In terms of functionality, streaming devices like Apple’s Apple TV 4K, Google’s Chromecast 4K, and Amazon’s Fire TV Stick 4K Max are largely similar, all offering 4K streaming capabilities. The main differences are in their price, user interface, and user experience.
The Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max, priced at $60, is Amazon’s most advanced streaming stick and is more affordable than its competitors. It also supports a broader range of apps and services. However, it lacks the premium feel and clean interface that more expensive options, such as the Apple TV 4K, provide.
But if you’re looking for a 4K streaming device and don’t want to spend upwards of $200, this is a great option.
- Affordable price
- Compatible with a range of apps and services
- Good 4K streaming capabilities
- Remote feels cheap
- Interface can feel cluttered
- Not as user-friendly as competitors
At $60, the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max offers substantial value, especially when placed alongside Google’s Chromecast 4K at $99 and Apple’s Apple TV 4K at $279, making it an appealing, cost-effective choice for 4K streaming.
So what’s new?
Not much has changed in terms of core functionality; the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max still delivers the streaming experience users have come to expect. However, it has been improved to be the most powerful iteration yet, with Wi-Fi 6E support for better connectivity, a faster quad-core 2GHz processor for enhanced performance, and increased storage capacity at 16GB, allowing more room for apps and media.
The Fire TV Stick 4K Max retains the familiar, rectangular shape that previous Fire TV Stick users will instantly recognise. It continues to utilise a USB to Micro USB connection for power – which isn’t an issue as a charger and cord are included in the box and lacks an Ethernet port, which might be a drawback for those preferring wired connections. It’s fine.
The accompanying remote hasn’t strayed far from its roots either, featuring the same layout as previous iterations. It retains the navigation ring for menu selections and offers quick-access buttons for Netflix, Amazon Prime, Amazon Music, and other installed apps. The inclusion of a button to activate Alexa is here and the standard playback controls — rewind, play/pause, fast forward, volume adjustment, and mute — covers all the bases for media consumption.
In comparison to its counterparts, such as the Apple TV remote, the Fire TV Stick 4K Max’s remote feels less premium, leaning more towards functional simplicity than a luxury feel. But at $60 that’s easily forgiven.
The Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max is the most powerful offering in Amazon’s “stick” range, not counting the Fire TV Cube.
Now compatible with Wi-Fi 6E its capable of higher speed streaming, which is a significant improvement, reducing buffering, lag and slowdowns especially for 4K content. Of course, you need a Wi-Fi 6E compatible router and a strong internet connection to fully utilise this feature though.
The device’s new quad-core processor now uses a 2.0GHz CPU, and an 850MHz GPU. This is only a bit better than the 1.8GHz CPU and the 750MHz GPU of its predecessor. While it isn’t a gamechanger it means the device will be less vulnerable to any performance issues. And in my time, I didn’t have any problems with slowdowns or crashes.
It still doesn’t feel as good as Apple TV though. Some inputs feel slightly delayed and I didn’t like how I had to go through several menus to fully close an app, whereas Apple TV allows me to simply swipe up and its done. But overall, it’s generally efficient for everyday use.
There’s Dolby Atmos and Dolby Vision support here as well. Dolby Atmos is an advanced audio technology that creates a more immersive sound by allowing audio to move in three-dimensional space, giving the impression of sound coming from all around you, and Dolby Vision is a high dynamic range (HDR) format that enhances the visual experience by offering more vibrant colours, improved contrast, and increased brightness levels. The audio and visuals produced are great.
The Fire TV Stick 4K Max is compatible with all the popular streaming apps like Netflix, Neon, and Disney+, along with music services such as Spotify and Amazon Music.
A standout feature is its customisation. Unlike its competitors, you can access internet browsers here and there’s also compatibility with a wider range of apps and services, including VPNs like ExpressVPN and NordVPN and IPTV. This flexibility is a significant advantage for users seeking more than just standard streaming functionalities. However, frustratingly you can find inaccessible apps in the app store. Apps like FuboTV and HBO Go, which are restricted to the US, still appear in the store, leading to a cluttered interface and confusion when they can’t be accessed. It would be much better if they simply weren’t available.
Another convenient feature is the ability to control your TV using the Fire TV remote over HDMI-CEC technology.
It’s also compatible with Amazon’s Ambient Experience, which transforms your TV screen into a dynamic display when it’s not being used for active viewing. You can showcases a variety of content, like photos, artwork, weather updates, and news headlines. While I didn’t use this much – preferably turning my TV off when I was done using it – it’s a nice touch and adds to teh functionality of the stick.
The device utilises Miracast for screen mirroring, which isn’t quite as robust or seamless as Apple’s AirPlay or Google Chromecast. For Android and Apple devices, using Miracast with the Fire TV Stick 4K Max requires downloading a third-party app, adding an extra step to the process. This can be a drawback for users seeking the simplicity and higher integration offered by AirPlay and Chromecast.
The Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max uses the same a tile-based interface, we’ve all become familiar with.
You can navigate it using the remote control, but the Alexa integration is where it’s at its best. Simply say a certain TV show or movie you’ll be directed to an app where the content is available.
The interface suggests content based on viewing habits on a variety of different platforms and services but it heavily promotes Prime Originals. I often came across fully fledged advertisements for shows like ‘Invincible’ and ‘The Boys’. It wasn’t a big deal but it’s not something I’ve come across with other streaming devices.
Overall the Fire TV Stick’s interface feels cluttered, there’s a lot of information presented at once, especially on the homepage. It’s not as sleek as Apple TV.
The Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max, priced at an affordable $60, is a solid choice for those looking to stream 4K content without breaking the bank. It stands as a cost-effective alternative to pricier options like Apple TV 4K, and boasts added functionality over its competitors, including support for browsers and VPNs.
The device has been upgraded to be Amazon’s most powerful stick yet, featuring Wi-Fi 6E for faster streaming and a quad-core 2GHz processor, enhancing its overall performance.
While its design remains familiar and functional, it lacks the premium feel of competitors like Apple TV. Its performance is reliable, with the added benefits of Dolby Atmos and Dolby Vision support, ensuring high-quality audio and visuals. However, the user experience is not as smooth, with slight input delays and a less intuitive process for managing apps.