Amazon’s family of Fire TV media streamers are very popular, and for good reason. They give you access to a huge variety of free and subscription streaming content from services such as Netflix, Hulu, ESPN, YouTube, and of course, Amazon’s own video and music streaming options.
Gamers who want to explore Amazon’s new subscription gaming platform, Luna, should also consider an Amazon Fire TV device. At the moment, select Fire TV devices are the only way to get Luna on a TV.
Current Fire TV devices also give you the ability to interact with Alexa, making voice control over your TV as easy as saying, “Alexa, open Netflix.” But there are several kinds of Fire TV devices, each with a different price, design, and features. Which one is right for you? The answer is right here.
The best Fire TV devices at a glance
- The best Fire TV for tight budgets: Fire TV Stick Lite
- The best Fire TV for 4K TVs: Fire TV Stick 4K
- The best Fire TV for home theaters: Fire TV Cube
One of the newest members of the Fire TV family is also the most affordable. At just $30, the Fire TV Stick Lite isn’t just the least expensive Fire TV device you can buy, it’s one of the least expensive media streamers, period.
You also get a ton of value for such a small investment. With a quad-core processor and 8GB of onboard storage, the Fire TV Stick Lite has a blazing-fast interface, tons of great content, and a wide selection of apps and games.
Its dual-band MIMO 802.11ac Wi-Fi connection should be plenty fast for most users, but if a wired connection makes more sense for your setup, you can get an optional Ethernet adapter. The included Alexa remote lets you use your voice for a huge variety of tasks from searching for your favorite movies and shows to taking control of your smart home devices.
The Fire TV Stick Lite doesn’t do 4K resolution, but it does support every flavor of HDR except Dolby Vision. That’s a big deal for folks who own HDR-capable TVs but who don’t want to shell out for 4K streaming, which sometimes costs more than HD streaming.
It’s also a huge win for people with slow internet connections — HDR (especially HDR10 and HLG) doesn’t add a lot of bandwidth to a video stream, but 4K does. Given that HDR is arguably a far more noticeable improvement to perceived picture quality than higher resolution, this is really good news — most services will be able to stream their 4K/HDR titles as HD/HDR when there isn’t sufficient bandwidth for 4K.
There’s also a massive library of Fire TV apps, which includes virtually all of the most popular subscription services like Disney+, HBO, ESPN, CBS All Access, plus a ton of free options too, like YouTube, PlutoTV, Tubi, and more. If you’re an Apple fan, you can even get the Apple TV app, which is needed for accessing Apple TV+.
Fire TV Stick Lite lets you surf the web with two major browser apps: Amazon’s own Silk web browser, and a version of Firefox. This is a rarity in the streaming media device world, where you won’t find easy browser options on Apple TV, Roku, or even Google-controlled Android TV.
The Fire TV Stick can also run games — a surprising number of them given these devices are not really targeted toward gamers — but you’ll have to buy a compatible game controller to get the most out of them. Many Bluetooth controllers, like the Sony DualShock 4, will work, but beware: Amazon’s own Fire TV game controller, mysteriously, does not. The Fire TV Lite remote will also work for many of these games.
The Fire TV Stick Lite even offers limited support for Dolby Atmos, the current king of home theater surround sound. It’s only passthrough support, which means as long as your chosen app is willing to let the Stick Lite pass along Dolby Atmos to your TV, A/V receiver, or soundbar, you’re good to go. Plex is a good example of an app that does this. Netflix, however, insists that Dolby Atmos be decoded by the media streamer, so the Stick Lite will not give you Dolby Atmos from Netflix.
The takeaway here is: If Dolby Atmos is very important to you, you’re probably better off with the Fire TV Stick (2020 version), the Fire TV Stick 4K, or the Fire TV Cube.
There’s also a small caveat for would-be Amazon Luna gamers: The Fire TV Stick Lite isn’t among the Luna-compatible Fire TV devices.
In fact, the only real omissions to be found on the Fire TV Stick Lite are on the remote: There’s no power button and no volume buttons. Does it matter? The Stick Lite will turn on automatically when you power on your TV if you have it plugged into one of your TV’s USB ports for power, or it will simply be always-on if you use the included power adapter. You can still use your TV’s remote for volume (or whichever device you use for sound).
I know what you’re thinking: Always on? Isn’t that a waste of energy? It definitely would be if Amazon hadn’t also announced that the Fire TV Stick Lite will go into a very low-power consumption mode after a period of inactivity. The company will be adding this feature to most existing Fire TV and Echo devices soon.
