Amazon Hearth TV Stick 4K Max within the check: The brand new normal for streaming sticks

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Amazon Fire TV Stick Max

RRP $ 55.00

“Of course it’s an iterative update, but one that makes the Fire TV Stick 4K Max the one you can get.”

advantages

  • Better processor and WiFi

  • Including the new remote control

  • Still extremely cheap

disadvantage

  • Based on an outdated version of Android

The most important feature of a streaming stick is probably not listed on the side of the box. It doesn’t matter how much RAM it has. It’s not the size of the on-board storage. It’s not if it’s 4K (OK, it’s about more than a little bit), and it’s not the Wi-Fi speed or the processor. And it’s not all apps that it has access to.

The main feature of the new Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max is the price. This is what really determines where it not only fits into the Amazon Fire TV device range, but also its place in the overall system against its closest competitor, Roku, which has its own line of relatively inexpensive streaming sticks. Sure, the specifications determine the price. But tell us how much you want to spend and we’ll tell you which streaming device is best.

Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K MaxPhil Nickinson / Digital Trends

And the Fire TV Stick 4K Max, while it’s an iterative update (there’s certainly nothing wrong with that) and while it has quite a bit to say (which we’re taking a little problem with), it is definitely the Fire TV Stick to buy .

Here’s why.

The Fire TV Stick Max is mostly a Fire TV Stick 4K, only better. It’s more max.

What’s new in Fire TV Stick 4K Max

It’s not just that Fire TV stick. It’s not that Fire TV Stick 4K. This is Max who we can only assume is one step above plus but still below extremes. It’s a silly suffix appended to a product that is itself mostly iteration on iteration. This is how these streaming sticks work. They have certain features at certain prices so you are guaranteed to make money no matter what. More on this below.

Amazon’s own comparison chart does it pretty well. The Fire TV Stick 4K Max has a few more points than the Fire TV Stick 4K, which is three years old at this point. And they are not unimportant boxes.

The Fire TV Stick 4K Max is the first in the Amazon range with Wi-Fi 6, also known as 802.11ax. That means it uses the latest wireless standards if you have a Wi-Fi 6 router, or be ready when you do. You shouldn’t necessarily expect warp-speed WiFi, but you have more than enough bandwidth to get the job done. Wirelessly connected to one Eero Pro 6 (conveniently another Amazon-owned product), I moved up from 250Mbps downstream, with ping times between 20ms and 25ms. In comparison, the previous generation Fire TV Stick 4K reached around 200 Mbps downstream over Wi-Fi 5, with similar pings.

For those of you who say, “Just get the ethernet adapter!” – let me hang you there. You will almost certainly want to just go ahead and use WiFi with the Fire TV Stick 4K Max Amazon’s own Ethernet adapterwhich is not included in the scope of delivery anyway. This adapter – which provides both power and the wired network connection – is a 10/100 device, which means it will hit the top on a 100Mbps connection anyway. And in my case, that means I got about half the speed I’ve seen with Wi-Fi, not to mention nowhere near using my real gigabit fiber connection.

In other words, stick with the Wi-Fi 6 built into the Fire TV Stick 4K Max. It’s a lot good.

Elsewhere, the Fire TV Stick 4K Max ships with the latest Alexa voice remote controlwhich came out in April 2021 and has been slightly redesigned with a few extra buttons and functions.

The Max also has a bit more RAM, which is important since it’s an Android-based device and Android still needs all of the RAM it can get. Not that 2 gigabytes is a lot, and it’s only half a gig more than the Fire TV Stick 4K. But we take what we can get. And the processor has also been updated to a quad-core Mediatek MT8696 with 1.8 GHz. If this is something you care about, good for you. If you think you can notice this through the older Fire TV Stick 4K, you’re probably lying, an engineer, or running the two devices side by side. The point is, these are important and obvious updates, but certainly nothing that will change the way you watch TV on Amazon Fire TV.

In other words, it looks and acts much like the Fire TV Sticks of yore. Just a little better. If you’re like us and are dumb enough to have more than one Fire TV Stick lying around, it’s easy to forget which one is which. I flipped back and forth between the 2018 Fire TV Stick 4K and the new Max and immediately had no idea what was plugged in without actively checking. In fact, the two are stuffed close to twins in person, with the only visible difference adding the nickname “Fire TV” to the case. The older stick only has the Amazon smile. There’s really no difference on the screen.

And it now supports picture-in-picture if you need to.

