With improved Wi-Fi and extra grunt, the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max aims to future-proof your lounge room.
The Fire TV range of devices is Amazon’s equivalent to Google’s Chromecast and the Apple TV, letting you watch your favourite streaming video services on your television. Plugging into an HDMI port, it’s an easy way to give an old dumb television a smart overhaul.
Streaming sticks like the Fire TV can also save the day when smart TV makers are slow to add new services. For example, Paramount+ is yet to come to LG’s webOS, leaving sci-fi fans reliant on a streaming device like the Fire TV Stick 4K Max if they want to watch Star Trek: Discovery on the big screen.
Unfortunately, Amazon often treats Australia as an afterthought when it comes to new hardware and services. It was very slow to release its Prime Video service and Fire TV streaming devices here, and then very slow to offer us a 4K option with the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K.
The new Fire TV Stick 4K Max is only an incremental upgrade to the standard Fire TV Stick 4K, which Amazon says is still available but doesn’t seem to appear on its website. Either way, it’s great to see that Amazon ensured the new model made it to Australia quickly.
You can read other GadgetGuy Amazon news and reviews here
At $99, the pricing is on par with Google’s 4K Chromecast, but often you’ll find Amazon’s gear on special. At the time of publication, you could pick up the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max for $59, perhaps making it the cheapest way to give your television a smart revamp. Especially if you’re looking to watch the Apple TV+ streaming service on the big screen without spending money on Apple hardware.
There’s a lot to like about the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max, if you’re an Amazon-centric household. Of course, that’s a big if in Australia, where Amazon’s tardiness in introducing new products and services sees it play the role of the underdog compared to Google and Apple.
At first glance, the 4K Max is identical to its predecessor. To be honest, you’re unlikely to notice the difference unless you tend to push your streaming devices to the max. So what does it bring to the party?
Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max Specs
4K streaming, up to 60 frames per second
High Dynamic Range including Dolby Vision, HDR 10 and HDR10+
2, 5.1 and 7.1-channel sound along with Dolby Atmos
HDMI output, micro-USB for power only
Wi-Fi 6 – 2.4/5 GHz dual-band, dual-antenna (MIMO) Wi-Fi with support for 802.11a/b/g/n/ac/ax
quad-core 1.8 GHz processor
Bluetooth 5.0 and infrared remote control with built-in Alexa
The Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max brings all the streaming usual suspects into your lounge room, such as YouTube, Netflix, Stan, Disney+, Apple TV+ and, of course, Amazon Prime Video. Along with its subscription library, Amazon also offers new release movie rentals.
Support for the Paramount+ app is handy if it’s not available via your smart TV. Alternatively, you can sign up for Paramount+ through Amazon Prime Video as a bolt on package. Be warned, this way it’s tied to your Amazon account. You can’t log into the Paramount+ app on other devices like your smartphone.
Sports fans will appreciate the 4K Max’s support for Optus Sport and UFC but perhaps lament the lack of Foxtel’s Kayo and Binge.
The Achilles’ Heel of Amazon’s streaming wunderstick remains the lack of an equivalent to Chromecast/AirPlay streaming, for flinging video from a wide range of mobile apps to the big screen. This could be a deal-breaker in some homes.
The first key improvement with the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max is the step up to Wi-Fi 6. This offers faster wireless speeds and reduced network congestion.
Of course, to take advantage of Wi-Fi 6, you need a Wi-Fi 6-capable router. If you don’t have one then you won’t see any benefits from owning Wi-Fi 6 devices. Except for the future-proofing of laying the groundwork for when you do upgrade to a Wi-Fi 6 router.
If you do own a Wi-Fi 6 router then, in theory, the Max could offer smoother video streaming compared to the standard Fire TV Stick 4K relying on Wi-Fi 5. It depends on a lot of factors, including the distance from your Wi-Fi router, the number of devices on your Wi-Fi network and the amount of wireless interface in your home.
If you’re not getting reliable video streaming over your Wi-Fi 6 wireless network, using the old Wi-Fi 5-capable Fire TV Stick 4K, then upgrading to the Max might help. Assuming of course your streaming problem is related to Wi-Fi and not the quality of the broadband link running to your home.
If you’re already achieving reliable video streaming using the old Wi-Fi 5-capable Fire TV Stick 4K, there’s no point in upgrading in search of Wi-Fi 6.
Put to the test, the old Wi-Fi 5-capable Fire TV Stick 4K performs admirably in my lounge room, over my Wi-Fi 5-capable Google Wi-Fi network running of a 100/40 NBN HFC connection. As you’d expect, switching to the new Wi-Fi 6-capable Fire TV Stick 4K Max, running off the Wi-Fi 6-capable Huawei Wi-Fi AX3 wireless-router, made no difference in terms of streaming performance.
The second improvement is the jump to a quad-core 1.8 GHz processor with 2 GB of RAM – stepping up from 1.7 GHz and 1.5 GB respectively. Once again, not everyone will appreciate or even notice the change.
The old Fire TV Stick 4K wasn’t a slouch. In comparison, the Max loads apps and starts streaming roughly 1 second faster. The same when you press the Home button to get back to the main menus. It’s a slight improvement, but your average punter wouldn’t notice the difference, unless you sat there with a stopwatch.
The Fire TV ecosystem includes access to a basic games library, with support for Bluetooth controllers, but there’s not much to get excited about beyond a few gems like Crossy Road. Once again, switching between the old Fire TV Stick 4K and the new Max doesn’t make a striking difference in terms performance.
That extra grunt, and Wi-Fi 6, would more likely come in handy if you were using the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max with the Amazon’s Luna game streaming service. Except that Luna is only available in the US and there’s no indication as to when it might come to Australia.
The Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max offers a decent incremental update, but it’s mostly future-proofing. Both future-proofing for your home when you’re ready to make the most of Wi-Fi 6, and future-proofing for Amazon when it’s ready to offer Luna game streaming in more countries.
If you’re already wedded to the Amazon system, with Echo speakers and the Alexa smart assistant, then the 4K Max would make a decent addition to your home.
Of course, if your home is already full of Google or Apple gear, then it probably makes sense to stick with their streaming devices. If you’re yet to swear your smart home allegiance, Australians should think long and hard before backing Amazon over its rivals.
Would I buy it?
No, because I think Google’s ecosystem has more to offer Australians – especially when you consider Chromecast streaming from your portable devices.
Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max streaming stick – streaming to the max (review)
Delivering a performance boost to an already slick streaming stick, the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max is an attractive option for Amazon-centric homes.