Amazon's Fire TV Stick 4K Max is the best stick Amazon's ever put out, thanks to a faster processor and improved connectivity for more-stable streaming. It's the Fire TV Stick we prefer and recommend, because Amazon's ad-heavy interface is enough trouble. Otherwise, it's largely similar to the current Fire TV Stick 4K.
- Faster perfomance
- Wi-Fi 6 support
- $5 pricier
- Amazon-heavy interface is still not-great
Amazon's regular Fire TV Stick 4K has largely gone unchanged in recent years, but its remote quietly improved to gain a Live TV guide button. The better model for deal-hunters, as it seems to go on sale (and go lower in price) more often than the 4K Max does. Still, for our dollar, we'd spend a little extra for a faster experience.
- Same great 4K HDR quality and apps
- $5 cheaper
- Only supports Wi-Fi 5
Editor's note: Amazon has unveiled new Fire TV Stick 4K and Fire TV Stick 4K Max models, shipping fall 2023.
Amazon's new Fire TV Stick 4K Max is very much like the popular Fire TV Stick 4K ... just a bit more to the max. And since everyone's always shopping for new streaming devices, it's a good time to see how Amazon's top streaming sticks stack up.
And while the older stick used to have an inferior remote, they've reached parity there. You'll still find a neat set of perks once we drill down in this Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max vs Fire TV Stick 4K face-off. One difference between the two Fire Sticks is that only one is on our list of the best streaming devices. But which one is it? Let's find out.
When we wrote our Fire TV Stick 4K review, we never saw performance as a flaw in the streaming stick. But over time, as that model stood still and other competitors got faster, it wasn't hard to see that Amazon's UHD streaming device could use a little more speed — which is where our experience for our Fire TV Stick 4K Max review comes in handy.
For more detail up and down the line, check out our Amazon Fire TV Cube vs. Fire TV Stick vs. Fire TV Stick 4K vs 4K Max face-off.
Let's see how they stack up:
Fire TV Stick 4K Max vs Fire TV Stick 4K: Specs
|Header Cell - Column 0||Fire TV Stick 4K Max||Fire TV Stick 4K|
|Resolution||Up to 4K UHD at 60 fps||Up to 4K UHD at 60 fps|
|Processor||Quad-core 1.8GHz (750MHz GPU)||Quad-core 1.7 GHz (650MHz GPU)|
|Wireless||Wi-Fi 6, 802.11a/b/g/n/ac/ax||802.11a/b/g/n/ac|
|Dimensions||4.25 x 1.18 x 0.55 inches||4.25 x 1.18 x 0.55 inches|
|Audio||Dolby Atmos, 7.1 surround sound, 2-channel stereo and HDMI audio pass through up to 5.1||Dolby Atmos, 7.1 surround sound, 2-channel stereo and HDMI audio pass through up to 5.1|
|Video||HDR10, HDR10+, Dolby Vision||HDR10, HDR10+, Dolby Vision|
|Remote||Alexa Voice Remote w/ Live TV and App buttons||Alexa Voice Remote w/ Live TV and App buttons|
|Live View picture-in-picture||Yes||No|
Fire TV Stick 4K Max vs Fire TV Stick 4K: Price and value
Normally, the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max costs $54, a mere $5 more than the $49 Fire TV Stick 4K. As we'll explain throughout this piece, you get small perks in exchange for that extra cash. If the difference in pricing is closer to the $5 price of their regular MSRP, we'd give this category to Fire TV Stick 4K Max. At this very moment, the Fire TV Stick 4K is the better deal. But that could change whenever Amazon's sales adjust.
Winner: Draw (depends on the day)
Fire TV Stick 4K Max vs Fire TV Stick 4K: Audio and video
The Fire TV Stick 4K Max and Fire Stick 4K are exactly identical when it comes to the sound and picture of the shows and movies you'll watch. And because of that we expect many to just pick the cheaper option.
Both sticks stream at 4K UHD at 60 fps, and both support the high-end video quality Dolby Vision, HDR 10 and HDR10+ formats, which should ensure stronger and bolder colors.
The story stays the same on audio output. Both 4K Fire TV sticks support the Dolby Atmos sound standard, which looks to give you a spatial audio experience where the sounds of the shows you listen to are supposed to surround you.
To that end, both Fire TV Sticks support 7.1 surround sound speaker setups, 2-channel stereo and 5.1 channel-audio via HDMI audio pass through.
Fire TV Stick 4K Max vs Fire TV Stick 4K: Performance
Okay, here's where the differences kick in. And while Amazon claims that Fire TV Stick 4K Max is "40% more powerful," you won't see that much of a difference in every department. The Fire TV Stick 4K Max's new processor is one of the ways it improves, with a 1.8GHz quad-core CPU and 750MHz GPU (the normal Fire TV Stick 4K's got a 1.7GHz quad-core CPU and a 650MHz GPU).
That said, the Fire TV Stick 4K Max offers snappier menu navigation, something I've always had an issue with when it comes to Amazon devices.
