Amazon Fireplace TV Stick 4K Max overview: Speedy app supply is not all the pieces

Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max review: Speedy app delivery isn't everything


Sarah Tew/CNET

Amazon’s new Fireplace TV Stick Max is the corporate’s highest-priced and strongest streaming stick but. A step up from the $40 Streaming Stick 4K, the brand new Max runs $55 and packs a sooner processor, assist for Wi-Fi 6 and almost all the most recent playback requirements from 4K, HDR10 and Dolby Imaginative and prescient to HDR10+ plus Dolby Atmos for audio. 

Spoiler: The Max is quick. For many who merely need the quickest method to stream Netflix, Disney Plus, HBO Max, YouTube TV and the remainder, this streamer is (actually) robust to beat. That velocity makes the Max well worth the increased worth in comparison with the unique Fireplace TV Stick 4K.

As for these debating between the Max and Google’s $50 Chromecast with Google TV or Roku’s upcoming $50 Streaming Stick 4K? That is somewhat extra difficult. Google’s voice assistant and search work higher than Alexa, and Roku’s easy menu system continues to be my favourite of the three. Amazon’s menu system is okay, however there are too many advertisements and the search usually turned up surprising outcomes. The Fireplace TV Stick 4K Max is my favourite Fireplace TV but, however until you are closely invested within the e-Commerce large’s world of units like Alexa audio system or Ring cameras, Roku’s and Google’s streamers are higher choices.

Like

  • Quick efficiency
  • Helps all main streaming apps
  • Good residence management by means of Alexa

Do not Like

  • Advertisements are prevalent on the house display screen and screensaver
  • No Chromecast or AirPlay assist
  • Search outcomes are wonky
  • Luna lacks compelling video games

A velocity enhance

Amazon touts the processor velocity improve as one of many massive the explanation why this streaming stick warrants the “Max” identify. And in utilizing the machine over the previous few days, I can report that it’s, certainly, actually quick.

Opening and switching between apps have been among the many quickest I’ve ever encountered on a streaming stick. It is not at all times instantaneous, notably if you have not opened an app in just a few hours, however for essentially the most half, all the pieces from Netflix and Prime Video to Disney Plus, HBO Max and YouTube TV opened rapidly. 

Amazon Luna Gaming

The Fireplace TV Stick 4K Max and distant with an (elective, $70) Luna controller.


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There have been just a few situations the place the display screen would go black for longer than I anticipated, nevertheless. And utilizing Alexa to bounce again into YouTube TV typically required grabbing the distant and restarting the stream.

On Amazon’s menus? Too many Amazon advertisements

Amazon’s interface runs the present, and I recognize fast entry to the “Not too long ago Watched” tab. I do not, nevertheless, like that proper underneath that may be a large “sponsored” tab on the house display screen, although I largely have grown to disregard all the assorted suggestions Amazon shoves from streaming providers underneath that not too long ago watched bar. 

It might be nice if Amazon added a tab to rapidly see all of your apps and channels. You’ll be able to preset six to seem on the principle web page, however having sooner entry to that full checklist could be extra precious to me than the tabs for “discover” and “stay.”

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Advertisements can simply refill the screensaver on the Fireplace TV. 


Sarah Tew/CNET

I additionally do not recognize the TV changing into a large rotating billboard for content material or advertisements when in screensaver mode. It is one factor to throw in somewhat advert right here or there like Roku; it is one other to show my total 65-inch TV right into a billboard for iFit or Nancy Grace’s Fox Nation present. 

Most 4K HDR format, Wi-Fi assist

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The Max works with nearly each main audio and video format on the market. TV exhibits and flicks out there in 4K and/or Dolby Imaginative and prescient performed again with no points on my TCL 6-Collection TV. Since that TV lacks HDR10+ assist, and my Sonos Beam soundbar equally doesn’t embrace Dolby Atmos, I used to be unable to check both of these options. As we have written previously, whereas it is good that Amazon helps all of those codecs we do not contemplate Dolby Imaginative and prescient or HDR10+ essential, partially as a result of it is not a serious picture high quality improve over normal HDR.

Annoyingly, Amazon sticks a 4K icon on seemingly something that’s out there in 4K, even when you need to pay for it. For instance, scrolling by means of the house display screen I noticed a 4K icon subsequent to Despicable Me 2. The animated movie is obtainable within the increased decision, however solely in case you are prepared to lease it or purchase it from Amazon. Streaming without cost by means of Amazon’s IMDb TV can be in HD.

For these in a extra crowded family, Wi-Fi 6 assist may very well be good when you’ve got already upgraded or are planning to replace your Wi-Fi router within the close to future. The restricted area in my New York residence didn’t present a terrific venue for testing the bandwidth enhancements, however I skilled no issues streaming from an older Eero router in the identical room.

As with most streaming sticks, you may energy the machine utilizing both the included wall adapter or (in case your TV helps it) plugging the USB energy cable instantly into your tv. Whereas some units, together with the Fireplace TV Stick 4K, flash warnings when utilizing USB energy, I had no points working the machine from the USB port on my TV.

New blue distant button and shortcut keys

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Amazon’s up to date distant provides the Alexa voice assistant a outstanding blue button on the high — you will must press and maintain it to problem voice instructions — in addition to devoted keys for Prime Video, Netflix, Disney Plus and Hulu. Whereas some folks could not need logos cluttering up the design of the all-black controller, I discovered these keys handy. Like different Fireplace TV remotes, the Max additionally means that you can management quantity and energy in your TV or different units. 

