Picking The Right Fire TV Device: 5 Current Models Compared




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Group shot of Fire TV devices

We recently explored the world of Roku and now, it’s Amazon’s turn. We’re taking a tour of the current Fire TV streaming device lineup, from the budget, 1080p models on up, including the new the Fire TV Stick 4K Max.

If you’re shopping for some streaming gifts in the world of Fire TV, this guide should be useful.

And while this roundup includes streaming devices Amazon previously sent to us for free for their original reviews, we are under no obligation to provide a favorable account of any of them. Our opinions remain 100 percent our own.

(Editor’s Note: This article is based on our recent video, which you can check out at the embedded link below.)

The Current Fire TV Device Lineup

So while you can pick up a smart TV with Fire TV software built right in, Amazon also offers a selection of dedicated streaming devices that can add streaming smarts to most any TV.

Those options range from the budget end of $30 or so on up to $120, with various stops along the way. And we’re talking about regular pricing here, so you might find these devices on sale for significantly less, including during the holiday shopping season.

And that includes models that may or may not stay in the current lineup for long. (More on that in a second.)

First, let’s check out Amazon’s current Fire TV streaming device lineup, starting at the more affordable end.

On the budget side, the Fire TV Stick Lite regularly retails for $29.99, though again keep an eye out for discounts.

As the most affordable Fire TV streaming device, the Lite doesn’t offer the highest-end specs or features. In fact, it tops out at 1080p resolution and offers a more basic remote control compared to the one you’ll find elsewhere in the Fire TV lineup.

For a little more money, you’ll find the extremely similar Fire TV Stick. This is the third generation of this specific model and it was introduced alongside its near-twin, the Fire TV Stick Lite. 

In fact, the Fire TV Stick and the Lite offer essentially the same hardware and capabilities, with a few exceptions. For one, the Fire TV Stick offers onboard Dolby Atmos support and it also comes with the Alexa Voice Remote, which includes TV controls and a set of preset shortcut buttons for specific streaming service apps. As we’ll see, though, overall performance between these two is extremely similar.

Next is the Fire TV Stick 4K, which is still available despite the recent release of the Fire TV Stick 4K Max.

Here during the 2021 holiday shopping season, we’re seeing the normally $49.99 Fire TV Stick 4K significantly discounted — it’s currently down to $29.99 as of publication.

We’re not certain how long the 4K will remain on sale now that the Max is here. This current deal could simply be a way for Amazon to clear out stock. That said, if you’re looking for an affordable 4K Fire OS option, it’s worth a look.

Next up is the latest Fire OS entry. It’s the Fire TV Stick 4K Max, which normally retails for $54.99. The Max represents an upgrade in hardware and overall performance compared to its predecessor, the Fire TV Stick 4K. This new model boasts an updated CPU and GPU, and support for the new WiFi 6 standard. If you’re curious, we also recently reviewed the Max, and you can check that out here.

Finally, rounding out the Fire TV lineup is the Fire TV Cube. At a regular price of $119.99, the Cube offers the highest performance among the Fire TV line, as we’ll see later in this article. And yes, there’s a good chance you’ll find it discounted for the holidays.

Beyond the different form factor, the Cube also boasts onboard microphones so you can control more features via the Alexa voice assistant, even from some distance away from the device.

And while the hardware hasn’t been updated in a few years, it’s still perfectly capable of running the latest Fire OS software and comes bundled with the current Alexa 3rd generation remote control, just like the Fire TV Stick, 4K, and 4K Max.

Comparing Hardware Specs and Features

Click on the image to view the chart in a separate tab.

As you check out the various specs and features, you might notice there’s not a whole lot separating the two 1080p options — the Fire TV Stick and the Fire TV Stick Lite. So if you’re trying to decide between those two choices, consider whether onboard Dolby Atmos support or a more feature-rich remote control are worth the extra cash. 

Elsewhere, you’ve got two 4K stick-style options with similar features, but varying levels of performance. And since the Max is a much newer device, it’s likely to support more future software updates compared to the older 4K.

Still, if you don’t really care about the better performance and a bit more future proofing, and you just want an affordable 4K streamer for right now, the older 4K is a compelling buy while it’s on sale.

Lastly, the Fire TV Cube does take up a small amount of space on your entertainment center — unlike the out-of-the-way design of the Fire TV Sticks. But you also get built-in mics for Alexa voice support. The Cube also comes with an Ethernet adapter for a wired connection if wireless connectivity is a concern.

Performance Benchmarks

To gauge performance, we run each device through a series of apps to see how quickly it can load them. Our testing suite starts and ends with Netflix to see if the hardware can open up the app any faster on the second pass. If it can, that’s generally a good indicator that a streaming device can better juggle multiple apps and open them up quicker, which could make for a more pleasant everyday user experience.

So let’s see how these Fire TV devices perform. 

Click on the image to view the chart in a separate tab.

Unsurprisingly, the less expensive options do tend to have slower performance in our testing.

And as expected, the Fire TV Stick Lite and Fire TV Stick are a lot more similar than they are different. In fact, if it weren’t for the Disney+ app consistently loading up faster on the Lite for some reason (same app versions on both devices), these two would be even closer in overall times.

Meanwhile, Amazon’s been boasting about the Fire TV Stick 4K Max’s performance improvements over the older 4K, and our testing seems to bear that out. And then the higher-end Fire TV Cube reigns supreme at the top of the charts.

Other Fire TV Options to Consider

If you’re not in the mood for a dedicated streaming device, there are a number of smart TVs that sport built-in Fire TV smarts. You can browse among a number of manufacturers, including Toshiba, Pioneer, and Best Buy’s Insignia brand. Amazon also offers its own smart TVs, including the new Omni series.

Elsewhere, Anker makes a soundbar option with Fire TV built in. They call it the Nebula Soundbar Fire TV Edition and it offers 2.1-channel audio with built-in subwoofers and 4K Fire OS support. It regularly retails for around $179.99, though keep an eye out for sales.

Wrapping It All Up… 

As with our recent Roku roundup, we hope you found this article useful. The current Fire TV lineup offers a solid variety of choices at attractive price points, so shining a light on each should help you make your purchasing decisions easier.

Again, if you’re checking this article out during the busy holiday shopping season, don’t forget all the various deals Amazon loves to offer. You might find several of these devices at significantly cheaper prices.

And for any other streaming and cord cutting gifts this holiday season, don’t forget our Deals Hub, where you can stay up-to-date on all the latest discounts.

Current Fire TV Lineup:

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