Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K review

Let’s not buffer. Amazon’s latest HDMI streaming stick is an absolute stonker.

This upgraded dongle is noticeably longer than the previous Fire TV Stick, but with multi-HDR support (not only does the device handle HDR10 and its dynamic variant HDR10+, it’s also Dolby Vision compatible), Alexa voice control and dual-band, dual-antenna MIMO Wi-Fi reception, it packs a heck of a lot into its matt black shell. Available for the bargain price of £50, it's hard to find a reason not to buy one.

Before you ask, adding this Amazon streamer to your 4K TV will not magically bequeath HDR10+ or Dolby Vision compliance. It’s merely a conduit for those metadata encoded streams. You’ll still require a telly that’s compatible with one or the other.

Of course, the reality is that the relevant client apps, be they Netflix on a Dolby Vision-enabled screen, or Amazon on a HDR10+ panel, will already have the ability to deliver the same service. The value is that you don’t have to fire up separate applications, allowing you to stay within the Amazon Fire UI environment. This is clearly more convenient than switching between multiple interfaces.

When it comes to audio, the stick supports Dolby Digital Plus, which delivers both Dolby Digital 5.1/7.1 and Dolby Atmos streams where available.

While there’s no room for a dedicated Ethernet connection, you can always pick up a third-party USB power cord with a break-out Ethernet port to hardwire. The stick automatically detects a such cable connection during setup.

Plug, then play
Installing the Fire TV Stick 4K is fast and painless, taking just a few minutes. For this audition, I plugged it into the back of an AV receiver. The housing is too wide to fit a standard HDMI input board, but thoughtfully Amazon supplies an extender which gets around the problem. This short lead may also prove useful if you’re connecting directly to a screen, as the device will likely stick out past the edge of a bezel on smaller sets with side-mounted ports.

Driving the Fire TV Stick 4K is a quad-core 1.7GHz processor, which delivers quicker load times, and seemingly faster stream optimisation, than previous generations. It’s also powerful enough for quite polished gaming, as evidenced by the Sega classic collection now available through Amazon.

Dolby Atmos is available out of the box from the Amazon Prime streaming service. This currently only has a few shows in the format, most notably the action series Jack Ryan. Atmos isn’t a new innovation, we’ve had it on the previous generations of Fire TV, but it’s always reassuring to see an AVR recognise the stream.

Nearly all the key VOD services are onboard – BBC iPlayer, ITVHub, All4, My5 and UK Play, as well as OTT heavy hitters like Netflix and Disney. But there's no quick-start YouTube app, so to access this you'll need to go via a web browser – the stick offers Firefox and Amazon Silk. Local file playback can be handled by Plex and VLC.

Fire TV isn’t just about TV either, there’s a variety of audio apps, including Amazon Music, Spotify, Tidal and TuneIn.

Image quality is excellent from both Amazon Prime and Netflix. The player quickly locks onto the fastest adaptive stream, and if your broadband connection is quick enough, provides a stable, buffer-free picture. Programmes snap into high-clarity with remarkable speed. Fine detail, colour vibrancy and dynamics are first-class.

While it’s tempting to focus on the clarity of 4K content – Better Call Saul on Netflix is a UHD standout – the majority of viewing is likely to remain HD, and this gadget streams detailed 1080p images on even relatively slow connections. The sense of cinematic texture evident in Outlander (Amazon Prime) is totally engaging.

Audio gets a Plus
Audio quality is equally fine. The ultra-high efficiency of Dolby Digital Plus negates concerns about the smaller bandwidth used for Dolby Atmos when compared to Atmos delivered within TrueHD; the soundstage is wide and high. In truth, Jack Ryan doesn’t do much to exploit the height aspects of the Atmos platform, but there’s no doubting the frisson it generates.

The stick has no problem with standard surround sound, offering sprightly panning around the soundstage and generally big audio – allow your Dolby Atmos AV receiver to add post-processing in its Dolby Surround mode for the best results. This diminutive device is also perfectly adequate acting as a two-channel source for music.

The application of voice control is actually crucial, not least because the organisation of Amazon Prime in particular is almost wilfully obtuse. Search terms (movie titles, stars, genres and so on) were all reliably understood. If there is a caveat, it’s that not all avenues are included in searches. UK catch-up platforms are currently out, but Netflix is in.

The Fire TV Stick 4K can also be paired with an Echo device, for zapper-free Alexa control, if both are on the same network. This lets you instruct the streamer directly, for example, by declaring: 'Alexa, watch Lucifer on Fire TV.' The provision of Bluetooth is another bonus. Not only can you stream from a mobile device, you can Bluetooth back to wireless headphones for private listening – great for late-night binge sessions.

Essential purchase
This update to Amazon's slim player is nigh on irresistible, combining huge content choice with extremely powerful hardware. The inclusion of Dolby Vision and HDR10+ has appeal, but Dolby Atmos support is potentially the most useful within a home cinema environment – we eagerly await the provision of Atmos within the stick’s Netflix app. If you love to stream, this is an essential purchase.


Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K
£50 Approx

We say: The most powerful 4K HDR streamer you can buy. A superb performer, with integrated voice control and huge content support. A home cinema must-have.

Performance: 4.5/5
Design: 5/5
Features: 4.5/5
Overall: 5/5


Connections: Integrated HDMI; USB power
Key apps: Amazon Prime Video; Netflix; BBC iPlayer; ITV Hub; All4; My5; UKTV Play; BBC News; BBC Sport; BT TV; Disney Life; Curzon Cinema; Crunchyroll; UFC
Audio format support: Dolby Digital Plus (to 7.1 and Dolby Atmos); FLAC; MP3; PCM/Wave; Vorbis Video format support: HEVC; MPEG Dimensions: 108(h) x 30(w) x 14(d)mm (including connector)
Weight: 53.6g
Features: Amazon Alexa voice control; smart home integration; Bluetooth; 8GB internal storage; VoiceView screen reader; quad core 1.7GHz processor; Fire OS 6; Silk and Firefox web browsers

Amazon UK