Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max review: a fast streamer with cluttered menus

While using Amazon’s new Fire TV Stick 4K Max, an unusual phenomenon emerges: Instead of scrolling through its many on-screen menus, you may find yourself relying more on voice control.

That’s partly because Alexa is a nimble and capable voice assistant on the Fire TV, and partly because Amazon’s menu system is an absolute disaster. Either way, the resulting experience feels profoundly different from the Roku, Apple TV, and Android TV devices.

If a voice broadcast player first sounds attractive, the $ 55 Fire TV Stick 4K Max It has a lot to offer, including fast performance, a feature-packed remote, and support for Dolby Vision HDR and Dolby Atmos audio. But cable cutters more inclined to navigate on-screen menus should look elsewhere for a simpler experience.

Faster than ever

As of now, Amazon is selling the new Fire TV Stick 4K Max alongside the existing Fire TV 4K, which is priced at $ 50 but is often discounted. While both streaming players support 4K HDR video, Dolby Vision, HDR10 +, and Dolby Atmos audio, the Max has a faster processor, 2GB of RAM (compared to 1.5GB on the previous device), Wi-Fi 6 support. and a new remote with more buttons.

firetvstick4kmaxremote Jared Newman / IDG

A new remote adds preset app buttons and a shortcut to Amazon’s Live TV menu.

The new processor and added memory make a big difference compared to cheaper Fire TV models, which are prone to stuttering and lagging in Amazon’s recently revamped menu system. The Max never stumbles this way or takes too long to load apps, and holding down the Alexa button on the remote produces an instant response. (Compared to the Roku Streaming Stick 4K, the performance is roughly comparable.)

The effects of Wi-Fi 6 will be harder to notice. While it’s better than Wi-Fi 5 at handling many simultaneous connections, its theoretically faster speeds don’t matter for streaming video, where even a 25Mbps connection is sufficient for 4K HDR. (Even Wi-Fi 5 can reach speeds well above that number.) You will also need a Wi-Fi 6 router to take full advantage of the new technology.

Remote and accessory mount

As for the remote, it’s the same one that now comes with Amazon’s standard Fire TV Stick, with a blue Alexa button, four preset app shortcut buttons, and a Live TV button that takes you straight to the guide. Fire TV grid. Its rubberized keys give off a satisfying click, and a little bump on the Home button helps your thumb land in the right place. Like most other Fire TV devices, the remote’s IR blaster can control televisions or A / V equipment, so you never need to have a remote on hand for volume or power. (Only the $ 30 Fire TV Stick Lite lacks this feature.)

fire control Jared Newman / IDG

Unlike Roku remotes, the Fire TV can independently control sound bars and A / V equipment via infrared, which is useful if your setup doesn’t support HDMI-CEC.

The Live TV button is especially useful if you subscribe to YouTube TV, Sling TV, or Philo, as Amazon’s guide can show you what’s on any of those services without needing to access the app first. It also integrates free channels from Pluto TV, Plex, Tubi, and Amazon’s IMDb TV service, and you can customize the guide by filtering the sources and setting your favorite channels.

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