Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max review: Smart upgrades make it tough to beat

Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max review (Image: AMAZON)

Fire TV Stick 4K Max offers stacks of free artwork which makes your telly appear like a constantly changing work of art 

What we love

  • Smarter curvaceous design
  • More power and improved Wi-Fi
  • Ambient Experience is a nice addition
  • Plenty of free and premium content

What we don’t

  • Quite expensive
  • No Pro remote included
  • Micro USB power connection

Fire TV Stick remains hugely popular and it’s not hard to see why. These dinky devices slot neatly into the back of any television and make it a whole lot smarter thanks to the plethora of apps and the supremely useful Alexa who will find pretty much anything you need simply by asking.

Now things are improved further thanks to the release of the new Fire TV Stick 4K Max. This streamer packs a faster processor, more internal storage and upgraded Wi-Fi 6E which means, as long as you have a compatible router, your streaming should never stutter – even when watching in pin-sharp 4K.

Its new design is more curvaceous which makes it a little more pleasing to the eye and it gets the exclusive Ambient Experience which is not available on any other Fire Stick. This feature offers stacks of free artwork which makes your telly appear like a constantly changing work of art. You can also add useful floating widgets over the top for easy access to things such as weather, sticky notes, smart home gadgets and what’s on live TV.

Like all Fire TV Sticks, there’s plenty to love about the new Max but we do have some niggles. Firstly, it still needs power which it can’t draw from the HDMI port. That means plugging it into a USB-A socket – if your TV has one – or finding a spare plug socket near your telly.

For some bizarre reason it also uses an ageing Micro USB port for power which is totally baffling and, for such a new device, simply shouldn’t be happening in 2024.

Finally, there are no big changes to the remote control which means you still have to replace those AAA batteries when they run out of juice. We know that Apple’s TV is way more expensive but it would be great if Amazon’s most premium Fire TV Stick followed Apple with a fully rechargeable remote.

Despite our gripes, this remains a great gadget for streaming TV. It packs a premium punch, gets exclusive features and offers endless hours of TV entertainment.

Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max: Full review

If your old Fire TV is on its last legs or you’ve been thinking about joining the streaming revolution then the new Fire TV Stick 4K Max may have caught your eye. This device features a refreshed design, vastly improved performance and an exclusive Ambient Experience that turns televisions into an ever-changing work of art. The big question is, is it really worth almost £70 and should buy one today? Express.co.uk has had the Fire TV Stick 4K Max plugged into our telly and here’s our full review.

Fire TV Stick 4K Max review

The Fire TV Stick 4K Max gets a new look (Image: AMAZON)

Set-up and design

We were expecting a super simple set-up process from Amazon but it actually turned into quite a palaver. The telly we tested our Fire TV Stick 4K Max on had no USB-C socket for the required power it needs which meant finding a free plug behind our already packed screen. Once we’d unplugged an existing device from the mains and popped in Amazon’s supplied plug we discovered that this new streamer is using an ageing Micro USB socket to power it. That’s a pretty bizarre decision as almost all devices, including Apple’s latest iPhone, are now using much better USB-C. 

Our next problem was HDMI ports as we quickly realised we’d already run out of sockets due to having a soundbar and gaming console plugged in. Admittedly, some TVs now come with more HDMI sockets but it’s worth checking how many you have free as you might need to order an HDMI booster along with your Fire TV Stick Max when you tap the order button.

Once we’d sorted power and emptied a port, we were finally ready to go. Things are then pretty simple with a QR code linking the Fire TV Stick 4K Max to our Amazon account. Easy-to-follow on-screen instructions then popped up and eased us through the set-top process. From start to finish, the whole task of getting up and running took around 10 minutes – then we were ready to start watching TV.

A quick word on the new design which definitely looks better than before. It’s now far more curvaceous with soft edges giving it a modern feel. Of course, after it’s plugged in you won’t see it again so the design doesn’t really matter but it still sets old and new apart and that’s no bad thing.

New features

Along with that new look, there are some other big changes on the new Fire TV Stick 4K Max including an improved processor. This makes whizzing through menus and launching apps feel far smoother than before and the whole experience of using this device feels super premium. If your router is Wi-Fi 6E ready you’ll get better, faster and more reliable streaming thanks to this latest technology built into the streaming stick.

