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Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max review: the one to buy

The tech business certain has put a variety of hype behind descriptors like “max” over the previous few years. So when Amazon introduced the $54.99 Fire TV Stick 4K Max final month, I couldn’t assist however cringe at the concept of a streaming machine selecting up that form of branding. What might max presumably imply on this context? It’s bought nothing to do with the bodily design; the Fire TV Stick 4K Max is visually indistinguishable from the current Fire TV Stick 4K. And the two merchandise go tit for tat of their core video and audio streaming options regardless of the older mannequin typically being discounted; at the time of this evaluate, the common Fire TV Stick 4K is on sale for $33.99.

On this case, “max” is definitely about the smaller issues. The brand new stick is 40 p.c extra highly effective than the commonplace model, which ends up in apps launching sooner and navigation that feels noticeably extra fluid and freed from stutters or lag. There’s extra RAM inside so that you don’t have to look ahead to apps to utterly reload as typically. Amazon has upgraded the Wi-Fi to Wi-Fi 6 for higher wi-fi streaming efficiency — assuming you’ve bought a router that may make the most of it. And also you additionally get a more moderen Alexa voice distant in the field with app shortcuts and a useful shortcut to reside TV programming.

As I discussed earlier, the stick itself is not possible to inform aside from the commonplace Fire TV Stick 4K. Sadly, regardless of going “max,” Amazon apparently didn’t see match to improve to USB-C for the (required) plug-in energy; this machine retains the Micro USB on its aspect. However getting up and operating stays simple: plug the Fire TV Stick 4K Max right into a free HDMI port in your TV, discover an outlet for that USB energy adapter, toss the included batteries into the distant, and also you’re good to go.

Amazon bundles the newest model of its Alexa voice distant with the new streaming stick. Other than the standard playback buttons, there are additionally devoted TV controls for energy and quantity. And also you’ll additionally discover 4 branded shortcuts for Prime Video, Netflix, Disney Plus, and Hulu. (These can technically be reprogrammed, but it’s quite a process.) You’ve nonetheless bought to press and maintain the Alexa button for voice searches or good residence instructions. Talking of which, one new trick the Fire TV Stick 4K Max positive aspects over the common mannequin is the potential to see a reside, picture-in-picture view of your property cameras. The Fire TV Dice can even do that, however not any of Amazon’s different streaming devices.

One other benefit of the newer distant is the information button, which may rapidly take you to reside TV from supported companies that combine straight with Amazon’s channel information. These embrace YouTube TV, Sling TV, Hulu with Stay TV, Pluto TV, Tubi, and extra. It’s not like the reside TV tab is tough to discover on the Fire TV homescreen, however I’m all the time right here for time savers.

When it comes to their visible capabilities, the Fire TV Stick 4K Max and Fire TV Stick 4K are basically similar. They each supply Dolby Imaginative and prescient, HDR10+, HDR10, and HLG. One quiet improve Amazon made to the newer {hardware} is assist for AV1 video decoding, which can be welcome information to YouTube; AV1 decoding was one of the factors of rivalry in the firm’s very public spat with Roku. Amazon adopting the performance ought to head off the chance of an analogous dispute.

Sound specs between Amazon’s two 4K sticks (every helps Dolby Atmos) are additionally supposed to be the identical, however that is one space the place the newer stick pulls forward due to… Netflix. For no matter purpose, as noted by AFTVnews, the streaming large doesn’t assist Atmos on the common Fire TV Stick 4K as a result of it runs an older model of the Fire OS software program. Since the newer Stick 4K Max ships with the present Fire OS 7, you get the full Atmos expertise when watching Netflix. For those who’ve bought an Atmos soundbar or encompass system, that extra immersive audio is perhaps sufficient for you to spend further on the Max.

In step with the remainder of Amazon’s Fire TV lineup, the Stick 4K Max runs the overhauled software program expertise that the firm rolled out earlier this year with consumer profiles, a extra personalised homescreen, and a brand new “discover” function for choosing the night time’s leisure. Thanks to its extra highly effective CPU, GPU, and extra RAM (now 2GB as a substitute of 1.5GB), the new stick breezes by navigating all the varied corners of the Fire TV OS. And apps did appear to load up faster than on the commonplace Stick 4K — and definitely sooner in contrast to my Chromecast with Google TV.

That stated, Amazon stays heavy-handed with banner advertisements on the homescreen and remains to be somewhat too in your face when selling its personal content material. It’s potential to set up a distinct launcher or arrange Pi-hole to block a few of the promoting, however that’s a step most shoppers won’t ever take. The truth is that that is simply one thing you’ve bought to put up with if you’d like a really succesful 4K streaming machine for below $60. If the advertisements drive you nuts, the costlier Apple TV 4K or Nvidia Defend can be wiser selections.

There’s undoubtedly a case to be made that the Fire TV Stick 4K Max ought to have simply changed the slower Fire TV Stick 4K. Amazon’s lineup is now feeling crowded between the Fire TV Stick Lite, Fire TV Stick, Fire TV Stick 4K, Fire TV Stick 4K Max, and the second-gen Fire TV Dice. The Dice is properly distinguished as its personal factor, however I can think about some individuals can be very confused when purchasing between the others. And Amazon reductions these units so often that you just’re actually not taking a look at an enormous worth gulf between most of them.

So my recommendation is that this: if you’d like Amazon’s greatest simple 4K streamer, spend the little bit further and go together with the new Fire TV Stick 4K Max. The velocity enhancements actually do make for a extra satisfying consumer expertise. And even when your property community isn’t but operating on Wi-Fi 6, you’ll have some future proofing in that respect. The Fire TV Dice stays extra highly effective nonetheless, however in the event you don’t want hands-free Alexa voice controls, it’s overkill for the goal of leisure.

I nonetheless don’t know whether or not it’s worthy of the Max moniker, however that is now undoubtedly the Amazon streaming participant to buy.

Pictures by Chris Welch / The Verge

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