Skip to main content

Amazon Fire TV Cube vs. Fire TV Stick vs. Fire TV Stick 4K vs 4K Max: What should you buy?

The Amazon Fire TV Cube plugged into a TV

Amazon Fire TV devices both offer an easy gateway to all of content in the Amazon ecosystem — from Amazon's channels for cord-cutters to all of the apps you could ask for — and an affordable price to boot. But when there are four different models — and three are all Fire Sticks — it can get confusing to figure out which you should buy. 

The four distinct Amazon Fire TV devices start with the popular 1080p Amazon Fire TV Stick and the new Fire TV Stick Lite, two affordable ways to start streaming. Check out our Fire TV Stick vs Fire TV Stick Lite comparison for the major differences if you're looking for something cheap. 

For those who want UHD streaming, the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max and Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K are quite similar, while the  Amazon Fire TV Cube is the odd egg out. All three, though, offer UHD streaming. All of these devices now offer the same Fire TV OS, thanks to an update that took its sweet time to roll out.

With a Fire TV device, you can access almost all of your favorite apps, like Netflix and Hulu.

Latest Fire TV Stick news (updated Oct. 7)

• Check out our Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max review.
• In a sale that feels like it won't end, Amazon's got the Fire TV Stick 4K on sale for $33.
Peacock finally landed on the Fire TV platform, after a 14-month absence.
• Watch Party, Amazon's synced streaming experience, is finally coming to the Fire TV and mobile apps.

We at Tom's Guide have tested and reviewed all of these Fire TV devices (including the newly-updated Fire TV Stick 2020), and while one is arguably the best for the buck, they're all at least worth considering — especially for dedicated Amazon Prime subscribers. 

In terms of content (not to be confused with streaming quality), the Fire Sticks and Cube all offer the same programming and apps. And since budgets are getting tighter and we're all looking for more to stream, Amazon recently added a Free tab to the top of the Fire TV interface, that collects stuff you don't need to pay to watch. 

An Amazon Fire TV Stick or Cube can be a tremendously useful investment, especially if you're stuck inside for an extended period of time. Not only can you watch TV and movies from Amazon, but you can also download a variety of other streaming apps, control your smart home with Alexa functionality and perhaps even enjoy a few decent games.

With the new Fire TV OS, you can set up personal profiles so that your watchlist doesn't get mixed up with your kids' favorite shows. 

Here's how the Amazon Fire Cube vs. Fire Stick (in both of its configurations) shakes out:

Fire Cube vs. Fire Stick: Size and design

One of the biggest differences among the devices is how they look (at least between the Sticks and Cube). The Fire TV Stick is the smallest of the bunch: a small black rectangle measuring 3.3 x 1.0 inches — and the Fire TV Stick Lite is just a little larger, at 3.4 x 1.2 inches. 

The Fire TV Stick 4K and 4K Max have the same general design, but a bit bigger, at 4.25 x 1.18 x 0.55 inches. To master Amazon's cheapest Fire TV streamer, check out our guide for how to use the Fire Stick.

A Fire TV Stick and remote

Amazon Fire TV Stick
Amazon Fire TV Stick

As the name suggests, the Fire TV Cube features a different appearance entirely: a 3.4-inch square box. All four require constant connection to a wall outlet; your TV cannot supply sufficient power for even the tiny Fire TV Stick through its USB ports.

an Amazon Fire TV Stick and remote

Fire Stick 4K
Fire Stick 4K

While all five products are relatively small, it's worth considering how much space you have around your TV. If you have lots of room, a Fire TV Cube will fit just fine; if not, one of the dongles will have to suffice.

Fire TV Cube connected to a TV and soundbar

Amazon Fire TV Cube
Amazon Fire TV Cube

Finally, only the Fire TV Cube supports Ethernet connections out of the box. You can buy an Ethernet adapter for either the Fire TV Stick or the Fire TV Stick 4K, but it's a bit of a daisy chain. Just keep that in mind if your Wi-Fi isn't strong enough for 4K streaming (about 25 Mbps down).

Fire Cube vs. Fire Stick: 4K and HDR

Simply put: The Fire TV Cube, Fire TV Stick 4K and 4K Max support 4K resolutions and HDR protocols. The Fire TV Stick does not. If you have a TV that maxes out at 1080p, the standard Fire TV Stick is fine; otherwise, you'll definitely want one of the other two devices.

Fire TV home screen on a TV in a living room

(Image credit: Amazon)

Both the Fire TV Stick 4K, 4K Max and the Fire TV Cube support 4K resolution and the HDR 10 and Dolby Vision protocols, which provide a much richer color gamut. Previously, this functionality was available only in the Fire TV Stick 4K, but a newer version of the Fire TV Cube has corrected the oversight.

Fire Cube vs. Fire Stick: Alexa integration

Like just about every Amazon gadget on the market lately, all three Fire TV Sticks feature full Alexa integration. This means that you can check the weather, manage your shopping list, look up sports scores, research traffic conditions and create impromptu playlists using only your voice. All four Fire TV models come with voice remotes, so you can start using Alexa as soon as the setup is complete.

Amazon Fire TV interface

However, the Fire TV Cube handles these features just a little bit better than its dongle counterparts. That's because in addition to being a streaming device, the Fire TV Cube is also a full-fledged Alexa speaker. That means that you can speak to it and give it commands without having to hold down a button on the remote.

Furthermore — and this is a bigger deal for people with smart-home gadgetry — that means that the Fire TV Cube can also control your lights, thermostats and other IoT devices right out of the box. The Fire TV Stick and Fire TV Stick 4K can also do this, but you have to first connect them with an Amazon Echo speaker.

