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Amazon Fire TV Stick vs. Fire TV Stick 4K vs. Fire TV Cube

Amazon’s family of Fire TV media devices is very popular and for good reason. They give you access to a huge variety of free and subscription streaming content from services such as Netflix, Hulu, ESPN, YouTube, and, of course, Amazon’s own Prime Video.

Some Fire TV devices even give you the ability to interact with Alexa, making voice control over your TV as easy as saying, “Alexa, open Netflix.” But there are several kinds of Fire TV devices, each with a different price, design, and features. Which Amazon Fire TV Stick is right for you? We’ll take an in-depth look at all the five current Amazon Fire TV models — the Fire TV Stick Lite, Fire TV Stick, Fire TV Stick 4K, Fire TV Stick 4K Max, and the Fire TV Cube — so you can get a feel for what each one offers.

Fire TV Stick and Fire TV Stick Lite

Amazon Fire TV Stick with TV controls.
Alexa Voice Remote with TV controls

The Amazon Fire TV Stick is identical to the Amazon Fire TV Stick Lite, with only a couple of exceptions. The Fire TV Stick includes TV controls on the remote and native support for Dolby Atmos. The cost of the Amazon Fire TV Stick is $40 for those extra features, while the Lite is just $30 (and frequently on sale for much less), making it not only the least expensive Fire TV device you can buy but also one of the least expensive media streamers, period. That said, the Fire TV Stick and its Lite version share all kinds of great features, and it’s up to you to decide which are most important to you.

Both devices share a blazing-fast interface, tons of great content, and a wide selection of apps and games. An optional Ethernet adapter is available, but their 802.11ac Wi-Fi connection should be plenty fast for most users, especially as the devices are limited to 1080p HD content. The latest 3rd-generation models include 1GB of memory, and in 2021, the Fire TV and Fire TV Lite remotes were upgraded with the newer 3rd-gen Alexa Voice Remote and Voice Remote Lite, respectively. Both remotes have a dedicated button for summoning Alexa, but the main difference is that the Fire TV version has buttons for volume control and power.

Each Fire Stick has 8GB of onboard storage for downloaded apps and games, which is more than any other stick-based streamer. While you won’t get 4K streaming on either (see below for the 4K version, if that’s your jam), you do get access to a massive library of Fire TV apps, which includes virtually all of the most popular subscription services like Disney+, HBO, ESPN, and CBS All Access, plus a ton of free options too, like YouTube, PlutoTV, Tubi, and more. If you’re an Apple fan, you can even get the Apple TV app, which is needed for accessing Apple TV+.

There are also two major browser apps: Amazon’s own Silk web browser and a version of Firefox. This is a rarity in the streaming media device world, where you won’t find easy browser options on Apple TV, Roku, or even Google-controlled Android TV.

The Fire TV Stick and Stick Lite can also run games — a surprising number of them given these devices are not really targeted toward gamers — but you’ll have to buy a compatible game controller to get the most out of them. Many Bluetooth controllers, like the Sony DualShock 4, will work, but beware: Amazon’s own Fire TV game controller, mysteriously, does not. The Fire TV remote will also work for many of these games.

The latest versions of the Fire TV Stick and TV Stick Lite now support HDR, HDR 10, HDR10+, and HLG picture formats, which is a step up toward a much better viewing experience as these formats become much more widely used across streaming platforms. And while the Lite is still limited to just HDMI audio passthrough for Dolby-encoded audio (which is just fine in most cases), the Fire Stick has native support for Dolby Atmos so you can enjoy its amazing object-based surround format.

Our reviews of the Amazon Fire TV Stick and Fire TV Stick Lite

Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K

Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K on a couch.
Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K remote

Those high-end audio and video options that are missing from the Fire TV Stick are the whole reason Amazon created the Fire TV Stick 4K. The Fire TV Stick 4K does everything we described above, but if you own a 4K TV — especially if it is an HDR-capable model — that $10 buys you a lot of additional joy. This model also is slightly faster, with 1.5GB of memory. The Amazon Fire TV Stick 4k costs $50.

We probably don’t need to tell you that 4K HDR content looks absolutely stunning, making all older movies and shows look dull and lifeless by comparison. And since streaming services like Amazon Prime Video and Netflix are quickly embracing 4K HDR, you owe it to yourself to get the Fire TV Stick 4K.

