'ZDNET Recommends': What exactly does it mean?
ZDNET's recommendations are based on many hours of testing, research, and comparison shopping. We gather data from the best available sources, including vendor and retailer listings as well as other relevant and independent reviews sites. And we pore over customer reviews to find out what matters to real people who already own and use the products and services we’re assessing.
When you click through from our site to a retailer and buy a product or service, we may earn affiliate commissions. This helps support our work, but does not affect what we cover or how, and it does not affect the price you pay. Neither ZDNET nor the author are compensated for these independent reviews. Indeed, we follow strict guidelines that ensure our editorial content is never influenced by advertisers.
ZDNET's editorial team writes on behalf of you, our reader. Our goal is to deliver the most accurate information and the most knowledgeable advice possible in order to help you make smarter buying decisions on tech gear and a wide array of products and services. Our editors thoroughly review and fact-check every article to ensure that our content meets the highest standards. If we have made an error or published misleading information, we will correct or clarify the article. If you see inaccuracies in our content, please report the mistake via this form.
Even though most new televisions are already smart out of the box, adding a streaming device to any non-Fire TV, like the Amazon Fire TV Stick, can elevate your viewing experience.
The Fire TV Stick is a Wi-Fi-enabled device that connects to your TV's HDMI port to let you stream content from your favorite subscriptions, such as Netflix, HBO Max, and Hulu.
Also: The top video streaming services compared
Considering there are four to choose from with different features and prices, there's sure to be one for all TV-watching needs.
|Fire TV Stick Lite||Fire TV Stick||Fire TV Stick 4K||Fire TV Stick 4K Max|
|Alexa remote||2nd Gen, no TV controls||3rd Gen, TV controls||3rd Gen, TV controls||3rd Gen, TV controls|
|Video quality||1080p and 720p up to 60 fps||1080p and 720p up to 60 fps||2160p, 1080p and 720p up to 60 fps||2160p, 1080p and 720p up to 60 fps|
|Supported formats||HDR 10, HDR10+, HLG, H.265, H.264, Vp9||HDR 10, HDR10+, HLG, H.265, H.264, Vp9||Dolby Vision, HDR 10, HDR10+, HLG, H.265, H.264, VP9||Dolby Vision, HDR 10, HDR10+, HLG, H.265, H.264, VP9, AV1|
|Audio quality||HDMI passthrough of Dolby-encoded audio||Dolby Atmos||Dolby Atmos||Dolby Atmos|
|Connectivity||Dual-band Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.0 and BLE||Dual-band Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.0 and BLE||Dual-band Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.0 and BLE||Wi-Fi with Wi-Fi 6 support, Bluetooth 5.0 and BLE|
|Storage||8GB internal||8GB internal||8GB internal||8GB internal|
|Processor||Quad-core CPU 1.7GHz, GPU 650MHz||Quad-core CPU 1.7GHz, GPU 650MHz||Quad-core CPU 1.7GHz, GPU 650MHz||Quad-core CPU 1.8GHz, GPU 750MHz|
The Fire TV Stick Lite is Amazon's most affordable streaming device; nothing more, nothing less. It's priced at $30, but very often on sale for $20 to $25, so if a low price is a big deciding factor for you in choosing a Fire TV streaming device, then the Lite version is probably the one to go with.
Because the Fire TV Stick Lite is the bare-bones version of the Fire TV Stick, it's best suited for everyday streaming rather than as the backbone of a full-blown home theater.
The simple version will still give you access to the same operating system as the more expensive options, with all your favorite streaming services just a push of a button away, but the remote doesn't come with TV controls. So you can't program this remote to control your TV's volume or turn it on or off.
Also: You don't have to break the bank for a great TV with these budget picks
Another difference in the Lite version when compared with the other three versions is that it doesn't support Dolby Atmos, which can provide better audio clarity and a more immersive TV experience.
Though this version isn't all that different from the Lite model, the Fire TV Stick features the third-generation Alexa remote, which has volume and on or off buttons that can be programmed to work with your television. This makes it so you'd only need the Fire TV Stick remote most of the time, so you don't have to worry about keeping both the Alexa remote and your TV's remote controls handy.
The buttons can control your TV, soundbar, and receiver.
If you don't need 4K support, then there's no need to get the more expensive versions of the Fire TV Stick, as the basic Fire TV Stick will do the job. The 4K versions require a 4K television to display ultra-HD content, so anyone with a Full HD 1080p-resolution TV can still enjoy all their favorite streaming subscriptions with the standard version, and it also supports Dolby Atmos.
If you have a 4K television and want to add a Fire TV Stick to either give it smart capabilities or because you prefer Fire OS, then the Fire TV Stick 4K is a great choice. Because the Fire TV Stick and Stick Lite versions only support up to full HD 1080p resolution, the Fire TV Stick 4K stands out if you're looking for better, cinematic picture quality.
Also: Roku vs Fire Stick: Which one is better for your needs?
The Fire TV Stick 4K is priced at $50 and, like other models, sees frequent discounts in price. This is only $5 cheaper than the Max model, which supports Wi-Fi 6. But if you know you won't be making the upgrade to Wi-Fi 6 anytime soon, then the Fire TV Stick 4K is a great option for high-quality streaming.
Also: The best 4K TVs: Which TV brand is most reliable?
This version supports Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos audio, as well as HDR for crisper images. Compared with the Fire TV Stick and Lite models, the 4K version features 1.5 GB of memory, making for faster load times and snappier performance.
The Fire TV Stick 4K Max is a future-proof version streaming device thanks to its support for Wi-Fi 6. If you've already upgraded to a Wi-Fi 6 router, then the 4K Max is a seamless fit, and you'll benefit from faster speeds and more streams.
Both 4K versions of the Fire TV Stick support 4K Ultra HD with Dolby Vision and Dolby Sound, built to provide a high-quality, almost cinematic experience. But the Fire TV Stick 4K Max features a faster processor and 2GB of memory, which makes for a smoother streaming and gaming experience and improved speed compared with the 4K version.
Also: The best Wi-Fi routers
It retails for $55, and is the highest-performing, most powerful Fire TV Stick available.
If you're still looking to check out other options, these are some worthy alternatives to the Fire TV Stick lineup: