Fire TV fans have been waiting a long time for a new Fire TV Stick. But the wait is over: Amazon’s newest streamer is the Fire TV Stick 4K Max.
The new Max looks to be nearly identical to the previous Fire TV Stick 4K from the exterior. However, according to Amazon, there are some significant upgrades on the inside.
There’s also a $5 increase in price over the previous Fire TV Stick 4K: it now costs $54.99, up from $49.99 previously. So
On the hardware side, the Max has several significant internal changes, including a better CPU and GPU — both of which are running at higher clock speeds than the Fire TV Stick 4K. In addition to greater RAM (from 1.5GB to 2GB in the Max), there’s also support for the newer WiFi 6 standard, known as 802.11ax.
WiFi 6 promises potentially faster connection speeds and more bandwidth, which might be beneficial in homes with a lot of networked devices. However, you’ll need a WiFi 6-compatible router to take advantage of the new features.
The new Max compares favorably to other $50-or-less streaming devices, as it outperforms them in numerous ways. Other than WiFi 6 support, Amazon’s newest offers Dolby Atmos processing, which other streaming devices in this price range do not.
Setup and Performance
A Fire TV Stick family portrait
The new Fire TV Stick 4K Max’s packaging follows the line’s design. There is a little black border at the top to help the top-end Fire TV Stick stand out.
The first thing you’ll notice is the large sliding door with a paper tray beneath it. The Max itself is up top and a USB power cable and an Alexa Voice remote control. The charger and batteries for the remote are located on the other side.
The package also includes a pair of HDMI extension cables and some setup instructions, which might be useful if you need additional room while setting up your Fire Stick.
For installation, it’s a streamlined process comparable to other stick-style or dongle-style streaming devices. Insert the Max in an available input on your TV, connect the power cable, and you’re ready to go to software configuration.
Max’s software side is also simple to use. After you pair the supplied remote and pick an available WiFi network, the Max will check for updates and install any it finds. You may subsequently continue with the setup procedure after a restart.
If you’re upgrading from a previous Fire TV device, you’ll be able to choose whether to import your preferences or enable parental controls. You’ll also see offers for services like Amazon’s Kids+ and the possibility of installing a number of streaming applications.
For those of you who haven’t used the current Fire TV interface before, here’s a quick rundown. The main navigation bar begins in the center and contains content tiles for different categories as well as recommendations. If you go down a level, the tiles expand across more of the screen, allowing you to discover more about what’s available.
Above the menu bar, you’ll see highlights from Amazon’s streaming products, teasers, and possibly advertisements.
In everyday situations, the Fire TV Stick 4K Max delivers. Late last year, Amazon updated its user interface, and it was available on a wide range of devices by early 2021.
Overall, scrolling through menus is smooth, and moving between platforms is responsive. It isn’t lightning-fast, but it’s impressive given the $54.99 price tag. We went through live streaming grids like the one in the Pluto TV app, and the Max didn’t complain.
However, the audio from the Pluto TV app cut out after I pressed the home button to return to the home menu, which took a little while to fully load those Fire OS content tiles back up. It’s not something that should prevent you from buying it, but it does serve as a reminder that we’re still dealing with a midrange streaming device.
We put the device to the test with a variety of movies and TV shows, including 4K Dolby Vision movies, and it worked flawlessly.
Unfortunately, we don’t have access to a WiFi 6 router right now to see if the Max supports the newest wireless protocols, but it worked flawlessly with our WiFi 5-era setup from across the house.
The new Max felt more responsive than the Fire TV Stick 4K (2018) when loading applications, sorting through the many tile- and content-heavy menus, and so on. Overall, then, it’s safe to say that the Fire TV Stick 4K Max makes using the Fire TV platform a more pleasant experience.
The Fire TV Stick 4K Max feels considerably smoother to use in typical applications than the Fire TV Stick 4K, but how does it stack up against competitors? That’s where our performance tests come in handy. We loaded popular streaming apps on the Fire TV Stick 4K Max and timed how long it took to get them up and running.
With Amazon claiming that its new hardware is 40 percent more powerful than the Fire TV Stick 4K, we were eager to put those claims to the test.
For comparison, we also ran the older Fire TV Stick 4K through our speed test, and it scored a time of 142.01 seconds. That isn’t quite setting any speed records in our 10-stage test.
Meanwhile, the new Fire TV Stick 4K Max achieved an overall time of 99.42, with improved app-loading performance in almost every phase. We’re not sure how Amazon arrived at its 40 percent threshold; however, we do observe significant progress here.
After that, we re-installed Netflix to see if a device can do it any faster after juggling other applications in the last stage of our study. And here, the new Max handily outperformed the older 4K, owing (in part) to the additional RAM.
So, if you’re a Fire TV Stick 4K user looking for a better device, the latest Max is a no-brainer.
Yes, it took a little longer than we might have liked, but Amazon has finally upgraded its top-end Fire TV Stick. The new Fire TV Stick 4K Max improves on the performance of its predecessor with some welcome added features for $54.99.
The new Max may be worth the upgrade for 4K consumers who feel their current device is a bit sluggish. And the new WiFi might come in handy as well, although you’ll need a router that supports it.
Finally, the inclusion of more contemporary amenities like WiFi 6 should help keep this Max competitive in the years to come, which may be good news for it to stay on top of the Fire TV Stick heap as long as its predecessor did.
Regardless, the new Fire TV Stick 4K Max is a significant upgrade. It’s good value for money at $54.99, and it competes well in the sector of devices costing around $50.