Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max (2nd Gen, 2023) Review


Editors’ Note: This is the most recent version of the Fire TV Stick 4K Max. Read our original review from October 9, 2023 below.

The Fire TV Stick 4K Max was one of the first media streamers with Wi-Fi 6 when it debuted in 2021. In 2023, the second-generation Fire TV Stick 4K ($49.99) has Wi-Fi 6 while the latest Fire TV Stick 4K Max ($59.99) features Wi-Fi 6E to stay on the cutting edge of connectivity. This doesn’t mean you need it, though. The Fire TV Stick 4K Max is a solid buy if you have a Wi-Fi 6E router and a crowded network, or if you’re looking to future-proof your media streaming setup. But for $10 less, the standard Fire TV Stick 4K remains our Editors’ Choice winner for most buyers.


Design: A Similarly Slim Stick

The new Fire TV Stick 4K Max is physically identical to the standard version. It’s a 3.9-by-1.2-by-0.6-inch (HWD) black plastic rectangle with rounded corners and an HDMI plug extending from one end. A micro USB port sits on one of the long edges for power through the included USB cable and wall adapter. Most TV USB ports don’t put out enough current to consistently keep the stick going, so you’ll want to plug it into the wall. If the stick is a bit too wide to fit, a short HDMI extender is included.

(Credit: Will Greenwald)

The included Alexa Enhanced Voice Remote is slightly longer than the standard Alexa Voice Remote that comes with the non-Max 4K Stick, but it doesn’t offer drastic enhancements as its name suggests. It has a nearly identical layout, with a glossy circular navigation pad near the top, beneath power and Alexa buttons and a microphone. Menu and playback buttons sit below the pad, with volume and channel rockers further down, as well as dedicated service buttons for Amazon Prime Video, DirecTV, Netflix, and Peacock at the bottom. The channel rocker is the only difference from the smaller remote, and neither features backlit buttons, programmable shortcut buttons, or a remote finder, perks of the $34.99 Alexa Voice Remote Pro.

Internally, the Fire TV Stick 4K Max has a 2.0GHz processor, 2GB of RAM, 16GB of storage, and Wi-Fi 6E. It’s a slight upgrade in power from the first 4K Max’s 1.8GHz CPU and has twice as much room for installing apps, though unless you want to load the stick with classic games to play with a gamepad, you probably won’t push past the 8GB mark with regular use. Wi-Fi 6E is the biggest change, as we’ll discuss below.


Interface: Fire TV Features Loads of Apps

Naturally, the Fire TV Stick 4K Max uses the Amazon Fire TV smart TV platform. In short, it’s a powerful system that covers all major streaming services and integrates suggested content from various sources into the interface (while still emphasizing Prime Video more than anything else). Loads of apps are available, including game streaming from Amazon Luna and a surprisingly good selection of retro games you can play via a paired Bluetooth gamepad.

Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max Fire TV interface

(Credit: Will Greenwald)

It also features the Amazon Alexa voice assistant, though to summon the virtual assistant you must press the Alexa button on the remote and speak into it. For hands-free Alexa, you’ll need to pair the stick with an Echo smart speaker or upgrade to the Amazon Fire TV Cube or a Fire TV-based television like the Fire TV Omni QLED. The Fire TV platform’s only real misstep is lacking Apple AirPlay or Google Cast for seamless local device streaming, though it does support Miracast.


Wi-Fi 6E: The Biggest Difference You Might Not Notice

Wi-Fi 6E expands on the Wi-Fi 6 standard by adding 6GHz frequencies to the range of available connections. The 6GHz band is generally less crowded than the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands Wi-Fi 6 and below use, so it should be both faster and more reliable under ideal network conditions. The higher frequencies mean less range, though, so you’ll probably get the best performance if your router is relatively close to the streaming stick. Of course, you’ll need a Wi-Fi 6E router like Amazon’s own Eero Pro 6E mesh router to see any benefit in the first place.