To try and test them in similar situations, I tried loadings apps from a fresh, restarted state. Disney Plus loaded in 8.87 seconds on the Fire TV Stick 4K Max, shedding 34% of the Fire TV Stick 4K's 13.47-second load time. My stopwatch wasn't exactly necessary for this test, as the animated "Disney+" logo stuttered on the Fire TV Stick 4K, and not on Fire TV Stick 4K Max. Similarly, Netflix loaded in 1.38 seconds on the Fire TV Stick 4K Max and 20 seconds to load on the Fire TV Stick 4K.
The YouTube app was a different story. The Fire TV Stick 4K Max loaded the program in 5.64 seconds, only a little more than a second faster than the 6.91 time from the normal 4K stick.
Actually watching content is a dead-heat, as I saw when I timed how long it took to start the Black Widow movie on the Disney Plus app. The retro comics of the Marvel Studios logo appeared 8.89 seconds in on the 4K Max, and at 8.41 seconds on the Fire TV 4K, and since those times are so especially close, I'm willing to chalk this one up to a difference in how fast my fingers can tap my stopwatch.
Amazon's also upgraded the wireless modem in the Fire TV Stick 4K Max to support Wi-Fi 6 / 802.11a/b/g/n/ac/ax. To see the differences, you'll need a Wi-Fi 6 router (which doesn't feel like a must-have yet, though it's something we will probably get sooner or later).
Winner: Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max
Fire TV Stick 4K Max vs Fire TV Stick 4K: Apps and software
No matter which Fire TV device you buy, you get the same apps and interface (one which Amazon modified recently, but only with a slightly newer look, as everything is more or less the same, features-wise).
That means both the Fire TV Stick 4K Max vs Fire TV Stick 4K have the same 12,700+ apps.
That includes the best streaming services, such as HBO Max, Netflix and Hulu, as well as Disney Plus, Plex, Paramount Plus and more.
Both devices also have the same version of the Fire TV OS.
Fire TV Stick 4K Max vs Fire TV Stick 4K: Design
In a week's time, after I've not seen these Fire Sticks in my hand, when the Max is still tucked away behind my TV, I don't know if I'd be able to tell you which Stick is which. As you can see above, they are rectangular dongles of the exact same shape and size (4.25 x 1.18 x 0.55 inches), with HDMI ports.
The only thing that differentiates them (aside from the fine print with their respective model numbers) is the logos. The older Fire TV Stick 4K only has the Amazon "smile arrow" logo, while the Fire TV Stick 4K Max has a smaller version of that 'smile' with the 'fire tv' branding above it.
Fire TV Stick 4K Max vs Fire TV Stick 4K: Features
One new feature stands between the Fire TV Stick 4K Max and its slightly more affordable sibling — and it's not a boon to the 'streaming' that we think about when we're talking about the best streaming devices.
The Fire TV Stick 4K Max lets you check your connected home security camera feeds around your home with Live View Picture-in-Picture feature (formerly exclusive to the Fire TV Cube).
Another smart home feature (which isn't available yet, but is coming soon) for the Fire TV Stick 4K Max is the ability to wirelessly connect to the best Alexa speakers for "immersive audio" (Amazon's words).
Winner: Fire TV Stick 4K Max
Fire TV Stick 4K Max vs Fire TV Stick 4K: Remotes
Originally, there was a fair bit of difference between the Fire TV 4K remotes. The original version of this article cited a Live TV button and branded app buttons as exclusive to the 4K Max remote.
That's not the case anymore. Both remotes have those buttons, along with the blue Alexa button, TV volume and power buttons and all the rest.
If they haven't tried it yet, cord cutters should look at the Live TV button (right under the Fast Forward), which jumps you to the Live TV Guide (which you can connect to your live TV service of choice under Settings > Live TV > Sync Sources > select your source).
But as much as we don't like to give out ties, that's what we have here. They're the same remote.
Fire TV Stick 4K Max vs Fire TV Stick 4K: Scorecard and verdict
|Header Cell - Column 0||Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max||Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max|
|Price and value (15 points)||12||12|
|Audio and video (20 points)||20||20|
|Performance (15 points)||14||11|
|Remote (10 points)||10||10|
|Apps (10 points)||10||10|
|Features (15 points)||15||13|
|Design (15 points)||15||15|
|Total (100 points)||96||93|
This scorecard shows that the difference between the Fire TV Stick 4K Max vs Fire TV Stick 4K is, in academic terms, an A vs an A+. The original Fire TV Stick 4K is still pretty damn good, but the 4K Max is just a bit better in a few ways.
The Fire TV Stick 4K Max has the speed advantage (though it's not as grand as we'd hoped), and a couple of new special features for the smart home. And if the price difference between the two is only $5, we'd say go with the Fire TV Stick 4K Max.
But if Amazon drops the Fire TV Stick 4K to a much lower price and widens the gap between them, you may want to just go with the Fire TV Stick 4K. When it comes to actually streaming shows and movies, it's just as good as its counterpart (unless you have a Wi-Fi 6 router).
And for those who are debating upgrading? Well, we're not sure if smart home camera and speaker support and bit more speed seem like they're worth $55, when you already have a similar (and good) streaming stick. The choice is yours.