Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max review: Speedy app delivery isn’t everything

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Sarah Tew/CNET

Amazon’s new Fire TV Stick Max is the corporate’s highest-priced and strongest streaming stick but. A step up from the $40 Streaming Stick 4K, the brand new Max runs $55 and packs a sooner processor, help for Wi-Fi 6 and almost all the newest playback requirements from 4K, HDR10 and Dolby Vision to HDR10+ plus Dolby Atmos for audio. 

Spoiler: The Max is quick. For individuals who merely need the quickest strategy to stream Netflix, Disney Plus, HBO Max, YouTube TV and the remainder, this streamer is (actually) robust to beat. That velocity makes the Max well worth the larger value in comparison with the unique Hearth TV Stick 4K.

As for these debating between the Max and Google’s $50 Chromecast with Google TV or Roku’s upcoming $50 Streaming Stick 4K? That is a little bit extra sophisticated. Google’s voice assistant and search work higher than Alexa, and Roku’s easy menu system remains to be my favourite of the three. Amazon’s menu system is okay, however there are too many advertisements and the search typically turned up surprising outcomes. The Hearth TV Stick 4K Max is my favourite Hearth TV but, however until you are closely invested within the e-Commerce big’s world of gadgets like Alexa audio system or Ring cameras, Roku’s and Google’s streamers are higher choices.

Like

  • Quick efficiency
  • Helps all main streaming apps
  • Sensible residence management by means of Alexa

Do not Like

  • Advertisements are prevalent on the house display screen and screensaver
  • No Chromecast or AirPlay help
  • Search outcomes are wonky
  • Luna lacks compelling video games

A velocity increase

Amazon touts the processor velocity improve as one of many massive explanation why this streaming stick warrants the “Max” title. And in utilizing the system over the previous few days, I can report that it’s, certainly, actually quick.

Opening and switching between apps had been among the many quickest I’ve ever encountered on a streaming stick. It is not at all times instantaneous, notably if you have not opened an app in just a few hours, however for probably the most half, the whole lot from Netflix and Prime Video to Disney Plus, HBO Max and YouTube TV opened rapidly. 

Amazon Luna Gaming

The Hearth TV Stick 4K Max and distant with an (optionally available, $70) Luna controller.


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There have been just a few situations the place the display screen would go black for longer than I anticipated, nonetheless. And utilizing Alexa to bounce again into YouTube TV generally required grabbing the distant and restarting the stream.

On Amazon’s menus? Too many Amazon advertisements

Amazon’s interface runs the present, and I respect fast entry to the “Lately Watched” tab. I do not, nonetheless, like that proper underneath that may be a big “sponsored” tab on the house display screen, although I largely have grown to disregard all the assorted suggestions Amazon shoves from streaming companies underneath that lately watched bar. 

It might be nice if Amazon added a tab to rapidly see all of your apps and channels. You possibly can preset six to look on the principle web page, however having sooner entry to that full checklist can be extra beneficial to me than the tabs for “discover” and “dwell.”

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Advertisements can simply replenish the screensaver on the Hearth TV. 


Sarah Tew/CNET

I additionally do not respect the TV turning into a large rotating billboard for content material or advertisements when in screensaver mode. It is one factor to throw in a little bit advert right here or there like Roku; it is one other to show my total 65-inch TV right into a billboard for iFit or Nancy Grace’s Fox Nation present. 

Most 4K HDR format, Wi-Fi help

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The Max works with nearly each main audio and video format on the market. TV reveals and films obtainable in 4K and/or Dolby Imaginative and prescient performed again with no points on my TCL 6-Collection TV. Since that TV lacks HDR10+ help, and my Sonos Beam soundbar equally doesn’t embody Dolby Atmos, I used to be unable to check both of these options. As we have written up to now, whereas it is good that Amazon helps all of those codecs we do not think about Dolby Imaginative and prescient or HDR10+ vital, partially as a result of it is not a major image quality upgrade over commonplace HDR.

Annoyingly, Amazon sticks a 4K icon on seemingly something that’s obtainable in 4K, even when you must pay for it. For instance, scrolling by means of the house display screen I noticed a 4K icon subsequent to Despicable Me 2. The animated movie is out there within the larger decision, however solely if you’re keen to hire it or purchase it from Amazon. Streaming without cost by means of Amazon’s IMDb TV will likely be in HD.

For these in a extra crowded family, Wi-Fi 6 support may very well be good if in case you have already upgraded or are planning to replace your Wi-Fi router within the close to future. The restricted area in my New York condo didn’t present an awesome venue for testing the bandwidth enhancements, however I skilled no issues streaming from an older Eero router in the identical room.

As with most streaming sticks, you may energy the system utilizing both the included wall adapter or (in case your TV helps it) plugging the USB energy cable immediately into your tv. Whereas some gadgets, together with the Hearth TV Stick 4K, flash warnings when utilizing USB energy, I had no points working the system from the USB port on my TV.

New blue distant button and shortcut keys

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Sarah Tew/CNET

Amazon’s up to date distant provides the Alexa voice assistant a outstanding blue button on the high — you will must press and maintain it to concern voice instructions — in addition to devoted keys for Prime Video, Netflix, Disney Plus and Hulu. Whereas some individuals could not need logos cluttering up the design of the all-black controller, I discovered these keys handy. Like different Hearth TV remotes, the Max additionally lets you management quantity and energy in your TV or different gadgets. 

