Yesterday, Amazon announced two new additions to its Fire TV Stick lineup: the Fire TV Stick 4K Max and the Fire TV Stick 4K, and the two will be coming to the UK in October.
With features like enhanced processing power and more storage, Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 6E support, and the intriguing Fire TV Ambient Experience, Amazon is certainly making a play for your living room’s HDMI port.
However, as we dig deeper into the specs and compare these newcomers with their predecessors, the question arises: Are these new Fire TV Sticks worth the upgrade?
The All-New Fire TV Stick 4K Max
The original Fire TV Stick 4K Max launched in 2021, as the top Fire TV Stick, at least in terms of performance and features (and price). But even the original Max, was not a major upgrade to the original Fire Stick 4K, as I mentioned in my review.
The new, 2nd generation Fire TV Stick 4K Max, which was announced this week, is being touted as Amazon’s most powerful streaming stick to date, featuring a 2.0 GHz quad-core processor and support for Wi-Fi 6E.
However, when you dig a little deeper, it becomes apparent that – again – these upgrades are more incremental than revolutionary. The processor is only slightly faster than the 1.8 GHz quad-core processor found in the previous generation.
The introduction of Wi-Fi 6E is noteworthy but will only be beneficial to those who have a compatible router (which you’re not likely to get from most ISPs in the UK, at least in the near future – so you’ll need a 3rd party router).
For the average user, this feature might not make a significant difference in streaming quality.
One additional significant upgrade is the storage – which has been doubled from 8GB to 16GB, so users will have more space for apps and games. But since you can’t use that space to store anything directly (other than apps) – casual users don’t tend to face a lot of storage issues on Fire TV devices.
The new Fire TV 4K Max also offers 4K Ultra HD, Dolby Vision, HDR, HDR10+, and Dolby Atmos audio, but these features were already present in previous models. Its RAM has also stayed the same, at 2GB.
The Fire TV Ambient Experience
The Fire TV Ambient Experience is a feature that aims to transform your television into more than just a screen for watching shows and movies.
When not in use, your TV can display a variety of high-quality artworks, essentially turning it into an in-home art gallery. This feature was previously exclusive to Amazon’s Fire TV Omni QLED Series but has now been extended to the new Fire TV Stick 4K Max.
The Ambient Experience offers a collection of more than 2,000 free, gallery-quality pieces of artwork.
Amazon has recently expanded this collection to include works from international artists and renowned art institutions like the Musée d’Orsay in Paris and the Museo del Prado in Madrid.
The feature is activated simply by asking Alexa or holding down the “Home” or “Alexa” buttons on the remote when the TV is not in use.
Beyond artwork, the Ambient Experience also provides glance-able information such as calendars and reminders. Users can leave Sticky Notes for family members and even control smart home devices like cameras, lights, or a Ring doorbell directly from the TV screen.
It also allows for audio playback from services like Amazon Music and Spotify.
While the Ambient Experience adds a layer of aesthetic and functional value to your TV, it’s still a glorified – though impressive – screen saver.
The New Fire TV Stick 4K
The last Fire TV Stick 4K came out way back in 2018 – so it was one of the oldest Fire TV devices still being sold as new.
The new Fire TV Stick 4K offers a new 1.7 GHz quad-core processor, making it nearly 30% more powerful than its predecessor. However, the previous generation also had a 1.7 GHz processor, and the real-world performance difference is yet to be seen.
Like its more expensive sibling, the Fire TV Stick 4K also supports Wi-Fi 6. However, it lacks the Wi-Fi 6E support found in the 4K Max, which again, may not be a significant drawback for the average user.
RAM has been expanded from 1.5GB to 2GB – which often makes a difference in how snappy the device (and interface) is going to feel.
The new Fire TV Stick 4K also offers vibrant 4K Ultra HD picture quality and immersive Dolby Atmos audio, but these were features already present in the older model.
Both new Fire TV Stick models will come with Fire OS 8, Amazon’s operating system that is based on Android 11. This marks the first time Fire OS 8 will make an appearance on Fire TV devices.
The older Fire TV Stick 4K operated on Fire OS 6 (based on Android 7.1), while its 4K Max predecessor ran on Fire OS 7, based on Android 9.
Amazon has also made commendable strides in the sustainability department with its new Fire TV Stick models.
Both the Fire TV Stick 4K Max and the Fire TV Stick 4K have been awarded the Climate Pledge Friendly badge, indicating that they have reduced their carbon footprints year-over-year.
The New Fire TV Sticks: Pricing In The UK
The pricing strategy for Amazon’s new Fire TV Stick lineup remains similar to that of the previous generations.
The Fire TV Stick 4K Max is available for pre-order, currently at £69.99, while its slightly less feature-rich counterpart, the Fire TV Stick 4K, is priced at £59.99, and is also available for pre-order.
Both models are expected to reach UK customers on October 18, 2023.
The mere £10 difference between the two models, however, raises questions about the target audience for each device.
Given that both devices offer similar core functionalities – such as 4K Ultra HD streaming, Dolby Atmos audio, and various HDR formats – the £10 price gap seems almost negligible.
The Fire TV Stick 4K Max does offer a few extra features like a slightly faster processor and Wi-Fi 6E support, as well as the new Ambient Experience – therefore the narrow price difference makes it challenging to identify who exactly the Fire TV Stick 4K is aimed at.
If a consumer is already willing to spend £59.99 for a streaming device, it’s likely they would consider spending an extra £10 to get the most feature-rich model available – however, £69.99 is becoming a hefty price tag for a new Fire TV stick.
It also raises questions about whether the Fire TV Stick 4K offers sufficient value to justify its existence alongside a marginally more expensive but better-equipped sibling – but having more options is usually a positive thing.
Lastly, it’s also worth noting that in the US, Amazon is also launching a new Fire TV Soundbar.
Curiously though, despite its name – the new soundbar does NOT have a built-in Fire TV (unlike Roku’s Streambar).
Instead, it’s simply… a “dumb” soundbar, that will reportedly be easy to install if you have a Fire TV device – but that’s pretty much its only actual connection with the Fire TV.
Expect more news about the Fire TV, and Amazon’s other new devices – in the coming days. To stay updated, be sure to Subscribe to our free newsletter.