The original Amazon Fire TV 4K Stick came into our lives way back in 2018 – that’s a lifetime ago in tech and streaming years. And yet… even today, it’s still pretty good – so can Amazon really improve on it?
The answer is yes – and the Fire TV Stick 4K 2nd Gen that launched in late 2023 is certainly better in many ways – and yet, it won’t change your life if you already have a 4K Stick – yes, even when that one is five years old.
The new Fire TV Stick 4K has an improved processor and more RAM, so everything does feel a bit swifter, it now supports WiFi 6 for improved connectivity, and… that’s mostly it in terms of what’s new – along with the latest version of the operating system.
That’s not to say this isn’t an excellent streaming stick, if you’re in the market for a new one – but the question still remains – is this the one streaming device to buy? I’ve been testing it for a few weeks, so let’s dig in deeper…
Quick Look – Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K (2nd Gen)
What is it: The 2023 version of Amazon’s popular 4K/HDR streaming stick, with a very wide variety of apps and streaming services and an Alexa-based voice remote. Price when reviewed: £59.99.
Interface / Usage
Value for Money
- A very fast and powerful streaming stick
- Most of the major UK streaming apps supported
- Excellent 4K/HDR picture quality
- Dolby Vision, HDR10+, HLG and Dolby Atmos support
- Fire TV interface feels cluttered and confusing
- Lots of ads, sponsored content and Prime Video promotions
- Somewhat pricey when not on sale
Features and Specs
- Size: 108 x 30 x 14 mm mm
- Video: Ultra HD 4K / HDR, HDR10+, HLG, Dolby Vision, AV1
- Audio: Up to Dolby Atmos
- Processor: Quad-core 1.7GHz (GPU 650MHz)
- Storage: 8GB
- Apps: Netflix, Prime Video, Disney+, NOW, Apple TV, BBC iPlayer, ITVX, Channel4, My5, YouTube, Paramount+ and thousands more
- Connections: HDMI, Micro-USB (For power and optional Ethernet adapter)
- WiFi: Wi-Fi 6 dual-band: 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac/ax (2.4 GHz and 5 GHz)
- Extra Features: Alexa Voice remote with TV volume controls
The Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K 2nd Gen is an excellent upgrade for those using older streaming devices or frustrated with slow Smart TV interfaces, offering noticeable improvements in speed and connectivity. While the benefits over the first-generation 4K stick are modest, it’s a great choice for new users or those seeking the latest features at a reasonable price, especially during sales. For current 4K stick owners, the upgrade is beneficial but not essential.
Table of Contents
Who Is The Amazon Fire TV 4K (2nd Gen) For?
It appears time flies when you’re streaming. While hard to believe, the original Fire TV 4K stick was released way back in 2018 – and was considered by many (including yours truly) to be one of the best portable streaming devices of its time.
Obviously, with the rate technology advances, one would think a 5-year-old device would be obsolete by now. Well… not really – which is a testament to Amazon’s original 4K stick – and to how streaming devices have reached a technological peak, for the time being.
But yes, it was time for an upgrade – so in 2023, Amazon released the updated 2nd gen versions of both the Fire TV 4K Max stick (see my review), and the Fire TV 4K.
With the 4K stick’s update, we’re now getting an improved CPU, better WiFi, the latest version of the operating system, and a few more upgrades.
So first, let’s start by comparing the older 4K stick to the new one:
|Feature||Fire TV Stick 4K (2nd Gen)||Fire TV Stick 4K (1st Gen)|
|Processor||Quad-core CPU 1.7GHz, GPU 650MHz||Quad-core CPU 1.7GHz, GPU 650MHz|
|Fire TV Ambient Experience||No||No|
|Supported Video||Dolby Vision, plus HDR, HDR 10, HDR 10+, HLG||Dolby Vision, plus HDR, HDR 10, HDR 10+, HLG|
|Picture Quality||Supports 4K Ultra HD||Supports 4K Ultra HD|
|Wi-Fi Support||Wi-Fi 6||Wi-Fi 5|
|Hands-Free with Alexa||No||No|
|Audio Support||Dolby Atmos||Dolby Atmos|
|Storage||8 GB||8 GB|
|Remote Included||Alexa Voice Remote||Alexa Voice Remote|
|Alexa Home Theatre||Yes||No|
|OS||FireOS 8||FOS 6|
Surprisingly, the processor speeds have remained the same (Quad-core 1.7GHZ) – but those numbers don’t tell the whole story. The CPU is a new model, and even more important is the RAM – which is faster, and you get more of it (2GB VS 1.5GB).