There’s also 16GB of internal storage – the most ever in a Fire TV Stick – and it comes with an exclusive feature that makes your telly look less dull when not being used.

The Fire TV Ambient Experience lets you display over 2,000 pieces of museum-quality art and photography on the screen. Widgets can also be overlayed over the top so you can see the local weather, what’s on live TV or sticky notes to jog your memory. There are loads of ways to customise things including making the widgets bigger, changing the background images and setting a time limit before the Fire TV Stick turns off.

It’s a really nice touch from Amazon and certainly jazzes up the big black screen that sits in the corner of your living room.

Like most of Amazon’s Sticks there’s also the option to watch in 4K Ultra HD, with support for Dolby Vision, HDR10+ and more immersive Dolby Atmos audio.

The only thing that’s missing is hands-free Alexa. That feature remains exclusive to the more expensive Fire TV Cube and means you’ll still have to tap the dedicated blue Alexa button on the remote to summon the useful assistant.

Fire TV Stick 4K Max review

The new Ambient Experience transforms your TV (Image: AMAZON)

Fire TV OS

Fire TV OS, which is the operating system found on all Fire TV Stick hardware, is still just as gorgeous as ever and navigating it is now more seamless thanks to the additional power found in this new device.

For our money, it remains one of the best user interfaces on any streaming gadget.

Fire TV fills the screen with stunning, high-resolution artwork from shows and movies as you browse. There are also brief descriptions and ratings from IMDB – so you don’t need to keep referring to your smartphone to find out whether the film you’re thinking of watching was savaged by critics or not.

Hovering over the tile for a particular show or movie for longer than a few beats will start a trailer, so you can get a sneak peek without leaving the main menu.

There’s also loads of premium and free content to watch with Fire TV OS offering access to platforms such as Disney+, Prime Video, Netflix, BBC, ITV and Freevee.

Viewing on the Fire TV Stick 4K Max will slowly show your habits with the device able to suggest similar shows and films that you might like.

One of our favourite features built into Fire TV OS is the ability to see a summary of all the actors in any given scene, the director of the episode or film, as well as the music playing in the background – or used in the soundtrack, by tapping a single button. Viewers can then play the song in its entirety, or click to see more from any of actors or the director.

Our one complaint is that, while Fire TV OS supports a wide range of different services, there does seem to be a lot of Amazon-produced or Prime Video-exclusive shows that get top billing in the menu.

Fire TV Stick 4K Max review

There’s no major changes to the remote (Image: AMAZON)

The remote

The Fire TV Stick might have received a glossy new look, more power and extra features but, sadly, the remote has remained the same. In some ways that’s not a problem with this channel changer offering a compact design and all the buttons in the right place.

It’s just a shame it doesn’t include features found on the such as backlit keys or an in-built alarm should it go missing down the side of the sofa. We’d also love to see Amazon launch a remote in the web future that ditches those AAA batteries and gets a rechargeable power pack built-in instead.

One final gripe is that the dedicated Disney+ button has been ditched which means you can’t access this app with a simple tap. Instead, there’s now an “APPS” option which launches all of your favourite applications on the home screen.

Price

At £69.99 the Fire TV Stick 4K Max is more expensive than any other of Amazon’s dongles. It’s certainly packed with features and is pretty good value considering what it offers. The only thing to consider is if you really need this device as there are plenty of other options from Amazon that are even cheaper.

For example, you can get the Lite model for just £34.99 – admittedly it lacks a lot of the functionality found on the Max but for some it will work just as well.

One final word of advice. If you’re not desperate to upgrade right away, keep an eye on Amazon’s website as the firm’s Fire devices, including the 4K Max, get discounts throughout the year, especially during Prime Day and Black Friday.

Fire TV Stick 4K Max review

Fire TV Stick 4K Max review (Image: AMAZON)

Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max: Final verdict

If you are in need of a new streaming device and want the best of the bunch then the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max is pretty tough to beat. It’s faster, more powerful and has that additional storage tucked under its curvaceous new design. There’s also that Ambient Experience which brings a nice touch to your TV and makes the usual blank display appear a little more exciting.

Yes, we have a few gripes including the weird Micro USB connection and lack of update to the remote control.

At full price (£69.99) it’s also pretty pricey although there are often discounts which make it much more desirable and more affordable.

The Fire TV Stick 4K Max remains a great way of watching telly and all of its new features will certainly make your old TV feel a lot smarter.

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