Amazon on Wednesday announced a new model of its Fire TV Stick media streamer. The Fire TV Stick 4K, as it’s called, includes support for 4K streaming, Dolby Vision HDR, HDR10, HDR10+, and Dolby Atmos surround sound, as well as faster internals and an overhauled remote.
The new streaming stick is available for pre-order on Wednesday and will begin shipping on October 31.
In many ways, the Fire TV Stick 4K appears to cannibalize the other Fire TV streamers on the market. Beyond the 4K and HDR support, Amazon says the device now includes a 1.7GHz quad-core processor, which on paper is more powerful than the 1.5GHz chip inside the standard Fire TV 4K and the more recent Fire TV Cube. Its included remote now comes with dedicated buttons for power, volume, and mute, as well as an IR transmitter that gives it a modicum of control over various soundbars, cable boxes, and AV equipment.
That last bit was a major selling point of the Fire TV Cube—although, since controlling that gear is still heavily reliant on using voice commands with Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant, we found it a bit clunky at times. Neither the Cube nor the original Fire TV 4K supports Dolby Vision HDR, either. For what it’s worth, Amazon’s announcement suggests the company is phasing out the standard Fire TV 4K and now pitching the Fire TV Cube’s integrated smart speaker as its main draw.
Amazon says it will sell the new Alexa voice remote separately for $29.99. It will come included with new Fire TV Cube purchases from now on but will also work with the 2nd-gen Fire TV Stick and the 3rd-gen Fire TV. The new remote will also start shipping on October 31.
The usual UI
The rest of the Fire TV Stick 4K is about what you’d expect. Whether it will be worth buying will likely come down to your tolerance for Amazon’s Fire TV interface, which is still more cluttered than something like a Roku and tends to prioritize content from Amazon’s partners and its own Prime Video streaming service. It’s generally more enjoyable if you’re an active Prime member and don’t mind using Alexa to get around. Because Amazon and Google aren’t the best of buds, you’ll also have to resort to wonky workarounds to use YouTube and other Google apps (and forego YouTube TV altogether).
The hardware itself is still a tiny Kit Kat-shaped stick that jacks directly into an HDMI port, supports 802.11ac Wi-Fi, and has nothing in the way of external ports. There’s 8GB of internal storage, and the whole thing uses Bluetooth 5. The Amazon logo emblazoned on the side of the stick is more subdued than before, though.
Nevertheless, adding dedicated power and volume buttons to the Alexa remote was long overdue. Making 4K, Atmos, Dolby Vision, and the newer, more open HDR10+ standard accessible to customers for $50 will help push the technology toward wider adoption. (Though, per usual, 4K and HDR still isn’t with most content.) The launch of the Fire TV Stick 4K also keeps Amazon in the race with Roku, which launched a new 4K HDR streaming stick last month (although it doesn’t support Dolby Vision). It also should keep Amazon competitive with Google, which is expected to launch a new Chromecast dongle in the coming weeks.