Starting price: $59.99
Size: 99 mm x 30 mm x 14 mm (housing)
Processor: Quad-core 2.0GHz (850MHz GPU)
Wireless: Wi-Fi 6E tri-band
Storage: 16 GB
Ports: HDMI, Micro-USB
Max video resolution: 2160p up to 60 fps
HDR formats: Dolby Vision, HDR 10, HDR10+, HLG
Audio formats: Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby Atmos
Remote: Alexa Voice Remote Enhanced
The new Fire TV Stick 4K Max (2nd gen) is proof that streaming sticks have hit a wall when it comes to improvements. Amazon has upgraded it with a more powerful processor and faster Wi-Fi connection, yet it really isn’t a huge leap over the previous generation.
Plus, as well-built as Fire TV sticks are, they are all hampered by the Fire TV interface. The streaming staff at Tom’s Guide, myself included, prefer the simplicity and relative agnosticism of rivals like Roku and Apple.
Still, as this Fire TV Stick 4K Max (2nd gen) will show, even the minimal upgrades made this new player good enough to replace its predecessor in our best streaming devices list.
Fire TV Stick 4K Max (2nd gen): Price and availability
The new 2023 Fire TV Stick 4K Max (2nd gen) costs $59.99 and is available for purchase now at Amazon and other major retailers. That’s $10 more than the 2023 Fire TV Stick 4K (2nd gen).
Fire TV Stick 4K Max (2nd gen): Design
The new 2023 Fire TV Stick 4K Max looks almost identical to the first generation: a small, slim, black rectangle with an HDMI port on one end. It’s about the same size as a lighter. The only slight difference is that the corners and edges are rounded. It plugs directly into your television set, though an included extender helps if the fit is awkward.
The only other port, besides HDMI, is a micro-USB to connect to a power source. Unlike the pricier Fire TV Cube, the Fire TV Stick 4K Max (2nd gen) can’t hook up to any other external devices, such as a hard drive. That’s pretty standard for a streaming dongle. It’s meant to tuck away and do its thing without further thought.
Fire TV Stick 4K Max (2nd gen): Interface
At this point, setting up any streaming stick is a breeze. It took about five minutes to set up the Fire TV Stick 4K Max, and most of that time was taken up by software updates. Otherwise, all it took was entering Wi-Fi and Amazon logins.
Once set-up was complete, I was taken to the Fire TV home screen — a familiar sight, as not much has changed since the latest interface update rolled out last year. It streamlined the navigation menu and made some other cosmetic changes.
But the Fire TV interface still revolves around Amazon-owned channels and content. The home screen feels like a giant ad for Prime Video, Freevee and even MGM Plus. Those apps were automatically included in the navigation bar (though you can edit it).
My Continue Watching row just below the menu was populated solely by titles from Prime Video. Right below that was a row touting Amazon originals and exclusives, like the recent movies Cassandro and Sitting in Bars With Cake.
After that, I finally got a row of my recently used apps, like Hulu, Max and Sling. But as you continue scrolling, all of the content offerings are from Amazon. The Fire TV interface really isn’t all that different from the Prime Video interface.
And because the interface chooses to use branded logos (of Amazon-owned channels), it’s not as sleek and attractive as the home screens of Apple TV 4K (2022) or even any Roku device.
Fire TV Stick 4K Max (2nd gen): Performance
When they announced the Fire TV Stick 4K Max (2nd gen), Amazon boasted it was its best, fastest, most powerful streaming stick yet. It’s got an upgraded 2.0 GHz quad-core processor and Wi-Fi 6E support. Unfortunately, my router is older and doesn’t provide access to a 6GHz band, so I wasn’t able to test this performance.
Still, my Wi-Fi network at home is pretty fast with almost no lags. I’ve tested other streaming devices on it, including previous models of Fire TV Sticks. I can say that the performance improvements of the Fire TV Stick 4K Max (2nd gen) are not terribly significant.
Navigation through the interface and menus was zippy. Apps, movies and shows all launched fairly quickly, but not “lightning fast” as Amazon calls it. Here’s a comparison of some app launch times compared to the 2023 Fire TV Stick 4K’s competitors:
|Header Cell - Column 0||Fire TV Stick 4K Max||Roku Streaming Stick 4K 4K||Chromecast with Google TV 4K||Apple TV 4K 2022|
Based on those numbers, the Fire TV Stick 4K Max (2nd gen) is an upgrade, just not a massive one.
As far as video quality, I have a decent TCL 4K set, but not an OLED, so I couldn’t tell how good the HDR support is. Everything looked fantastic — clear, crisp and vibrant. Then again, it’s been possibly never since we tested a streaming stick with poor-looking video. Usually, low quality video is the fault of the source or your internet connection.
Fire TV Stick 4K Max (2nd gen): Search
Alexa was as quick and accurate as ever in delivering search results. When I prompted it to find “Ryan Gosling movies,” Alexa came with multiple titles featuring the actor from various sources, including The Gray Man on Netflix and the option to buy Barbie on digital release.
I also asked Alexa to “play Suits” and it responded by opening Netflix and displaying the info page for the legal drama.
The voice search also works with general queries. I asked it to find pizza places near me and it brought back several results based on my location.
Fire TV Stick 4K Max (2nd gen): Remote
The Fire TV Stick 4K Max (2nd gen) comes with the Alexa Voice Remote Enhanced. Like other Alexa Voice remotes, it’s black and rectangular with a rounded back.
The power button and Alexa button sit at the top, above a directional pad and playback controls. At the bottom are four pre-programmed channel buttons for Prime Video, Netflix, DirecTV and Peacock. Unlike the Alexa Voice Remote Pro, there are no customizable buttons.
But at least unlike the Alexa Voice Remote Lite (which comes with the Fire TV Stick Lite), you can turn on the TV with the Enhanced remote and control the volume, so you can reduce clutter by putting away your television remote.
Fire TV Stick 4K Max (2nd gen): Verdict
The 2023 Fire TV Stick 4K Max has the power and speed to become the best streaming stick among Amazon’s Fire TV players. The enhanced processor and Wi-Fi connections will reduce the time it takes to open apps and play content. But it’s slightly more than similar devices made by Roku and Google, which is a knock against it.
The bigger issue is the Fire TV interface, which goes across all of Amazon’s streaming devices, not just this model. As it always has, Fire TV puts Amazon’s content in your face, which is understandable, but can be annoying and frustrating.
All in all, the Fire TV Stick 4K Max (2nd gen) is a good streaming stick at a decent price. But with so many other options on the market, “good” and “decent” aren’t enough to make me choose it over the Roku Streaming Stick 4K or the Chromecast With Google TV. Certainly, I expect Amazon to offer deals on this product come Black Friday, at which point, the Fire TV Stick 4K Max (2nd gen) could be worth getting. For now, I’ll put a hold on it.