Fire TV Stick 4K (2023) Hands-On: Fast Streaming Device Is Great for Amazon Fans
The second-gen Fire TV Stick 4K is going for $25 at Amazon.
Updated Nov. 24, 2023 5:00 a.m. PT
Our expert, award-winning staff selects the products we cover and rigorously researches and tests our top picks. If you buy through our links, we may get a commission.
Reviews ethics statement
Meara covers streaming service news for CNET. She recently graduated from the University of Texas at Austin, where she wrote for her college newspaper, The Daily Texan, as well as for state and local magazines. When she's not writing, she likes to dote over her cat, sip black coffee and try out new horror movies.
In late 2023, it feels like we've come to the end of a rush of streaming service price hikes. You may have decided to pause Peacock, hop off Hulu or cancel Netflix. But as long as there are shows you want to watch, you may be in need of a dedicated device to stream them.
Enter the Fire TV Stick 4K, more specifically the second-gen version, which Amazon unveiled in September along with the second-gen Fire TV Stick 4K Max. The $50 Fire Stick, currently $25 on sale at Amazon, comes with a number of upgrades. Namely, it's equipped with Wi-Fi 6 support for those with a compatible router, and it comes with a 1.7 GHz processor, which means faster app starts, according to Amazon.
The Fire TV Stick 4K joins other Ultra HD devices such as Roku's Streaming Stick 4K and Google's Chromecast with Google TV 4K. You may also want to swing the extra $10 for the new Max, which comes with perks including bulked-up storage, Wi-Fi 6E support and the new Ambient experience, which throws widgets up on your screen saver.
The Stick comes with a voice remote and an HDMI extender, which I had to use because the stick didn't really jive with the limited amount of space near my TV's HDMI inputs. The bundled remote comes with pre-programmed app buttons for Prime Video, Netflix, and two apps that vary (mine were Peacock and DirecTV).
The Fire TV Stick 4K interface is the same as we saw on the Max with an app shortcut bar sandwiched between a large carousel at the top of the screen and content drawers which load below. You are able to customize the six apps at the center, and hovering or clicking on an icon to the right of them allows you to see the rest of your app collection. The look differs from Roku's interface which has a more straightforward presentation of all your apps, and I prefer this approach.
After giving the Fire TV Stick 4K a spin, I can confirm it is indeed fast and I was able to load most apps instantaneously. I found the Stick streamed a selection of shows and movies with no problems, including HDR 10 and Dolby Vision titles.
The included Alexa voice remote makes it easy to control your TV's volume and power and ask Alexa to perform tasks for you. Searching using the "find" tab and using voice search, however, proved a little wonky. A search for romantic comedies surfaced Top Gun: Maverick as the top result, and Tom Cruise barged into my results again when I searched for Christmas movies.
When I navigated to the "home" tab, the screen produced various rows including one for "recently used apps," which I found useful. But there are also multiple rows promoting Amazon's Prime Video and Freevee streaming services. So, prepare to encounter more blatant Amazon plugs while using this device. When I watched titles on the Max, Peacock, Paramount Plus and Freevee, only the Freevee ones automatically appeared in the "Continue Watching" row located at the top of the home tab.
There is a tab highlighting content you can watch for free with ads ("free"), and in general, I felt like equal attention was given to paid subscription-based streamers and free streamers. I appreciated this, considering how pricey some plans are getting.
If you watch Prime Video regularly, or if you already use other Amazon devices and want to control them with your remote, Amazon's Fire TV Stick 4K will probably beat out the competition. But as a longtime Roku device owner, I'm not sure it's enough to make me want to pack my bags and leave Roku City just yet.