With the release of the Fire TV Cube, Amazon now offers four distinct ways of using its Fire TV operating system:
- The Fire TV Stick
- The Fire TV
- The Fire TV Cube
- Smart TVs with Fire TV built-in (“Fire TV Edition” smart TVs)
If you’re in the market for a streaming device (and you’ve established Fire TV is the best streaming gadget for your needs), which of the four devices should you buy?
The Amazon Fire TV Stick is the entry-level device.
If you’re looking to add smart capabilities to other TVs around your home, it’s an excellent choice. However, if you’re looking to upgrade your main TV’s capabilities, it’s worth spending a few extra bucks on one of the more powerful models.
Your decision might also be influenced by where you live. There are two versions of the Fire TV Stick currently available. “Fire Stick Gen 2” was released in late 2016 and is only available in the US, UK, Germany, Japan, and India. The “Fire Stick Basic Edition” hit shops 12 months later and is available in most of the rest of the world.
Most of the two devices’ technical specifications are identical. Both have a maximum supported resolution of 1080p at 30fps, 8GB of internal storage, 1GB of RAM, and a quad-core ARM 1.3 GHz CPU.
The most significant hardware difference is the remote. The Gen 2 model ships with an Alexa-enabled voice-controlled remote. The Basic Edition doesn’t support Alexa or voice input. There are also some minor UI differences; the Basic Edition doesn’t include a Recommended By Your Apps section, doesn’t offer a search feature, and has a simplified app row.
If you live in a Basic Edition country and the missing features are important to you, you should look at the other options.
The next model is the Amazon Fire TV. It’s a significant step up on the Fire TV Stick. According to Amazon’s calculations, it’s four times more powerful than its little brother.
It’s biggest selling point is support for 4K video. It can produce 3840x2160p output at 60fps and includes HDR10 support in rendering pipelines. All this adds up to better contrasts and more vibrant colors, ultimately giving you a richer viewing experience.
Remember, 4K videos on Netflix are not available on the cheapest plan. You will need to pay $13.99/month for the Premium package. If you’re cable provider nor your streaming provider offer 4K, don’t be fooled into buying a 4K dongle unnecessarily.
Like the Fire TV Stick, the device offers 8GB of internal storage. However, it comes with 2GB of RAM and a quad-core ARM Cortex-A53 CPU which can run up to 1.5GHz. The extra power will be useful for people who enjoy playing games on their device.
Although the device doesn’t have a native ethernet port, you can buy Amazon’s official ethernet adaptor and connect the Fire TV directly to your router. This generally leads to a faster and smoother streaming experience and is recommended for people with slow network speeds.
Oddly, the Amazon Fire TV doesn’t support Miracast screen mirroring technology, whereas the Fire TV Stick does. If you plan on casting a lot of content from your computer or smartphone, the cheaper model might be the best choice.
The Amazon Fire TV Cube is Amazon’s newest addition to the Fire TV family. It’s like a regular Fire TV device and an Amazon Echo Dot rolled into one unit; it steals some of the best features from both.
For example, it’s the only model in the Fire TV range that includes Alexa-based Hardware Controls, a built-in Speaker, and far-field voice control. All of these features are present on the Echo Dot.
It also supports 4K Ultra HD at 60fps, HDR10, and Dolby Atmos which are available on the previously-discussed Fire TV. It ships with a free ethernet adaptor.
The Amazon Fire TV Cube uses the same 1.5GHz quad-core ARM Cortex-A53 CPU as the Fire TV along with 2GB of RAM. However, its specs differ slightly from the Fire TV thanks to its 16GB of internal memory.
The Fire TV Cube does not support Miracast.
The bottom line is that if you already own a Fire TV device and one of the many different Amazon Echo models, the Fire TV Cube is an unnecessary purchase. But if you’re new to the world of cord-cutting and personal assistants, the device is an excellent way to enter the market.
Amazon is partnering with several electronics manufacturers to produce Amazon Fire TV Edition smart TVs. These are television sets with Fire TV built into them, thus saving you from having to buy a seperate device.
Toshiba’s Amazon Fire TV Edition smart TV is a 4K Ultra HD LED TV that comes in three different sizes and is reasonably priced considering its technical specifications.
These Fire TV Edition smart TVs are Amazon’s answer to the Roku-enabled TVs which are becoming increasingly popular.
The Fire TV Edition TVs offer the best aspects of the 4K Fire TV dongle, including 3840x2160p resolution at 60fps, HDR10 support, 2GB of RAM, and 8GB of storage. Unfortunately, however, they do not offer Dolby Atmos sound or Miracast.
The Fire TV Edition smart TVs differ slightly from the Fire TV in their sign in process. Unlike all the other Fire products, you do not need an Amazon account to use the operating system. You can still access Netflix, Hulu, Spotify, and all your other favorite apps without logging in to an OS-wide account.
The Fire TV Edition smart TVs are also Alexa-enabled, so you can use your voice to control the TV, your smart home devices, and more.
Clearly, you’re not going to buy a new TV just to add smart capabilities to your living room. However, if you’re already familiar with the Fire TV OS and do need a new TV, the Fire TV Edition models are high-quality and well-priced options.
A Better Alternative to Amazon Fire TV Devices
Fire TV devices are not right for everyone; they do have some disadvantages. For example, Amazon’s ongoing spat with Google means there’s no native YouTube app (though Amazon does provide a browser-based workaround).
Furthermore, the Fire TV’s reliance on the Amazon Appstore means you don’t have access to the same number of Android apps as you do on Android TV devices. Again, there are workarounds that allow you to sideload apps on the Amazon Fire TV Stick, but it’s not an ideal situation.
If you’re considering another streaming device, we recommend the Nvidia Shield. It’s still the ultimate tool for cord-cutters!