Almost a year after Amazon released its Fire TV Stick 4k Max in New Zealand, an updated version is available. The new Amazon Fire TV Stick 4k Max (2nd Generation) brings those small changes that make a lot of difference.
The design is very similar to its predecessor. It is a simple stick with an HDMI adapter and a USB-C plug for power, small enough to hide behind your TV.
But don’t be fooled by the size. This version is faster than before, with a new 2 GHz quad-core CPU and an 850 MHz GPU, all in this small package.
In terms of speed, you can feel it is more responsive than before, and double the storage memory, now at 16 GB, can only help.
Despite this hardware improvement, the video and audio support remain the same as last year’s model, meaning support for Dolby Vision, HDR, HDR 10, HDR 10+ is all there, so you can watch your favourite content up to 4K (Ultra HD) resolution, at 60 frames per second (FPS). It also means support for different codecs, including H.265, H.264, VP9 and AV1, making it a device capable of playing content encoded in all those different compression schemes – a pre-requisite for high-resolution content delivery over the networks these days.
You can drive the sound up with support for Dolby Atmos, so your movies can jump to live inside your room. On top of that, it supports other standards like DTS HD pass-through, Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby TrueHD and standards like MP3, PCM/WAV and AAC.
There are three other new things worth noting here.
Firstly, the new Alexa Voice Remove Enhanced, is just a tad bigger than the previous version, but now includes buttons with direct access to your app, previous running apps and a button to change channel on Live TV, a service that is not yet available in New Zealand. You will also find a button to direct access to settings and some apps – one button each for Amazon Prime Video, Amazon Music and Netflix.
The remove feels nice on your hand, and the buttons are the right size, so no complaints there.
Second is support for Wi-Fi 6E, a first in streaming devices. Wi-Fi 6E means access to a non-congested 6 GHz band, with much higher connection speeds. But you will need a compatible router for this to work. Otherwise, it will fall back to Wi-Fi 6, supporting 5 GHz and 2.4 GHz bands.
And third is the new Ambient Experience, a screensaver-like feature that kicks in after a few minutes, with beautiful art and photos available on your screen, with a collection of widgets that you can always have on-screen or just hidden but available at the touch of a button. These include your calendar, weather, notes and more, all powered by Amazon’s smart assistant, Alexa.
You can also access Alexa by pressing a button on your remote control and asking something – for example, “Open Netflix” or “Play jazz on Spotify”. Or if you have a Ring camera you can say something like “Show my driveway”, and your Ring camera feed will stream directly on the big screen.
Once you started setting up your Amazon Fire TV Stick you will be asked which local apps to install, and these include the likes of Three Now, TVNZ+, and the usual suspects, including Disney+, Netflix, Spotify, Sky Sport Now, Neon and more.
You can access Amazon Music and Amazon Prime Video from Amazon itself.
With Amazon Prime Video you have access to thousands of free movies and TV series, not unlike Netflix. The main difference between the local Amazon Prime Video and the US-based version is the lack of movie rental options in New Zealand, which I was used to with an Amazon Prime Video US account before.
If you want to access new movie releases not available through Amazon Prime Video, you can still buy or rent movies through Google’s service, YouTube.
Not particularly new, but worth mentioning, is that if you have some compatible Amazon Echo devices, you can connect them to your Fire TV over your Wi-Fi network and create a more immersive sound experience with speakers around your room.
This upgrade is worth it because of the speed improvements alone, but all these other small things make it a nice streaming device.