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Amazon Fire TV Stick differences: Your options compared

There are four Amazon Fire TV Sticks available, but which one should you choose? We break down your options.

Most new TVs are smart-enabled, meaning they can connect to your home network to stream content. Smart televisions make it convenient to catch up on your favorite content through built-in apps including Netflix, Disney+, HBO Max, Hulu, YouTube TV, and more. If your TV doesn't have this capability built in, you don't have to run out and buy a new smart television. For roughly $30 to $50, Amazon's family of Fire TV Sticks can connect to a TV's HDMI port and deliver quality streaming.

Also: Amazon's early Black Friday deals

Fire TV Stick Lite

The most affordable option

fire-tv-stick-lite.png
Amazon

Remote: Alexa Voice Remote Lite (does not control TV or other peripherals)

Apps: Netflix, HBO Max, Prime Video, Apple TV, Sling TV, Disney+, Peacock, STARZ, SHOWTIME, Paramount+, YouTube TV, IMDb TV, Tubi, Pluto TV, Amazon Music, Spotify, Pandora, iHeartRadio, and more

Picture quality: 1080p Full HD (1920x1080), HDR 10, HDR10+, HLG, H.265, H.264, Vp9

Audio quality: Dolby-encoded

Wi-Fi: Dual-band, dual-antenna Wi-Fi (MIMO), supports 802.11a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi networks

Bluetooth: Bluetooth 5.0, Bluetooth Low Energy

Storage: 8 GB

Memory: 1 GB

Quad-core processor: CPU 1.7GHz, GPU 650MHz

Includes: Stick, remote, HDMI extender, USB cable with power adaptor, and two AAA batteries

Fire TV Stick

HD and an upgraded remote

fire-tv-stick.png
Amazon

Remote: Alexa Voice Remote with buttons for Prime Video, Netflix, Disney+, and Hulu; includes TV voice controls

Apps: Netflix, HBO Max, Prime Video, Apple TV, Sling TV, Disney+, Peacock, STARZ, SHOWTIME, Paramount+, YouTube TV, IMDb TV, Tubi, Pluto TV, Amazon Music, Spotify, Pandora, iHeartRadio, and more

Picture quality: 1080p Full HD (1920x1080), HDR 10, HDR10+, HLG, H.265, H.264, Vp9

Audio quality: Dolby Atmos

Wi-Fi: Dual-band, dual-antenna Wi-Fi (MIMO), supports 802.11a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi networks

Bluetooth: Bluetooth 5.0, Bluetooth Low Energy

Storage: 8 GB

Memory: 1 GB

Quad-core processor: CPU 1.7GHz, GPU 650MHz

Includes: Stick, remote, HDMI extender, USB cable with power adaptor, and two AAA batteries

Fire TV Stick 4K

Affordable 4K streaming

fire-tv-stick-4k.png
Amazon

Remote: Alexa Voice Remote; includes power and volume controls for IR-enabled TVs, soundbars, and receivers

Apps: Netflix, HBO Max, Prime Video, Apple TV, Sling TV, Disney+, Peacock, STARZ, SHOWTIME, Paramount+, YouTube TV, IMDb TV, Tubi, Pluto TV, Amazon Music, Spotify, Pandora, iHeartRadio, and more

Picture quality: 4K Ultra HD, Dolby Vision, HDR 10, HDR10+, HLG, H.265, H.264, Vp9

Audio quality: Dolby Atmos

Wi-Fi: Dual-band, dual-antenna Wi-Fi (MIMO), supports 802.11a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi networks

Bluetooth: Bluetooth 5.0 + LE

Storage: 8 GB

Memory: 1.5 GB

Quad-core processor: CPU 1.7GHz, GPU 650MHz

Includes: Stick, remote, HDMI extender, USB cable with power adaptor, and two AAA batteries

Fire TV Stick 4K Max

Upgrades to 4K Ultra HD and Wi-Fi 6 support

fire-tv-stick-4k-max.png
Amazon

Remote: Alexa Voice Remote; includes power and volume controls for IR-enabled TVs, soundbars and receivers; buttons for Prime Video, Netflix, Disney+, and Hulu

Apps: Netflix, HBO Max, Prime Video, Apple TV, Sling TV, Disney+, Peacock, STARZ, SHOWTIME, Paramount+, YouTube TV, IMDb TV, Tubi, Pluto TV, Amazon Music, Spotify, Pandora, iHeartRadio and more

Picture quality: 4K Ultra HD, Dolby Vision, HDR 10, HDR10+, HLG, H.265, H.264, Vp9, picture-in-picture mode

Audio quality: Dolby Atmos

Wi-Fi: MT7921LS, supports 802.11a/b/g/n/ac/ax (Wi-Fi 6)

Bluetooth: Bluetooth 5.0 + LE

Storage: 8 GB

Memory: 2 GB

Quad-core processor: CPU 1.7GHz, GPU 750MHz

Includes: Stick, remote, HDMI extender, USB cable with power adaptor, and two AAA batteries

Compatibility

Winner: Fire TV Stick 4K Max

Every Amazon Fire TV Stick works with TVs fitted with an HDMI port. Even if your television is older and doesn't include an HDMI port, you can plug the stick into the USB port and connect it to an electrical outlet. You'll lose high-definition picture quality, but you'll still enjoy streaming your favorite movies, shows, and music through an older television. 