All of this makes the Fire TV Stick Lite not just a compelling choice for people who are looking to save a few dollars, but for anyone who wants a fully featured streaming device and who doesn’t feel the need to watch content in 4K resolution.
Those high-end audio and video options that are missing from the Fire TV Stick Lite are the whole reason Amazon created the Fire TV Stick 4K. The Fire TV Stick 4K does everything we described above, but if you own a 4K TV — especially if it is a Dolby Vision-capable model — that $20 buys you a lot of additional joy.
As the name suggests, the Fire TV Stick 4K lets you watch 4K content on a 4K TV the way it was meant to be seen. Given that all major streaming services now have 4K catalogs and we’re even beginning to see some live TV streaming services offer the format as well, it just makes sense to have a device that can support it.
While the Fire TV Stick Lite has good HDR support, the Fire TV Stick 4K is the only streaming media player we’ve found that supports every single flavor of HDR, including HDR10, HLG, HDR10+, and Dolby Vision. That’s nothing short of amazing given that devices that can cost up to four times the price of the Fire TV Stick 4K don’t offer this level of future-proofing.
Dolby Atmos support is also part of the package. As a device that can fully decode Dolby Atmos, it’s compatible with services like Netflix and many others that now have Dolby Atmos titles, including most of the new releases on Apple TV+.
Amazon’s Luna gaming service works with the Fire TV Stick 4K, and if you have a sufficiently fast internet connection, you can enjoy those games in up to 4K resolution.
Finally, you get an Alexa-powered voice remote with volume buttons. These can control your TV (or A/V receiver, or soundbar) volume via HDMI CEC.
In some ways, the Fire TV Cube is so sophisticated and so different from the two Fire TV Stick models above, it doesn’t really feel like it belongs to the same family of devices. Unlike the sticks, the Cube is designed to sit beside or in front of your TV instead of hiding behind it. The reason is far more than cosmetic, though we’d argue its minimalist design is more attractive than many of the devices that end up tethered to our TVs. The placement matters because the Fire TV Cube is much more than a media streamer for your TV — it can control your entire home theater, and ultimately your smart home too.
The Fire TV Cube is a full-fledged Amazon Echo smart speaker, with the ability to continuously listen for and respond to Alexa commands. Unlike other Amazon speakers, like the Echo or the Dot, the Fire TV Cube can actually control your other home theater products, even if they’re not physically connected.
Thanks to the built-in IR blaster and IR extension cable, the Cube can issue commands to hundreds of different devices, from cable boxes to Blu-ray players, all with the power of your voice. It’s like having a voice-activated universal remote, and yes, the Fire TV Cube comes with a normal hand-held remote too.
As the nerve center for every Alexa-compatible smart device in your home, you can sit on your couch and use your voice to master any number of gadgets, like security cameras and smart door locks. It prompted our reviewer to give the device a rare 5/5 rating.
With 16GB of storage, a blazing-fast processor, an Ethernet adapter, comprehensive support for 4K, all HDR formats, and Dolby Atmos, the Fire TV Cube is a leading-edge streaming device. Additionally, like the Fire TV Stick 4K, the Fire TV Cube supports Amazon’s Luna gaming service in up to 4K resolution.
Of course, all of this techno-magic doesn’t come cheap. The Fire TV Cube is a big jump over its stick-based family members at $120. But before you balk at that price, consider this: The Fire TV Cube does far more (for far less) than most other streaming devices, including the Apple TV 4K, Roku Ultra, and Google Chromecast Ultra.
If you’ve been shopping on Amazon, you may have noticed the $40 Fire TV Stick and you’re now wondering why it’s not on this list.
It’s a great device, for sure, but it just doesn’t offer enough value at $40 to justify buying it when you can have all of its features except volume and power buttons (and Dolby Atmos decoding) for $10 less in the Fire TV Stick Lite.
If the Lite’s lack of 4K or Luna gaming support is an issue, the Fire TV Stick 4K offers way more features than the Fire TV Stick for just $10 more, leaving us unsure who the Fire TV Stick is for.
We love the Fire TV Cube, but we also acknowledge it isn’t for everyone. It’s expensive (relatively speaking) and doesn’t handle travel as well as the Sticks. But if you secretly harbor a desire to turn your home theater into your very own USS Enterprise bridge, complete with a computer that responds to voice commands, the Fire TV Cube is your passport to the captain’s chair.
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