Fireplace TV helps almost all the foremost streaming providers you may consider. It does, nevertheless, lack AirPlay assist (which Roku and the Apple TV provide) or the flexibility to Chromecast from Android units (a function provided by Google’s Chromecast with Google TV).

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Ever-present however not at all times useful Alexa

To benefit from the Fireplace TV Stick 4K Max you will need different Amazon units in your family. Alexa stays a key piece of the machine, functioning as not solely a search helper for opening apps, films or exhibits by voice but additionally controlling your sensible residence

You probably have a Ring doorbell you may ask to “present me the entrance door” and get a real-time take a look at what is occurring outdoors. New with the 4K Max is the flexibility to reduce Ring to a “picture-in-picture” field, permitting you to keep watch over the door whilst you watch one thing else. Alexa instructions into the distant are additionally able to controlling sensible lights or different home equipment, and there is an Alexa House Theater audio function that permits you to pair Fireplace TV with Echo audio system.

Sadly, Alexa on Fireplace TV wasn’t pretty much as good at offering related search outcomes for precise TV exhibits and flicks. Asking to “play Pixar films” displayed outcomes like Luca, Discovering Nemo and Monsters Inc. in a “out of your subscriptions” row (recognizing that I had logged into Disney Plus) in addition to non-Pixar animated fare like “Cocomelon Halloween Songs.” For some purpose, it additionally put Dave Chappelle’s new Netflix particular The Nearer on the identical row, sandwiched in between Ratatouille and Onward.

Asking to see Marvel films additionally introduced up the likes of Titanic and Disney’s Muppets Haunted Mansion alongside anticipated outcomes like Black Panther and the Avengers movies. 

Amazon largely does a pleasant job integrating Alexa with different apps. Saying “play the baseball recreation” on a Friday afternoon opened up YouTube TV and the White Sox-Astros recreation airing on MLB Community. Like with search, this is not at all times working as you’d anticipate. 

Saying “play the information” would not carry up YouTube TV, however as a substitute opened Amazon’s devoted Information app that pulls in content material from ABC Information Stay, CBS Information and native information stations amongst others. 

Luna lags, lacks video games

Amazon Luna Gaming

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With the Stick 4K Max and its new 750MHz graphics processor, Amazon can also be making a recent effort to offer its $6-per-month Luna gaming service a house. Once I performed a handful of video games I might see the potential for a stable cloud gaming expertise, though at occasions Amazon’s service felt extra like an Xbox 360 reasonably than an Xbox One or Xbox Collection X. 

I’ve skilled lag, the place the sport would not reply rapidly, on all cloud gaming providers together with Google’s Stadia or Microsoft’s Xbox Cloud Gaming, and Luna was no exception. I had no issues taking part in Staff Sonic Racing however taking part in Management and DiRT Rally 2.0 was more and more tough. I obtained lag on Luna regardless of my Stick 4K Max being situated proper close to my router with quick Web — my Spectrum connection confirmed obtain speeds above 350 Mbps (with add speeds of round 20 Mbps and a ping of 20 ms).

My greatest problem with Luna, nevertheless, is not the machine and even essentially Amazon’s infrastructure however the video games themselves. Even a 12 months in, the platform nonetheless severely lacks in video games. 

Amazon Luna Gaming

Luna’s recreation choice continues to be missing. 


Sarah Tew/CNET

A handful of publishers like Ubisoft, Capcom and 505 Video games have titles for the platform however larger publishers like Activision, Digital Arts, Epic Video games and 2K nonetheless aren’t right here, so do not anticipate to play Name of Responsibility, FIFA, Fortnite or NBA 2K. (The truth that, on the time this was revealed, Amazon apparently lists Capcom as “Campcom” on its web site raises inquiries to me on how severe the corporate is taking this endeavor.)

Getting essentially the most out of Luna will value you. Ubisoft’s titles, like Far Cry 6 and Murderer’s Creed Valhalla, are locked behind a subscription to Ubisoft Plus, which runs $18 monthly. Different titles like a SpongeBob recreation from THQ Nordic and a Garfield Kart racing recreation from Microids required a further subscription to Luna’s Household Channel, which is one other $3 monthly. A Luna controller is $70, although you need to use an Xbox One controller or PlayStation 4 DualShock when you’ve got both laying round. 

If Amazon builds out its video games platform or opens up the Stick 4K Max to different platforms (notably Xbox Cloud Gaming) this machine may very well be worthwhile as an reasonably priced method to get video games in your TV with out a console. For now, nevertheless, Google Stadia on the Chromecast with Google TV is a greater wager, with extra developer assist and the flexibility to recreation in 4K HDR.

The perfect Fireplace TV Stick you will get

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If you will get by Amazon’s bugs and interface quirks and are searching for a quick and highly effective media streamer, the brand new Fireplace TV Stick 4K Max checks almost all of the containers. It has strong app assist, opens mentioned apps actually rapidly and may management your sensible residence. 

Those that stay in an Apple or Google world and do not depend on Alexa could also be higher off with a Roku or a streamer from both of these firms. And avid gamers? Nicely, Luna shouldn’t be a purpose to purchase any machine in 2021. 

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