One minute review
The Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max pushes the streaming stick form factor to its peak, delivering faster performance and support for the latest Wi-Fi standards.
That said, while a lot of work has clearly been done under the hood, the UI of Amazon’s latest streamer remains the same as in previous years and largely focuses on Amazon’s key streaming service, Amazon Prime Video. . That last element makes it a great streaming stick for Amazon Prime members, but pretty ugly if you don’t want to fork out for Amazon’s all-in-one subscription service.
The good news is that streaming video is only half of what a Fire Stick can do. It’s also capable of tracking your smart home devices and supports Amazon’s Luna game streaming service, making it a big rival to Google’s excellent Chromecast with Google TV. TikTok is now also available on Amazon’s Fire Sticks, if you like scrolling through endless dance content.
It’s not absolutely perfect and the limited advertising may annoy some people, but for anyone who loves Alexa, shops with Prime, and is interested in Amazon’s game streaming experience, the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max is a triple threat – especially now that it’s on sale for $ 34.99 during Black Friday 2021.
Price and release date
The Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max was released on October 7, 2021 and retails for $ 55 / £ 55 / AU $ 99. It’s just a few dollars more than the old Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K, and you get a big performance boost as well as the Wi-Fi 6 antenna.
Of course, we don’t expect this to be the final price of the 4K Max. Around Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Amazon Prime Day, we expect to see huge discounts on the streamer as Amazon tries to compete with similar offers from Roku and Google.
Speaking of Roku and Google, it’s worth noting that there are devices competing with the 4K Max that offer much of the same functionality, namely the Chromecast with Google TV and the new Roku Streaming Stick 4K (2021). Both support Dolby Vision HDR and many of the same services, but neither have access to Luna. All three are great for different types of customers, so it’s worth checking out all three reviews before making a decision.
If you only looked at the exterior of the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max, you probably wouldn’t feel like much has changed in its latest incarnation. In fact, if you put the 4K Max next to the 4K and paste the logos, you might not be able to tell the difference between them – they’re both flat USB-stick-sized devices with an HDMI port. that comes out of them.
Although they look alike, they are, we assure you, very different; all the new features of this model take place under the hood.
To make it faster, Amazon increased the amount of memory the Stick has to 2GB, about a third more than the old model. On top of that, the new SoC runs at 100 MHz faster than its predecessor, which Amazon says makes the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max about 40% faster than the Fire TV Stick 4K.
Of course, all that power wouldn’t be worth much if the 4K Max struggled to extract data over Wi-Fi – which is why Amazon decided to equip it with a Wi-Fi 6 (802.11) antenna. ax) which allows a theoretical maximum speed. of 3.5 Gbps… not that we expected anyone’s internet to live up to that kind of speed. If anything, you’re essentially protecting your streaming device for future upgrades to your wireless network.
What’s the same between the two models is that, like its predecessor, the Fire TV Stick 4K Max also comes with a Bluetooth voice remote. The Fire TV Stick 4K Max remote now comes with quick-launch buttons for Prime Video, Netflix, Disney Plus, and Hulu – all of which look like strong choices – as well as a Live TV button and a new blue button for Alexa. . These changes are relatively insignificant in the grand scheme of things, but they certainly don’t detract from the experience either.
Once you’ve found a USB port with enough power output to charge the device or a wall outlet to plug in the Fire TV 4K Max, you boot it up to find a familiar login screen asking for your Amazon account information and a preference on which apps you want to install. As long as you have this information handy, the setup should only take a few minutes.
When finished, you’ll see the main Fire TV UI which is separated into three tabs – Home, Search, and Live – with a rotating top row of featured shows and movies curated by Amazon as well as a few commercials. Having ads on the home screen is annoying, especially since the first row of apps under the Home section are sponsored choices as well.