Therefore, Amazon says the new Fire TV 4K is 30% more powerful than its predecessor.
Whether you actually notice that difference depends on where you’re coming from: the 1st Gen 4K stick was still quite a capable device, and while you WILL notice some improvement in how fast apps load and how swift the interface feels – it won’t be a light and day difference.
If, however, you’re coming from an even older Fire TV device, an old/slow Smart TV, or any other low-powered streaming device from a few years ago – the Fire TV 4K Stick will feel like a major upgrade, at least in terms of speed.
Furthermore, Smart TV operating systems, especially from older or lower-cost models, are typically confusing and annoying to use, in addition to being slow.
And, when TVs get old, the manufacturer often abandons its software – and you will no longer get app updates, with newer streaming services missing from your TV (we saw a great example of this when many devices lost access to ITV Hub and ITVX).
So yes, that CAN happen with a streaming stick as well (though it’s not as common) – but it’s so much easier to get a new, cheap stick – than to replace your whole TV.
And, as mentioned, it’s also about speed: anyone who tried to use a low-cost Smart TV knows how slow and excruciating it can be to find that Disney+ app and run it. And then try to switch over to Netflix, or install a new app.
The new 4K stick, while not as powerful/fast as the new 4K Max stick (or the Fire TV Cube), is certainly faster than almost any Smart TV out there.
This translates to a swift interface – when you use the menus and thumbnails on the 4K stick, everything is quick to respond, and it feels like you’re using a brand new smartphone, and not like a clunky old TV interface.
Apps are very quick to load as well – and again, while there’s a slight difference between this and the new 4K Max stick – it’s hardly noticeable in everyday use (which makes it somewhat hard to compare and choose between the two – more on that later).
And lastly, with this being a Fire TV device, you’ll find an app for almost every streaming service out there, as well as other media players, utilities and even games (see our list of recommended Fire TV Apps here) – which is not something you can say about most Smart TVs that don’t use one of the major platforms – Fire TV OS, Roku OS or Google TV.
Setting Up The Fire TV Stick 4K
The 2nd gen Fire TV 4K stick has a new, more rounded design – though it’s a shame we’re still stuck with the old Micro-USB port.
In the box, you’ll find the power adapter, the Micro-USB power cable, an HDMI Extender (in case there’s not enough room behind your TV to connect the stick directly), batteries for the remote and the stick itself.
The 4K 2nd Gen stick comes with the Alexa voice remote, which has 3 app shortcut buttons, and a button that opens the ‘Apps’ screen (but it’s not the “enhanced” version of the remote that comes with the 4K Max and includes a couple of extra buttons).
In addition to the Fire TV controls on the remote, it also has Volume Up/Down buttons, and a mute button – so you can control the volume on your TV (or soundbar), once you sync the two devices (by choosing your TV model on the Fire TV’s settings page).
There’s also a dedicated “Live TV” button, that opens the live TV section on the Fire TV. But with the Live TV experience on the Fire TV being so limited in the UK (for now, at least), you won’t get much use out of that button.
And of course, there’s the blue ‘Alexa’ button, which lets you use Amazon’s excellent voice assistant – you can use it to search for content (“Show me movies with Brad Pitt”), ask questions (“How’s the weather?” – which will show you the forecast on your TV’s screen), and control your Smart Home devices.
When you first turn the 4K Stick on, you’ll need to connect it to the internet. The simplest option is to use WiFi. Alternatively, you can use an Ethernet cable to connect the stick directly to your router – but for that, you need to buy the optional Fire TV Ethernet adapter.
The 1st Gen 4K stick supported WiFi 5 – and the new version now supports WiFi 6 (with the Max also supporting WiFi 6E).
