such as Samsung’s preference for HDR10+ or LG’s Dolby Vision bias.
Amazon Fire Stick 4K Max technical specs
Solution Up to 4K, 60fps
Bluetooth version 5.0 +LE
Wi-Fi Wi-Fi 6
HDR formats HLG, HDR10, HDR10+, Dolby Vision
Dolby Atmos Yes
Remote control Yes
Dimensions (hwd) 9.9 x 3 x 1.4 cm
There’s also a plethora of audio format support, including 7.1 surround, two-channel stereo and Dolby Atmos, which of course require the right hardware and content. In short, Atmos works seamlessly and content is clearly highlighted in apps like Netflix and Disney Plus.
Fire OS, Amazon’s TV operating system, is easy to navigate and app compatibility is widespread. In addition to the apps mentioned above, in the UK you’ll also find ITV X, All 4, My 5, Rakuten and Now for streaming movies and TV, and Tidal, Spotify, Deezer and TuneIn for music and radio. There is also a large number of games and gaming-oriented apps such as Twitch and ports of popular Android mobile games.
The Fire OS system benefits from the bump in power found on the 4K Max, with performance remaining smooth and trouble-free throughout our testing. However, there is a quirk about Apple TV, which only works as an Apple TV+ app and content library for iTunes. You cannot purchase or rent content through this app and must instead use another device to load content into your library.
The last main feature of the Fire TV Stick 4K Max is Wi-Fi 6 compatibility. If you have a compatible router, you can expect improved stability when it comes to streaming content, as well as a smoother online gaming experience.
The Fire TV Stick 4K has a lot to offer in terms of image, namely a sharp and detailed image that is impressive in itself. The outlines of subjects on screen are nicely defined, with sharp outlines and a sense of differentiation between the foreground and background. This is immediately apparent in the “Welcome to Greece” scene. Glass Onion: A Mystery of the Bladesin which we see both neat edges and a lot of detail when it comes to skin and clothing textures.
The Fire TV Stick also handles colors well, with the punchy and vibrant Greek vistas of Knives out popping with the deep, rich blue ocean contrasting with the sandstone of the dock and pastel shades in the characters’ clothing. There’s plenty of punch in the opening sequence of Thor: love and thunderwith an oasis of thick jungle green and luscious fruit that pops with vibrant green and yellow.
Black depth and dark detail are also strong on the Fire TV Stick. As the evil Gorr launches his nightmarish attack on New Asgard in Thor, the imposing shadows are impressively deep, without overwhelming detail. There is also a noticeable amount of subtle shadows on the moon’s surface, despite it being a relatively small distant object.
Finally, moving towards some older, lower resolution content, the Fire TV Stick handles 4K Max Peep Show well, making the most of the fuzzier source material, especially in terms of clarity.
But while the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max is perfectly capable on its own, its picture performance isn’t quite on par with the Google Chromecast with Google TV, which outshines its Amazon rival for brightness and color.
While for example Glass Onion: A Mystery of the Blades has a noticeable film grain effect, it looks more like image noise on the fire, rather than an intentional visual attribute like on the Chromecast. And while the Fire has a nice liveliness to it, the Chromecast jumps out a bit more while looking more natural at the same time.
Overall, the Chromecast emphasizes the digital-looking image of the Fire Stick. Google’s streamer just looks more natural and nuanced, and the Amazon device image has a somewhat computer-like feel to it.
To get straight to the point: the sound presentation of the Fire TV Stick 4K Max is suitable for watching movies and TV, but is mediocre when it comes to music.
that of Netflix Formula 1: Drive to survive sounds convincingly spacious and there’s a clear direction to sounds traveling around us, making for an exciting audio experience. The grinding and chopping of Thor’s ax through the shadowy monsters Love And Thunder is also bright and satisfying, but the Fire is mainly concerned with amplifying more powerful sounds rather than focusing on the subtler tones.
This becomes clear when we switch to Tidal to play James Blake’s Limit yourself to your love in stereo using our reference system. There’s a lack of warmth and richness to Blake’s voice and the piano. Overall, the presentation lacks texture and sounds flat compared to the Chromecast, offering a more revealing and rich twist to the track with improved dynamics and drive. Simply put, the Fire Stick lacks energy and flattens out the track’s drama, resulting in a mediocre listen.
The Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max starts off strong, but slowly begins to show its shortcomings when compared to similarly priced rivals. While the picture is sharp, detailed and colorful, Google’s rival 4K streamer offers an equally crisp picture with less image noise and more natural colours. The Fire TV also lacks something when it comes to sound, lacking the drive and soul found in its rival.
There’s still a lot to like when it comes to the Fire TV Stick 4K Max, such as its extensive app compatibility and thorough HDR format support, but it can’t quite match the Chromecast when it comes to picture and sound.
- Image 4
- Sound 3
- Functions 5
Read our review of the Google Chromecast with Google TV
Also consider the Apple TV 4K
Read our Roku Streaming Stick Plus judgement
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