Even with a Wi-Fi 6E connection, however, you might not notice any improvement to the streaming experience. As we noted in our first Fire TV Stick 4K Max review, even the jump from Wi-Fi 5 to Wi-Fi 6 didn’t make much of a difference in testing because Wi-Fi 5’s speeds far exceed the necessary bandwidth to stream 4K HDR content in the first place. Amazon recommends at least 36Mbps for 4K HDR video, and Wi-Fi 5 has an average speed of 200Mbps. Videos seem to load and stabilize about as quickly at 4K resolution across the board between the first-gen Fire TV Stick 4K and the new Wi-Fi 6 version.

Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max network results

(Credit: Will Greenwald)

The bigger draw for both Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 6E relates to congested network environments. Wi-Fi 6 can switch between 2.4GHz and the faster 5GHz bands in response to crowding to maintain the fastest and most reliable connection. Wi-Fi 6E adds the even emptier (for now) 6GHz band. The video quality of content you watch won’t get any better with the newer connections, but Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 6E help ensure consistent performance even if you have several computers, phones, tablets, and smart home devices connected to the same network.


Performance: Fast, But Not Faster

Like the Fire TV Stick 4K, the Max is a 4K media streamer that supports high dynamic range (HDR) in Dolby Vision, HDR10, and HDR10+, along with Dolby Atmos spatial audio.

My home network is Wi-Fi 6, and it’s hard to imagine that the Fire TV Stick 4K Max could have performed better if I had tested it with a Wi-Fi 6E router. Video streams load rapidly and settle at native resolution (4K and HDR when available) almost as soon as they start playing. App menus and libraries populate quickly, and the general experience is quite zippy.

This doesn’t mean the 4K Max works perfectly, because no media hub works perfectly. Twitch crashed twice during testing, making the stick jump to the home page, and I saw a few hiccups with other apps and when loading the Fire TV guide. These bugs are fairly common both on Fire TV and Google TV, and Twitch in particular seems poorly optimized on every smart TV platform it’s available on. It’s unlikely the stick’s hardware was at fault, since software bugs and server-side network issues can affect apps regardless of how fast your processor and network connection are.

Both the standard Fire TV Stick 4K and the Max respond immediately to remote commands. Loading any app from the home screen can take around 5 to 10 seconds, but once open, you can quickly flip between two apps like YouTube and Twitch. Fire TV and all other smart TV platforms automatically close apps to free up memory as needed, so you’ll still regularly see app loading screens. That’s normal for all media streaming devices we’ve tested, and performance varies based on any given app’s optimization and the reliability of the servers they’re connecting to.

Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max Alexa

(Credit: Will Greenwald)

Unsurprisingly, Amazon content and features work best since Fire TV is built from the ground up with them in mind. Navigating Prime Video is consistently fast and reliable, and Alexa responds to my commands almost instantly.


The Right Fire Stick for Your Wi-Fi 6E Router

The second-generation Fire TV Stick 4K Max media streamer builds on the standard Fire TV Stick 4K with a slightly faster processor and Wi-Fi 6E for just $10 more. That doesn’t mean you need to pay the extra money, or even replace your first-generation Fire TV Stick 4K. The second-gen Max is only worthwhile if you have a Wi-Fi 6E router to begin with, and even then you might not notice an improvement depending on your network conditions and Wi-Fi crowding around your home. It’s worth buying if you have a Wi-Fi 6E router and want a Fire Stick, but the more affordable Fire TV Stick 4K is our Editors’ Choice winner for most people. If you prefer Google Assistant to Alexa, meanwhile, the Chromecast With Google TV is another top pick that can provide just as much great content with the addition of Google Cast for mirroring from your Android phone and Chrome tabs, but it doesn’t have Wi-Fi 6 or 6E.

Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max (2nd Gen, 2023)

Pros

  • Affordable

  • Fast performance

  • Wi-Fi 6E support

  • Loads of features

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The Bottom Line

The second-generation Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max one-ups the standard model with Wi-Fi 6E support, though you’ll only notice its speed and reliability improvements with a compatible router.

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