Briefly, then: If you want an Alexa-enabled speaker and a streaming device, but have neither, the Fire TV Cube is your simplest solution. If you already have an Echo speaker, or don't want one, one of the Fire TV Stick variants will be fine.

Fire Cube vs. Fire Stick: Remote controls

If you want a fancy remote control, you're going to have to pay extra for it. The standard Amazon Fire TV Stick comes with a voice remote, but that's about the most innovative thing about it. (Old-timers may remember that when it first came out, the Fire TV Stick didn't have a microphone at all.) Otherwise, all it's got is the standard array of d-pad, confirm, play/pause, rewind, fast-forward, home, back and options buttons.

Amazon Fire TV remote

The Fire TV Stick Lite remote drops the TV controls for power and volume, so you might not want that device if you're trying to cut down on clutter.

Both the Fire TV Stick 4K and the Fire TV Cube come with Amazon's upgraded Alexa remote. (Don't let the name confuse you; you can still use Alexa features with the regular voice remote.) This remote features four important buttons missing from the basic voice remote: power, volume up, volume down and mute. The Alexa remote syncs automatically with your TV, and you can use it to control the whole TV set — not just the Fire TV player.

While you could buy the Alexa remote for $30 on its own, considering that the Fire TV Stick costs $40 and the Fire TV Stick 4K $50, it's a much smarter idea to just buy the 4K stick if the remote is a big deal to you. In my own tests, I found it pretty useful.

Fire Cube vs. Fire Stick: Price and value

As stated above, the Amazon Fire TV Stick Lite is the cheapest of the bunch at $30, followed by the $40 Fire TV Stick, the Fire TV Stick 4K at $50 and the Fire TV Cube at $120. And at $55, the Fire TV Stick 4K Max is asking for a little more than the 4K.

To put it bluntly, there is almost no reason why anyone should invest in the Fire TV Stick, when the 4K variant is only $10 more and comes with a much better remote control. Not only will you be future-proofing your purchase, but you'll also have a better peripheral right off the bat. And if performance and app open times matter to you, get the Fire TV Stick 4K Max.

The Fire TV Cube, on the other hand, is a bit expensive unless you specifically want Echo-like speaker functionality. If you have a smart-home setup, or want your very own digital assistant built into a versatile streaming box, the Fire TV Cube makes sense. But that's probably a limited market, especially since I imagine a lot of Amazon aficionados already have an Echo speaker, or something similar that can respond to Alexa commands.

In the battle of Fire Stick 4K vs. Fire Stick vs. Fire TV Cube, the $50 Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K represents the sensible midpoint that should work best for most viewers. It has the best balance of price and functionality.

Henry T. Casey

Henry is a senior editor at Tom’s Guide covering streaming media, laptops and all things Apple, reviewing devices and services for the past six-plus years. Prior to joining Tom's Guide, he reviewed software and hardware for TechRadar Pro, and interviewed artists for Patek Philippe International Magazine. He's also covered the wild world of professional wrestling for Cageside Seats, interviewing athletes and other industry veterans.

  • Steve310
    What about speed of the device? I have a first gen Fire Stick and loading an app like CNN taaaaaaakkkkkkkkeeeeees forever. It the second gen Fire TV (the box) faster at loading something like CNN?
  • screecwe
    You have the prices swapped on the table.
  • jackmrack77
    Nice list
  • acovino610
    Hello Tom..

    ~ Just a friendly but Important FYI - Something that I think everyone Needs to be Fully Aware of, there is a LITTLE Mishap with Amazon at the moment where the newest System/Software Update STILL does NOT Include the option to adjust the "Display Scaling" on the 2nd Gen. FireStick. HOWEVER, with the update the New FireTV (NOT THE STICK) Does now have the option to adjust the "Arrows" in the "display scaling" related section under settings menu. I just wanted to throw that out there because this can really be a big deal breaker if for instance like myself own a Panasonic television that doesn't quite have the correct overscan or under scanning or Zoom function/features it needs, in order to adjust to Amazons default display aspect ratio... I guess Amazon is supposedly working on it but I have heard people getting refunds or like $10 off or back because of the inconvenience FYI. I myself I'm going to try to see if they will send me a Fire TV in place of my stick for the same price because of the inconvenience ;-) BOYEEE! This is a bad, bad boo-boo buy Amazon, Millions of New Firesticks out there with no way of adjusting the display size which, could very easily be done on the 1st Gen. FireStick!! That's right, Fix It & "Improve/Upgrade It" until it's broken people Smh... Lol! don't get like Microsoft now Amazon! Come on now you're better than this!... ;-) MAYBE, Tom, :-) you could take a look into this & see if there is a workaround for this or a patch Etc...?? And AS ALWAYS THANKS for the Awesome Website & guided help!
  • isamuelson
    I had the stick then traded it in for the 4k version after it went on sale for $49.99. Not disappointed in the least. The performance difference between the two is like night and day.
  • sumayakhan
    Whole discussion is really valuable for me.
  • sumayakhan is one of my favorite site to acknowledge the solutions of Tech related problems.
  • ray.shaw000
    The Fire TV 2nd Gen, discontinued, is still the best. The Cube and the Dongle are not good devices. Too slow.
  • tjhall1000
    i came for a comparison of the devices to see core speeds and ram size and storage spaces. this "review" type thing was useless to help me find the best specs for cheapest price. i hope this guy doesnt work for the website lol he leaves way too much info out of his stuff
  • emilyandrson93
    I sought an examination of the gadgets to see center speeds and smash size and storage rooms. this "audit" type thing was futile to enable me to locate the best specs for the least expensive cost. I seek this person doesn't work after the site lol he leaves an excessive amount of information out of his stuff