Scroll down into the UI and you’ll start to find rows of shows and movies grouped together by a common theme like New Releases, Free on Amazon Prime, Comedy Movies, and more. good recommendations just at the top, but you have to be extra careful to see which shows and movies are actually available on Amazon Prime Video, and which of them will cost you money to stream.
There’s also the issue here that Amazon is putting its own content front and center and will point you towards purchasing a show on its service rather than anywhere else. It makes good business sense, but not the best user experience.
What makes up for it a bit is Amazon’s latest integration with more free TV services – now you’ll find IMDb TV shows and movies available on the streaming stick as well as local news networks. and national free in the United States. This will give cable cutters a wealth of content at no additional cost and help Amazon stay on par with Roku’s The Roku Channel which offers many of the same features.
Along with these free services, you’ll also find many of the same services you’d expect from streaming sticks, including Netflix, Hulu, Disney Plus, and even Apple TV. You’ll also find YouTube and YouTube TV (the latter not available on Roku devices) as well as a number of music streaming services. The collection of apps is impressive and should keep you entertained for a very long time.
So how does it work? Pretty good. Out of the box, the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max offers 4K HDR streaming – more Support for Dolby Vision, HDR10 + and Dolby Atmos. That’s pretty much all of the cutting edge formats we know today, minus a few of the outliers, giving you a crisp and colorful experience.
To test what 4K HDR content looked like, we watched a few episodes of the new All or Nothing season after the Toronto Maple Leafs. Contrast looked exceptional on our test Hisense 75-inch TV with good reflections and black levels, as did color saturation and sharpness. Granted, it took a few seconds to get to full resolution after starting to play, but when it got there, it was as good as we saw Amazon Prime Video watching on a 4K TV.
In fact, the only boring part of the experience doesn’t happen when you go to read content – it happens when you preview it on the home screen. There, in the upper right corner of the screen, is a super low-resolution sample of the content you’re about to watch. Seeing this on a 4K streamer is a bit bewildering, especially one that offers as much power as the 4K Max.
To test the shows in Dolby Vision, we had to download the Netflix app – no problem. Even though the download was small, the 4K Max downloaded it extremely quickly and installed it in just seconds. You will still need to log in, which may add a few seconds, but you can have new apps up and running very quickly thanks to the faster Wi-Fi and the additional memory. Less than 30 seconds later, we had The Witcher in 4K Dolby Vision and Atmos on Netflix.
But what if you’re less sure what to watch? Or maybe a little sure about the name of the movie, but not sure where to watch it? For these issues, you’ll have to turn to Alexa and Fire TV’s built-in search feature.
If you want to see, say, movies with Kurt Russell, all you have to do is ask. Alexa will then show you all the movies that are part of your subscriptions with Russell as well as free movies from other services with Russell. Look for a specific movie starring Russell like, say, Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2, and Alexa will show you where to watch it. In this particular case, the 4K Max does a good job of showing you that the movie is available to watch with a Disney Plus subscription before showing you the options to rent it on Amazon.
While all of the search features seem to work well enough, they still aren’t the best streaming platforms to offer. Amazon Fire TV search results are sorted into a few useful lines, but there is no organization for results beyond that. Kurt Russell’s search for films began with The Christmas Chronicles, a 2018 film starring Russell as Santa Claus, which was generally useful, but the next film was F9 (Fast & Furious 9) where Russell did ‘played only a minor role. This is of course a small glitch, but it’s an example of Fire TV’s search results not looking as well-thought-out as they could have been.
Last but not least, we have to talk about the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max integration with Luna which is, well, just OK. Even though we thought we were seeing near flawless performance from Luna on the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max, it just didn’t happen. Most of the games played reasonably well on our 100Mbps wireless connection, but there were a few lingering lag moments that ruined the experience. It’s especially upsetting when a stutter-free experience on our computer is only one room away – but it turns out that even a Wi-Fi 6 antenna doesn’t beat a wired connection.
Overall, Luna is playable on 4K Max but it’s not our preferred way to access the service.