We’d also like to point out that the Fire TV Stick 4K is the only streaming media player we’ve found that supports every single flavor of HDR, including HDR10, HLG, HDR10+, and Dolby Vision. That’s nothing short of amazing given that devices that can cost up to four times the price of the Fire TV Stick 4K don’t offer this level of future-proofing.

Dolby Atmos support is also part of the package. Not all surround sound is created equal, and if you have a sound system that is Dolby Atmos capable, you need a media streamer that supports Dolby Atmos to take advantage of it. With an increasing amount of Atmos content showing up on Netflix and Prime Video, it’s the right time to own a device that can handle it.

Our full Fire TV Stick 4K review

Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max

Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max.
The Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max and Alexa Voice Remote. Amazon

The Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max is the newest version of the Amazon Fire TV stick to be released. It includes all the features listed above in that Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K model as well as being 40% more powerful, which allows your apps to start faster and have more fluid navigation. It includes slightly more memory than the original 4K version with 2GB of memory included, which is the same as the Amazon Fire TV Cube. The cost of the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max Pro is $55.

If your home network includes Wi-Fi 6, then this is the only Amazon Fire TV product that supports that. It also includes Live View Picture-in-Picture, which allows you to view your front door camera, for example, without stopping your show.

Amazon Fire TV Cube

Amazon Fire TV Cube.
Amazon Fire TV Cube

In some ways, the Amazon Fire TV Cube is so sophisticated and so different from the two Fire TV Stick models that it doesn’t really feel like it belongs to the same family of devices. Unlike the sticks, the Cube is designed to sit beside or in front of your TV instead of hiding behind it. The reason is far more than cosmetic, though we’d argue its minimalist design is more attractive than many of the devices that end up tethered to our TVs. The placement matters because the Fire TV Cube is much more than a media streamer for your TV — it can control your entire home theater and ultimately your smart home too.

The Fire TV Cube is a full-fledged Amazon Echo smart speaker, with the ability to continuously listen for and respond to Alexa commands. Unlike other Alexa speakers, like the Echo or the Dot, the Fire TV Cube can actually control your other home theater products, even if they’re not physically connected.

Thanks to the built-in IR blaster and IR extension cable, the Cube can issue commands to hundreds of different devices from cable boxes to Blu-ray players, all with the power of your voice. It’s like having a voice-activated universal remote, and yes, the Fire TV Cube comes with a normal hand-held remote too.

As the nerve center for every Alexa-compatible smart device in your home, you can sit on your couch and use your voice to master any number of gadgets, like security cameras and smart door locks. It prompted our reviewer to give the Fire TV Cube a rare 5/5 rating.

With 16GB of storage, a blazing-fast processor, an Ethernet adapter, and comprehensive support for 4K, all HDR formats, and Dolby Atmos, the Fire TV Cube is a leading-edge streaming device.

Of course, all of this techno magic doesn’t come cheap. The Fire TV Cube is a big jump over its stick-based family members at $120. But before you balk at that price, consider this: The Fire TV Cube does far more (for far less) than most other streaming devices, including the Apple TV, Roku Ultra, and Chromecast with Google TV.

Our full Fire TV Cube review

Which Amazon Fire TV Stick should you get?

If you are looking for the cheapest option to enter the Amazon Fire TV stick market, then the Fire TV Stick Lite is your choice at $30. Keep in mind, though, that it’s missing several features that may be important to your TV watching.

We think that for the $25 premium over the price of the Fire TV Stick Lite, anyone with a 4K TV — or anyone who thinks they may buy a 4K TV in the next few years — should buy the Fire TV Stick 4K Max. This is the newest Fire TV Stick model and is better and faster than all the previous Fire TV Stick versions. Its combination of apps, games, and streaming services both paid and free, plus an unequaled level of support for all of today’s top audio and video formats, make it a stellar value. When you add Alexa’s ability to give you voice control over your content as well as your smart home, plus Wi-Fi 6 support, it’s hard to conceive of a reason Fire TV shoppers shouldn’t buy it.

We love the Fire TV Cube, but we also acknowledge it isn’t for everyone. It’s expensive (relatively speaking) and doesn’t handle travel as well as the Sticks. But if you secretly harbor a desire to turn your home theater into your very own USS Enterprise bridge, complete with a computer that responds to voice commands, the Fire TV Cube is your passport to the captain’s chair.

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