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

Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max plugged horizontally into TV
(Image credit: Henry T. Casey)

The Amazon Fire TV Cube and Sticks have a lot in common, but distinct differences to make things a little more complicated. These devices are known for their affordable prices, but the Cube is decidedly much pricier (with good reason). But when there are five different models it can get confusing to figure out which you should buy. 

The five 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.

Only two of those (the 4K Max and TV Cube), though are fast enough to be on our list of the best streaming devices. Of those 4K models, the Fire TV Stick 4K is likely the most popular, as people want 4K as cheap as they can get it. And right now, the Fire TV Stick 4K is 30% off at Amazon (opens in new tab) (an even better sale than the last time we checked, when it was 20% off).

With a Fire TV device, you can access almost all of your favorite apps, like Netflix and Hulu. That said, all of the best streaming services are also on Roku. So you should check out our Roku vs. Amazon Fire TV Stick face-off to see how the two compare.

Latest Fire TV Stick news (updated June 17)

• A updated Fire TV home screen is rolling out to all devices
• The Fire TV Stick Max is on sale for $39 at Amazon (opens in new tab)
• Do you know how to customize the Fire TV home screen?

We at Tom's Guide have tested and reviewed all of these Fire TV devices (including the most-recent Fire TV 4K Stick Max), and while one is arguably the best for the buck, they're all at least worth considering — especially for dedicated Amazon Prime subscribers looking to watch the best Amazon movies and TV shows.

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 all of these devices share the same OS, our tip for the one tip every Fire TV owner should know applies to each and every one of them. While the Fire TVs don't give you a lot of control over your home screen, this tip can help you make the most of this situation.

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

As the name suggests, the Fire TV Cube features a different appearance entirely: a 3.4-inch square box. Some require constant connection to a wall outlet; the Fire TV Max, though, can be powered through one of your TV's USB ports.

an Amazon Fire TV Stick and remote

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

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 five 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.

The Fire TV Stick Max, though, has an extra button on its remote: Live TV. This button jumps you straight to that section of the Fire TV OS, which integrates with Sling TV and other services.

There's also a new way to more easily customize the live TV screen, thanks to the newly-announced (opens in new tab) "Add Channels" button.

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. This makes sense, though, as it's not just a Fire TV device — it's also a full-fledged Alexa speaker. If you don't have a smart speaker in your den, or want your very own digital assistant built into a versatile streaming box, the Fire TV Cube makes sense. 

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 is a senior editor at Tom’s Guide covering streaming media, laptops and all things Apple, reviewing devices and services for the past seven 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?
    Reply
  • screecwe
    You have the prices swapped on the table.
    Reply
  • jackmrack77
    Nice list
    Reply
  • 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!
    Reply
  • 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.
    Reply
  • sumayakhan
    Whole discussion is really valuable for me.
    Reply
  • sumayakhan
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    Reply
  • ray.shaw000
    The Fire TV 2nd Gen, discontinued, is still the best. The Cube and the Dongle are not good devices. Too slow.
    Reply
  • 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
    Reply
  • emilyandrson93
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    Reply