Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max – A capable stick

November 5, 2022
3 mins read
Start
9/10

Summary

Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max REVIEW

PAT PILCHER reviews a rather clever wee stick that’s especially smart when it comes to fully coordinating with other Amazon gizmos.

$109

The Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max has finally arrived in New Zealand. This is great news as the Fire TV Stick 4K Max supports UHD and faster Wi-Fi 6 but adds Alexa smarts and seamless Ring camera/doorbell integration.

Design-wise, there’s little to give away the capabilities on offer. Its design is unexciting (it’s a streaming stick after all) with an HDMI port on its rear and a USB port on its side for the bundled power brick to plug into). The Fire Stick 4K Max’s remote is excellent. Its round D-Pad for menu navigation is where my thumb naturally wanted to sit. Add to this all the usual menu/volume, home and back and dedicated buttons for Prime Video, Netflix plus an Alexa button, and you’re cooking with gas.

 

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Design aside, all the exciting stuff in the 4K Max happens under its hood. For fast and smooth navigation, Amazon upped the memory from the original Fire TV Stick to 2GB, which is about a third more. Its CPU clocks in at 1.8Ghz, which is also at least 40 percent faster than the original Fire TV Stick, according to Amazon.

For anyone in a crowded Wi-Fi environment looking to stream 4K content, Amazon kitted out the 4K Max with Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax). It has a maximum theoretical throughput of 3.5Gbps. While you’re unlikely to see that sort of speed, 802.11ax provides future-proofing and improved performance in situations with many nearby Wi-Fi networks.

Getting up and running out of the box was effortless. After plugging the supplied power brick and cable into the 4K Max’s USB port, I bunged it into a spare HDMI port on the telly. I found a log-in screen asking for my Amazon credentials and was stepped through a setup process that asked which streaming apps I wanted. The setup took just a few minutes. Nicer still, the Fire Stick detected my TV and sound bar, allowing me to control everything with its remote.

The 4K Max’s user interface is broken up into two areas. These are Home and Find. There’s a top row of featured Prime Video shows. Further down are rows of content grouped by categories.

Being an Amazon device, Prime Video content dominates, and its user interface steers users towards the content on Prime.

TVNZ+ and 3+, Neon and Spark Sport are all there, as are Prime Video, Netflix and a host of other streaming services. Frustratingly, Kodi (arguably the best open-source media players) isn’t anywhere to be seen on the amazon app store. While I was initially disappointed to note that Acorn TV was also missing, I found it as part of the AMC+ app so I could happily continue to binge on brit drama.

Getting that sorted wasn’t too much of a fiddle, as there are plenty of simple online tutorials that’ll show you how to get these apps set up and running with little to no fuss. With Google and others already offering Kodi directly via their app store, Amazon should follow suit as this is a glaring omission.

So, have these improvements paid off? Out of the box, the 4K Max offered stutter-free 4K HDR streaming. Visuals on my Panasonic LZ2000 impressed. Aside from Panasonic’s excellent video processing, on-screen visuals got helped along with the 4K Max’s support for Dolby Vision and HDR10+. Being Dolby Atmos compatible, the audio got a shot in the arm too. Navigation was silky smooth and quick, and the bonus of Wi-Fi 6 also meant that apps downloaded at a blazingly fast clip.

If the 4K Max impressed me with its streaming chops, I was also stunned to find that it’s a great gaming gadget. Using an excellent YouTube tutorial from retro game corps, I installed the retro Arch games emulator, pairing up a wireless console games controller. With it, I played a bunch of PlayStation, Nintendo and arcade titles. If you’re longing for old retro games, be they console or arcade, this trick makes the 4K Max a bargain, especially considering it costs just a tad over $100.

The addition of Alexa was also a real boon. If you can’t remember the name of that movie you’ve long wanted to watch, Alexa is there to help using her built-in smarts. All I had to do was ask Alexa. She then displayed all the content matching my search criteria that are part of my subscriptions. The 4K Max slotted right into the collection of Alexa skills I use to control the many smart gadgets around my home. I could use the blue Alexa button on the remote to dim lights and play music or even start vacuum cleaning. If my Ring cameras detected someone was entering my property, I got a handy pop-up picture-in-picture video feed on my TV. At the same time, the content I was watching was paused.

Considering its attractive sticker price and spec, plus the large community of modders and other online support, the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max offers compelling value.

www.amazon.com.au

 

Pat has been talking about tech on TV, radio and print for over 20 years, having served time as a TV tech guy and currently penning reviews for Witchdoctor. He loves nothing more than rolling his sleeves up and playing with shiny gadgets.

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