Fire TV helps almost all the foremost streaming companies you may consider. It does, nonetheless, lack AirPlay help (which Roku and the Apple TV supply) or the power to Chromecast from Android gadgets (a characteristic supplied by Google’s Chromecast with Google TV).

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Ever-present however not at all times useful Alexa

To profit from the Hearth TV Stick 4K Max you will need different Amazon gadgets in your family. Alexa stays a key piece of the system, functioning as not solely a search helper for opening apps, motion pictures or reveals by voice but in addition controlling your smart home

You probably have a Ring doorbell you may ask to “present me the entrance door” and get a real-time have a look at what is occurring outdoors. New with the 4K Max is the power to attenuate Ring to a “picture-in-picture” field, permitting you to regulate the door when you watch one thing else. Alexa instructions into the distant are additionally able to controlling good lights or different home equipment, and there is an Alexa Residence Theater audio characteristic that allows you to pair Hearth TV with Echo audio system.

Sadly, Alexa on Hearth TV wasn’t nearly as good at offering related search outcomes for precise TV reveals and films. Asking to “play Pixar motion pictures” displayed outcomes like Luca, Discovering Nemo and Monsters Inc. in a “out of your subscriptions” row (recognizing that I had logged into Disney Plus) in addition to non-Pixar animated fare like “Cocomelon Halloween Songs.” For some motive, it additionally put Dave Chappelle’s new Netflix particular The Nearer on the identical row, sandwiched in between Ratatouille and Onward.

Asking to see Marvel motion pictures additionally introduced up the likes of Titanic and Disney’s Muppets Haunted Mansion alongside anticipated outcomes like Black Panther and the Avengers movies. 

Amazon largely does a pleasant job integrating Alexa with different apps. Saying “play the baseball recreation” on a Friday afternoon opened up YouTube TV and the White Sox-Astros recreation airing on MLB Community. Like with search, this is not at all times working as you’d anticipate. 

Saying “play the information” would not deliver up YouTube TV, however as an alternative opened Amazon’s devoted Information app that pulls in content material from ABC Information Stay, CBS Information and native information stations amongst others. 

Luna lags, lacks video games

Amazon Luna Gaming

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With the Stick 4K Max and its new 750MHz graphics processor, Amazon can also be making a recent effort to offer its $6-per-month Luna gaming service a house. After I performed a handful of video games I may see the potential for a stable cloud gaming expertise, though at instances Amazon’s service felt extra like an Xbox 360 somewhat than an Xbox One or Xbox Collection X. 

I’ve skilled lag, the place the sport would not reply rapidly, on all cloud gaming companies together with Google’s Stadia or Microsoft’s Xbox Cloud Gaming, and Luna was no exception. I had no issues taking part in Group Sonic Racing however taking part in Management and DiRT Rally 2.0 was more and more tough. I bought lag on Luna regardless of my Stick 4K Max being situated proper close to my router with quick Web — my Spectrum connection confirmed obtain speeds above 350 Mbps (with add speeds of round 20 Mbps and a ping of 20 ms).

My largest concern with Luna, nonetheless, is not the system and even essentially Amazon’s infrastructure however the video games themselves. Even a yr in, the platform nonetheless severely lacks in video games. 

Amazon Luna Gaming

Luna’s recreation choice remains to be missing. 


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A handful of publishers like Ubisoft, Capcom and 505 Video games have titles for the platform however larger publishers like Activision, Digital Arts, Epic Video games and 2K nonetheless aren’t right here, so do not anticipate to play Name of Responsibility, FIFA, Fortnite or NBA 2K. (The truth that, on the time this was printed, Amazon apparently lists Capcom as “Campcom” on its website raises inquiries to me on how severe the corporate is taking this endeavor.)

Getting probably the most out of Luna will value you. Ubisoft’s titles, like Far Cry 6 and Murderer’s Creed Valhalla, are locked behind a subscription to Ubisoft Plus, which runs $18 per thirty days. Different titles like a SpongeBob recreation from THQ Nordic and a Garfield Kart racing recreation from Microids required an extra subscription to Luna’s Household Channel, which is one other $3 per thirty days. A Luna controller is $70, although you should use an Xbox One controller or PlayStation 4 DualShock if in case you have both laying round. 

If Amazon builds out its video games platform or opens up the Stick 4K Max to different platforms (notably Xbox Cloud Gaming) this system may very well be worthwhile as an reasonably priced strategy to get video games in your TV with no console. For now, nonetheless, Google Stadia on the Chromecast with Google TV is a greater guess, with extra developer help and the power to recreation in 4K HDR.

One of the best Hearth TV Stick you will get

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Sarah Tew/CNET

If you will get by Amazon’s bugs and interface quirks and are on the lookout for a quick and highly effective media streamer, the brand new Hearth TV Stick 4K Max checks almost all of the containers. It has strong app help, opens stated apps actually rapidly and might management your good residence. 

Those that dwell in an Apple or Google world and do not depend on Alexa could also be higher off with a Roku or a streamer from both of these corporations. And players? Nicely, Luna shouldn’t be a motive to purchase any system in 2021. 

https://www.cnet.com/tech/home-entertainment/amazon-fire-tv-stick-4k-max-review-speedy-app-delivery-isnt-everything/#ftag=CADf328eec | Amazon Hearth TV Stick 4K Max evaluate: Speedy app supply is not the whole lot

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