That being said, one of the biggest differences between the four Amazon Fire TV Sticks is picture and audio support. The Fire TV Stick and Lite versions support up to full HD with Dolby or Dolby Atmos audio. While this outputs a decent viewing experience, you'll miss out on watching movies and shows in crisp, high-definition 4K picture quality.

The 4K and 4K Max sticks are built to stream in 4K Ultra HD with Dolby Vision support and Dolby Atmos sound. They're the most powerful and compatible Amazon Sticks, simply because they include the latest support. However, the 4K Max is Amazon's newest streaming stick and wins because it adds WiFi 6 router connectivity.

Remote Control

Tie between Fire TV Stick and 4K Max

Amazon's Fire Sticks have varying levels of remote control functionality, but it's safe to say that they're very basic. At least they're voice-enabled to expand their use. 

The basic Lite remote is the simplest, with no television controls or buttons for most-used streaming apps. For an extra $10, however, the Fire TV Stick adds TV controls and four buttons for quick access to Prime Video, Netflix, Disney+, and Hulu with some TV control. If you want a remote that can command the Fire Stick and your peripherals, including TVs and soundbars, the 4K Max remote is it. This remote can automatically sync with compatible devices, so you can control more than the stick.

Pricing

Winner: Fire TV Stick Lite

If cost is a barrier, the Fire TV Stick Lite is the cheapest version. When you compare it to the next-tier player, the Fire TV Stick, the less than $10 price jump adds Dolby Atmos support and a remote with four app buttons.

Streaming quality

Winner: Fire TV Stick 4K Max

The 4K Max provides the best streaming, hands down. It delivers up to 4K ultra HD quality and is enabled for Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos. Plus, it's the most robust player: Amazon claims it's 40% more powerful than the 4K version. The 4K Max is built with the best quad-core processor of all four sticks, featuring a 1.7GHz CPU and 750MHz GPU. And if your home network is powered by a WiFi 6 router, streaming will likely be superior in speed and stability. 

Which Amazon Fire TV Stick is the right one for you?

Now that you have a better idea of how the four Amazon Fire TV Sticks differ, you're probably considering which one to get. We're here to help guide you in the decision-making process. 

Start with the television you intend to use. Is the TV a 4K or HD television? In most cases, you probably don't even need an external streaming player if you have a 4K television, since most smart TVs these days come integrated with streaming apps and the ability to connect to your home's network. For other television models, the Fire Stick or Fire Stick Lite may be all you need to stream movies and music at a pretty good quality -- without using too much of your home network's bandwidth. After all, 4K quality requires far more bandwidth than HD.

So when is it worth getting a 4K stick for a non 4K TV? It depends. In most cases, picture quality is only as good as your TV resolution. It's why we'd recommend the HD-grade Fire Stick or Fire Stick Lite. If you have an older television, spending extra for a 4K stick can't deliver more picture quality than your TV's max. Nevertheless, it may still be worth buying the 4K Max stick for its compatibility with WiFi 6 networks and its better processor; both features could improve streaming with less buffering and lag. Plus, the 4K and 4K Max remotes have more features, so you can control the TV itself, compatible receivers, and a soundbar. 

Are there alternatives worth considering?

Apart from the similar Roku media players, other alternatives to the Amazon Fire TV Sticks are more expensive. You could just skip the stick itself and buy a smart TV or go with an Apple TV. However, either alternative will set you back for far more than $20 to $50. 

Also: Amazon Fire Stick vs Roku Streaming Stick

Although there are alternatives, we recommend the Fire TV Sticks for their small size, low cost, and flexibility. They're essentially plug and play. Find the HDMI port at the back of your TV and plug them in. This means you can use them on multiple televisions or devices, including projectors and computers. Having an Amazon Fire TV Stick also comes in handy if you travel and want to stream your favorite media when you're on the go.

If price isn't the issue and you're just not sold the Amazon Fire TV Sticks, you could always go with the more robust Amazon Fire TV Cube. It's a freestanding version of the stick and features double the storage (16 GB).

Does the Amazon Fire TV Stick need internet?

All of the Amazon Fire TV Sticks work by streaming your favorite music and videos, so they require the internet to work. You'll need to connect to your home's network, which is a fairly simple process. Plug the Firestick into the HDMI port behind your TV and use the remote to navigate to Settings. Choose "Network" and find your home network's name. Select the network, enter the password, and select Connect. You should be connected to the internet and ready to stream. 

Although you need internet to use the Fire TV Stick, you may be able to download content for offline viewing using your Amazon Prime Video account and play it back later without internet.

Do I need to pay to watch movies on my Amazon Fire TV Stick?

Many of the most popular apps that come with your Amazon Fire TV Stick, such as Netflix, HBO Max, and Disney+, require a paid subscription. The good news is that some offer free trials that let you try them out for a specific period of time. If you don't want to pay for streaming, there are a few apps that provide free content, such as Peacock, Tubi TV, Pluto TV, Roku Channel, Vudu, and more. 

Do I need to have an Amazon Prime account to use a Fire TV Stick?

You don't need to have an Amazon account to use a Fire TV Stick. However, a Prime subscription offers you more than free shipping and members-only deals. It also includes Prime Video, which gives you access to a huge library of movies and TV shows for free.

Which Amazon Fire TV Stick has a Star Wars edition?

The Fire TV Stick is also available as a Star Wars Mandelorian edition. This means you can stream video in HD quality and control your Stick with a remote featuring a Star Wars cover in Bounty Blue or Grogu Green