Amazon Fire TV stick 4K max.The 2021 Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max looks exactly like the 2018 Fire TV Stick 4K – apart from the logo. Phil Nickinson / Digital Trends

What else is in the Fire TV Stick 4K Max

If you currently own an Amazon Fire TV Stick, you know what to expect. You have no doubt used the new Fire TV OS user interface that was introduced in early 2021. That it is still based on Android 9 rather than something newer (Android 12 is just about to be released) is a point of contention for some, and at least a small cause for concern. But given that we’re talking about Amazon here, rather than a no-name importer who just puts Android on some hardware and is done with it, we’re a little less concerned. That said, Amazon has to get into double digits sooner rather than later, and it’s only a matter of time before our patience really wears off.

The other basic specs remain the same as the older Fire TV Stick 4K. It still supports 4K resolution with Dolby Vision, HDR10 + and HLG for high dynamic range and Dolby Atmos for audio. Of course, your TV and sound system must also support all of these if you want to use them.

If you want to use Alexa with your Fire TV Stick 4K Max, use the Alexa remote to do so. This is unchanged because there is no microphone in the stick itself.

There’s nothing new on the app side either. Amazon’s Fire TV OS still has access to all of the things it had access to, like Netflix, Hulu, and Apple TV +, to name just three.

Amazon Fire TV stick 4K max.Phil Nickinson / Digital Trends

Buy it to future proof it, not because it’s exponentially “better”.

Our opinion

If you’re looking for a new Fire TV Stick, the Fire TV Stick 4K Max is for you. Period.

I would even recommend it to the Fire TV Cube for several reasons. First, it’s about half the price, which in and of itself should be a no-brainer. If all you need to do is have Alexa hands-free (since you don’t have to hit the voice button on the remote first), you can get yourself a Max and a new Echo Dot and still have plenty of cash to buy your lunch. The second is that the Fire TV Cube was updated a few years ago, which means older internals. That’s not a big deal with devices like this, but it can play a role over time. Newer is almost always better.

Are there alternatives?

Secure. Anything that connects to a television and displays video is an alternative. And the Fire TV Stick 4K Max’s biggest competitors are the other Amazon Fire TV Sticks.

Fire TV stick
Lite
Fire TV
floor
Fire TV stick
4K
Fire TV stick
4K Max
Publishing year 2020 2020 2018 2021
Retail price $ 30 $ 40 $ 40 $ 55
resolution 1080p 1080p 4K 4K
Dolby Vision no no Yes sir Yes sir
Dolby Atmos no Yes sir Yes sir Yes sir
WiFi version WLAN 5 WiFi 5 WLAN 5 WLAN 6
storage 8GB 8GB 8GB 8GB
Storage 1 GB 1G 1.5 GB 2 GB

Where the Fire TV Stick 4K Max fits into the larger scheme of inexpensive streaming sticks – that is, around $ 50 – really just depends on the ecosystem. Would you like Fire TV? Or do you want Roku? Or what about Chromecast with Google TV? Everyone has their advantages and falls into the same price range. In general, I’d argue that Fire TV OS is the more mature and sophisticated operating system, while Roku is simple and easier to navigate. Both of them are littered with ads and other ways to spend money, and both are also heavily driving their own ad-based video-on-demand services. Amazon has IMDB TV and Roku has The Roku Channel. Choose your poison. Chromecast With Google TV is a beast of its own. If you are knowledgeable about Android, this is where I would look.

The bigger question I have is what happens to the rest of the Fire TV Stick storage space. Amazon has told us that it has no intention of stopping selling the older Fire TV Stick 4K, which at the time of release is $ 15 cheaper than the 4K Max when it’s not on sale – and you no doubt will find for less money rather than later. I’d say it’s worth an extra $ 15 for future proofing Wi-Fi 6 and the newer remote that sells for $ 30 alone. Add the upgraded processor and memory and it just makes sense. You get a bigger bang for your buck. And presumably Amazon will either phase out the older Fire TV Stick 4K or maybe even rearrange the entire line. It still has the Fire TV Stick for the same $ 40 price as the older Fire TV Stick 4K, which doesn’t really make sense as it hits 1080p resolution. Then there’s the $ 30 Fire TV Stick Lite. That’s not a huge dispersion, so don’t be surprised if Amazon consolidates things at some point.

How long it will take?

We have no idea. It’s a little piece of plastic and metal. But in general, Fire TV Sticks lasted much longer than necessary. Not that we’re fans of lighting money, but these things are cheap. They have no moving parts, they probably don’t get moved too often, and they’re pretty much commonplace right now. They are impulse purchases. In the rare event that one of you fails – and you don’t hear about it very often – you will likely just buy a new one without thinking too much. For everything else, there’s everyone’s favorite post on Troubleshooting Fire TV Stick issues.

Should you buy it?

Have you read the 1,700 words above? Yes sir. The Fire TV Stick 4K Max is the one we would get.

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