This will be a useful improvement for some – especially if you have lots of devices connected to your WiFi network – as WiFi 6 can maintain a more stable connection, dividing everything better between all the connected devices.
There’s a catch, however: your router also has to support WiFi 6 – and most routers provided by ISPs in the UK do not support it at this point.
There’s backwards compatibility with WiFi 5, so you won’t have any issues using it – but you also won’t get the benefits of 6 on the Fire TV if your router doesn’t support it.
Either way, most people won’t notice much of a difference – unless, as mentioned, you have lots of devices connected (and used) around your home.
For the next step of the installation, you will be asked to log in to your Amazon account. Remember that while you don’t have to be an Amazon Prime subscriber in order to use the Fire TV Stick – you DO need to have an Amazon account.
After a lengthy software update process (I had to wait for more than 10 minutes on the first use), you will have the option of setting up the TV buttons on the Firestick’s remote (volume up/down, mute and TV on/off).
You can then install some initial apps – if you’ve ever had another Fire TV model, you will be offered the option of downloading all your previously installed apps.
Otherwise, you can choose some “starter” apps to download (BBC iPlayer and ITVX are right there as prominent suggestions, perhaps as an answer to the calls to make public service channels more prominent on streaming devices).
Using The Amazon Fire TV 4K
If you’re coming from the original 4K Firestick, an even older device, or a Smart TV – then the first thing you’ll notice is how speedy everything feels.
As I’ve mentioned earlier, it’s not that the older 4K was terrible – even five years later – but it was beginning to feel a little sluggish with some of the heavier apps – and that’s something you won’t notice at all with the new 4K stick.
Everything is swift, and streaming apps load up within a few seconds. And when you browse the various tiles, every button press reacts instantly, and you don’t feel as if you’re using an old computer.
The video quality on the 4K 2nd Gen stick is excellent. It supports all the major HDR and video formats (including HLG, which is used by the BBC, and AV1, which is used on YouTube).
Of course, picture quality really depends on your TV, your streaming service provider and your broadband speed – but you can trust the Firestick 4K to deliver the best possible picture quality to your TV – and let the telly do the rest.
In terms of sound, the 4K stick supports Dolby Atmos, which is probably the most popular high-end format these days.
The Fire TV Interface
The Fire TV interface hasn’t changed too much since its inception (though there was an overhaul in 2020), and you will either love it or, well, get annoyed by it.
If you’re new to the Fire TV ecosystem, but you’ve used streaming apps (like Netflix or Prime Video) in the past – then the basic interface is going to be familiar, with rows of thumbnails that represent TV programmes, movies and apps – so basic usage is rather intuitive.
The Fire TV fully supports user profiles – not just for a specific streaming service, but for the entire device – something Roku doesn’t support to this day (though some would say it isn’t as needed on Roku, with its very simplistic interface).
With separate profiles, every person in your house can set a different profile – and get personalized recommendations, watchlists and a watch history that fits their personal tastes (but they all sit under the same Amazon account, which is connected to the device).
The top part of the home screen is where you’ll see content recommendations (often from Amazon’s services), along with sponsored messages and content.
The middle section of the interface holds the Main Menu, with a search function, the home screen, and a “Live” tab which is still, years after its launch, pretty barren in the UK, with support for ITV’s live channels, a few FAST (ad-supported) streaming channels, and… that’s about it (even Channel 5, which used to support this, disappeared for some reason).
To the right of the main menu, you’ll see a few “Favourite” apps you can set up – for those you access regularly.
Then, under the main menu, you’ll often see… a banner ad. Yes, there are now adverts scattered throughout the entire interface – which is highly annoying for a device you pay good money for.
Beneath the main menu (and the ad) is where things get even more confusing. Instead of showing you the most used apps, for example – you get a mishmash of peculiar content recommendations, Prime Video / Freevee (both owned by Amazon) promotions, sponsored content, and more.
Furthermore, content from services you’re subscribed to is mixed with content from services you would need to pay more for – something you only find out when you actually try to watch something.
