Amazon’s main approach to taking over your TV’s front-end is through its Fire OS operating system and Amazon continues to improve the experience. Recently, Amazon announced a new update to the Fire TV Channels app with a new sidebar and plenty of new media providers which you may access for free as long as you live in the US. The good news is if you don’t have a TV with Fire OS preinstalled, you may add Fire OS to just about anything with a screen and an HDMI input. Amazon offers several Fire TV Stick and Cube products to plug right into your TV giving you a full taste of Fire OS the moment you switch to the HDMI input. We reviewed several of the Fire TV dongles over the past couple of years but choosing the right Fire TV device can take a bit of work. Let this Amazon Fire TV comparison guide help you out!
At a Glance (Design / Price)
Amazon Fire TV Stick ($39.99 USD / $59.99 CAD)
The Amazon Fire TV Stick is currently in its third generation at the time of writing and is capable of streaming Full HD 1080p video. Unlike the even cheaper Amazon Fire TV Stick Lite, this TV dongle comes with a remote control that features some essential buttons for controlling your TV or soundbar including power and volume controls. If you have a small TV in your living room or possibly your bedroom, this is the budget option to consider.
Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K ($49.99 USD / $69.99 CAD)
The name of this Fire TV Stick variant pretty much gives away its main feature which is the ability to stream 4K video. But even if you are satisfied with 1080p video, you could still use this streaming stick for playing back movies supporting Dolby Vision and Atmos. Dolby Vision is a proprietary technology for HDR content which improves the color accuracy and contrast of supported media. Dolby Atmos adds height channels creating a sense of audio depth on supported titles. The 4K model also has a slight RAM bump which allows Picture-in-Picture support.
Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max ($54.99 USD / $74.99 CAD)
The Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max has the same features as the non-Max version but the wireless capabilities, CPU, and RAM all get spec bumps. Costing only $5 more than the regular 4K model, buying the 4K Max version is really a no-brainer unless Amazon gives the 4K model a big price cut.
Amazon Fire TV Cube ($119.99 USD / $189.99 CAD)
The Fire TV Cube breaks away from the dongle form factor and goes for a cube design allowing Amazon to add more connections to the Fire TV Cube including an HDMI input and an Ethernet port. Just make sure you have some spare HDMI and Ethernet cables lying around as the package doesn’t include any data cables aside from the dated micro-USB cable. It is the only Fire TV device that lets you evoke Alexa without using the remote.
Although Amazon offers Fire OS in a variety of price points, you only get to choose between two designs unless Amazon releases something outrageous. The stick form factor is clearly the travel-friendly recommendation even though the Fire TV Cube is quite compact. However, the stick design has less volume which may not always be ideal if you often make the CPU work hard for long periods. This generates heat and because of the limited ventilation, the CPU will throttle or dial back its speed to reduce heat. The Fire TV Cube has better ventilation which is probably why Amazon went for an 8-core CPU rather than a 4-core CPU found in the other models.
Resolution and Wireless Performance
The Fire TV 4K, 4K Max, and Cube models all support up to 4K resolution making them great companions to any 4K display. However, two things could bottleneck your 4K experience – the CPU and wireless performance. The CPU is less likely to cause issues since the built-in quad-core chip is suitable for 4K streaming but you may have stuttering issues if another app is doing something in the background. The Fire TV Cube’s speedy 8-core CPU is more capable in this area.
Wireless performance isn’t really an issue if your Internet speed is slower than a gigabit, but it could matter if you plan on using the Fire TV device for streaming content from your local network using apps like Plex. 4K videos are huge in size so you want to settle for the Fire TV Cube which comes with Wi-Fi 6E or at least the 4K Max model which only has Wi-Fi 6. The less expensive products only use Wi-Fi 5 which is basically 802.11ac.
The Fire TV Cube costs significantly more than the Fire TV sticks for a reason – it’s the octa-core 2.2 GHz CPU with 2 GB of RAM. I would definitely recommend that model as it will age far better than the streaming sticks. You never know what improvements Amazon will offer in the form of updates and that could consume more precious RAM or utilize any vacant CPU resources.
If you prefer something more travel-friendly, consider the Fire TV Stick 4K Max as it retains its 2 GB RAM. The Fire TV Stick 4K and ordinary 1080p version have 1.5 GB and 1 GB worth of RAM respectively.
If you can handle the triple-digit price, go with the Fire TV Cube because the snappier menus and faster app load times mean that you can enjoy your content sooner. You want to avoid a situation where you get sluggish performance that is annoying enough for you to not use any of the goodies Fire TV has to offer. But if you are on a budget and don’t mind something a bit more travel-friendly, the 4K Max is the second-best pick. The extra 100 MHz clock speed does make a difference in responsiveness and the slightly faster GPU makes it decent for casual gaming too. The only factor that can sway my recommendations is when Amazon drops prices. For instance, the Fire TV Stick 4K model can be a bit of a steal if you can buy at it a 50% discount which Amazon has done in the past. Amazon can cut prices when least expected and you don’t always have to wait for Prime Day or Black Friday to get the best deal.
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