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 no longer a single product: it's now a family of devices, each one of which has a different design or content focus.
Credit: Amazon.com, Inc.
Tom's Guide has reviewed the 1080p Fire TV Stick as well as the 4K Fire TV and Fire TV Cube. We were reasonably pleased with all three. 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 Cube for someone who doesn't have a 4K TV would be a waste of potential.
Latest News and Updates (Sept. 2018)
- At an event in Seattle, Amazon announced the Fire TV Recast device. This will allow Fire TV users to record shows from over-the-air TV. Once recorded, users can watch those shows from any device linked to their accounts.
- Fire TV competitor Roku will release a $40 4K HDR player called the Roku Premiere. This costs less than any 4K system that Amazon currently offers.
Here are a few differences to keep in mind if you just can't decide among the available models.
|Fire TV Cube||Fire TV||Fire TV Stick|
|Alexa-based Voice Controls||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Alexa-based Hardware Controls||Yes||No||No|
|Ethernet Adapter||Included||Not included||Not included|
|Far-field voice control||Yes||No||No|
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If you have a 4K TV, the Fire TV and Fire TV Cube 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 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 and Fire TV Cube offer full HDR support, while the Fire TV Stick does not. It's yet another reason to consider the Fire TV or Fire TV Cube 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.
All models of the Fire TV have access to Amazon's digital assistant, Alexa. With a voice remote, you can give the Fire TV or Fire TV Stick commands, and benefit from Alexa's wisdom on everything from weather to smart home integration. However, the Fire Cube TV also has a built-in Alexa speaker, obviating the need for voice control via remote. If you're a huge fan of operating your electronics with Alexa, the Fire TV Cube may be worth the premium.
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 and Fire TV Cube have 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 or Cube, 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 three systems is how much they cost. The Fire TV Cube sells for $120, while the Fire TV retails for $70, and the Fire TV Stick costs just $40. There's no one-size-fits-all advice for which of the three to buy, but generally speaking, I found that the Fire TV Stick was a perfectly good product for the price.
The Fire TV or Fire TV Cube is the way to go if you need 4K/HDR capabilities. The Cube also has a built-in Ethernet adapter, so you don't have to purchase a separate $15 attachment if you're planning to hard-wire your device. Otherwise, save yourself a little money and get the cheaper Stick.