If you're invested in the Amazon ecosystem of products, you may want an Amazon Fire TV, to access all your movies, TV and music on the big screen. The only problem is that the Fire TV is not a single product: you can buy it in either UHD or full HD configurations.
Tom's Guide has reviewed the 1080p Fire TV Stick as well as the 4K HDR All-New Fire TV, and we were reasonably pleased with both. While it's true that the products have more similarities than differences, there are a few ways in which they vary. Buying a Fire TV Stick for a gamer, for example, would be a bad idea, while buying a Fire TV for someone who doesn't have a 4K TV would be a waste of potential.
On the other hand, both devices open a gateway to Amazon original programming including The Grand Tour and The Marvelous Mrs. Maizel, as well as access most of the same channels, including third-party software. Although the Fire TV has more nuanced control over Amazon's Alexa, both devices can leverage the digital assistant's abilities and artificial intelligence. (They're also both on bad terms with Google apps, and may not be the best choice if you love YouTube, YouTube Red, YouTube TV and the like.)
In order to see how the Fire TV and the Fire TV Stick stacked up against the competition, check out our 4K streaming dongle face-off, and our budget streaming stick face-off, respectively. Also check out our list of Best Movies on Amazon Prime if you need a starting point for your streaming.
Here are a few differences to keep in mind if you just can't decide between the two.
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If you have a 4K TV, the Fire TV will help you get the most out of it. This device supports a variety of apps in full UHD resolution, including heavy hitters like Amazon Video, Netflix and YouTube. The Fire TV Stick, on the other hand, caps out at a full HD resolution of 1080p. While the Fire TV will work with full HD machines, and the Fire TV Stick will work with UHD machines, you should probably get the one that's optimized for your TV's display.
Having UHD resolution is only half of what makes a TV show or movie look spectacular — the other half is how well it displays color. High dynamic range (HDR) protocols let viewers experience richer palettes and more vibrant contrasts. Simply put, the Fire TV proper offers full HDR support, while the Fire TV Stick does not. It's yet another reason to consider the Fire TV if you have a compatible TV — and yet another reason to consider the Fire TV Stick if you're still rocking a 1080p, standard-color display.
While the Fire TV and the Fire TV Stick run on the same operating system, the stick is much less powerful. Consequently, it cannot support as many games, especially when the games are technically demanding.
The Fire TV has access to favorite titles such as Minecraft, Grand Theft Auto, Max Payne, The Walking Dead and The Wolf Among Us. The Fire TV Stick does not, although it can still run lightweight casual games, such as Wind-Up Knight.
If gaming is a big concern, stick with the Fire TV, and consider an optional Amazon Fire controller ($40) as well. If not, the stick will suffice, but don't expect gaming to be more than an afterthought.
Price and Value
Arguably the biggest difference between the two systems is how much they cost. The full-fledged Fire TV retails for $70, while the Fire TV Stick costs just $40. There's no one-size-fits-all advice for which of the two to buy, but generally speaking, I found that the Fire TV Stick was a perfectly good product for the price.
If you need 4K/HDR capabilities and a little extra power for gaming, the Fire TV is the way to go. Otherwise, save yourself a little money and get its cheaper cousin.