As before, Amazon’s own Prime Video content takes centre stage (even if you don’t have a Prime subscription), and app icons are scattered all over the place (good luck finding a streaming service you haven’t used for a while – or, confusingly, even some you did).
Like other leading streaming devices, the Fire TV wants to be your one-stop shop for choosing what to watch. Therefore, you can search for a show within the Fire TV interface – and then, if you pick it from within Fire TV, it will load the appropriate app and start playing it directly.
Then, it will create a row with shows you’ve recently watched – from a variety of streaming apps – so you can jump back in without having to remember which service/app that show was on.
That’s nice and well in theory – but it doesn’t work all that well in practice – mainly because your watch status doesn’t sync between many of the apps and the Fire TV.
So, for example, I was on Episode 2 of Loki on Disney+, and happily, Fire TV showed me that show on the “Recently Watched” row.
But then if I load up Loki directly from that row – it loads up Disney+… with Episode 1 of the show. But I was on episode 2!
And this has been happening to me with shows from BBC iPlayer and Paramount+ as well – which makes this row almost useless, at least until the Fire TV can manage to sync your watch status from the various services – and not just the names of the shows (Netflix and Prime Video, at least, have better synching).
All in all, I always say that if you compare the Fire TV’s interface to Google TV’s Chromecast interface, or even Sky’s Glass / Stream interface (not to mention Roku, which has a very streamlined, even conservative interface that mostly just shows apps) – then the the Fire TV feels like a streaming interface that blew up, with all the icons, apps, adverts and recommendations just scattered randomly on your screen.
One major plus, however, is the excellent voice control (you activate Alexa by pressing the blue button on the remote) – with it, you can simply skip a lot of the interface’s woes, and simply TELL the device what it is you want to do or watch.
Instead of searching for the Disney+ tile – simply say, “Alexa, open Disney Plus”, or even tell it to play a specific show directly.
I have to say – during my testing of the new Fire TV 4K stick, I did notice a few bugs and app hiccups – something you sometimes see when Amazon releases a brand new version of one of its devices.
BBC iPlayer would sometimes open in a small framed window, subtitles would sometimes get stuck on Netflix, and other strange mishaps – that I could always fix by restarting the Fire TV device.
Typically, these sorts of bugs disappear once Amazon releases a couple of software updates.
The Fire TV Apps
The Amazon Fire TV line has been around for years, so you’ll find a huge selection of apps to install (see my Fire TV App recommendations here).
From popular UK catch-up services like BBC iPlayer, ITVX, My5 and others, to American streaming giants like Netflix, Apple TV+, Paramount+ and Disney+, as well as local streaming services like Sky’s NOW.
You’ll also find some of the popular music apps like Spotify, Amazon Music and Deezer, and there’s also the Plex app, which you can use to stream videos and music from a local desktop computer.
Also, the Amazon Fire TV also supports VPN apps – which are useful for privacy, as well as for things like watching American streaming services in the UK.
The Bottom Line – Is The Fire TV Stick 4K (2nd Gen) Good?
If you don’t have a streaming stick at all (because you have a very old TV, or you do have a Smart TV with apps but it’s slow/old/cheap) – then the second generation 4K stick is an excellent choice, with support for a vast library of apps, and a swift (if confusing) interface.
Once you decide to go with Amazon’s Fire TV instead of Roku (which is a whole discussion in and of itself), the question remains – should you get the 4K Stick or the 4K Max – with the difference between them being just £10?
As I said in my Fire TV Max 2nd Gen review – at their regular price, you might as well spend the extra tenner and get the “best” stick – even though the differences between the two aren’t all that noticeable.
Moreover, at £59, the 4K stick is getting a bit expensive – especially when you can still get a Roku 4K Stick for £49.
However – the 4K stick often gets major discounts when Amazon does special sales. At that point, I would certainly go for the 4K stick over the 4K Max – as it represents better value for money when it’s discounted.
To conclude, the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K 2nd Gen is a worthy upgrade for newcomers or those with older streaming devices, offering enhanced speed and WiFi 6 support. For existing 1st Gen 4K stick users, the improvements are noticeable but not essential, making it a value-driven choice primarily during sales.