Best Fire TV Stick in 2022: Fire Stick 4K Max, Lite, Fire TV Cube and More – CNET

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Amazon makes a plethora of Fire TV Sticks and many of them have similar names. How do you pick which one is right for you? We’ll help you break them down.
Sarah Lord
Associate Writer
Sarah Lord covers TVs and home entertainment. Prior to joining CNET, Sarah served as the tech and electronic reviews fellow at Insider, where she wrote about everything from smart watches and wearables to tablets and e-readers. She began her career by writing laptop reviews as an intern and subsequent freelancer at Tom’s Hardware. She is also a professional actor with many credits in theater, film and television.
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Most people who watch TV these days own at least one streaming device, as these little gadgets have become a crucial part of the movie-and-TV experience. Of course, most new TVs come with smart features built-in, allowing you to use platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime without an extra device. However, TV smart features typically don’t offer the best experience, being both slower than a dedicated streaming device and also lower quality. That’s why you need a streaming device of your own. Roku makes some of the most popular streaming players, but the company is starting to face stiff competition from streaming devices by Apple, Google and Amazon.
Amazon in particular has pushed aggressively into the streaming market by producing an array of Fire TV-branded streaming devices. We’ve reviewed them all, and found that we tend to like Roku products best for their easy use and their platform-agnostic approach — Roku’s menus don’t favor one service (like, for example, Prime Video) over others. That said, Amazon’s Fire TV devices are highly capable too, especially if you want Alexa voice integration. 
Amazon’s range is robust and runs the gamut from the basic Fire TV Stick Lite to the midrange Fire TV Stick 4K Max to the top-tier Fire TV Cube, as well as a bunch of models in between. If this sounds confusing, don’t worry. Our guide to the best Fire TV streaming device will help you pick out the right model for you.
Read moreBest 4K TV for 2022
If you’re looking for the best Fire stick on the market, the Fire TV Stick 4K Max is it. The Max is speedy and loads apps almost immediately, and navigating around the system is swift and smooth. Even better, the Max supports Wi-Fi 6 and nearly all the latest playback standards, including Dolby Vision. The downside to the Max is its Fire TV platform with ads featured prominently throughout. We just don’t appreciate the TV becoming a giant rotating billboard for content or ads when in screensaver mode. But this is a good choice for those looking for the best and fastest Amazon Fire TV stick.
Read our Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max review.
 
The Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K debuted in 2018 and is still around today. While we generally think it’s worth it to upgrade to the Max, the original Fire TV Stick 4K is still a good choice for those who want 4K streaming without paying for the latest bells and whistles, namely Wi-Fi 6 and blazing-fast speed. The voice features are impressive and Echo and Dot owners can control it with Alexa. Its app and game selection is superb and responses are still fast, though not as fast as on the Max. The remote can control volume and power on TVs and soundbars. Ultimately, if the price of the Fire TV Stick 4K is close to the Max, we recommend passing on this and getting the newer and faster Max.
Read our Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K review.
 
The Amazon Fire TV Stick Lite is our favorite budget streaming device, besting the Roku Express. The Lite trounces the Express in features-for-the-money. This Fire TV’s biggest advantage is a remote with built-in voice search and control powered by Alexa. The cheapest Roku with a voice remote is the Express Plus 4K, which uses Roku’s more basic voice system, not Alexa. The Fire Stick’s remote also doesn’t need line of sight to work. If you want to spend as little as possible on a streaming player, the Lite is your best bet.
Read our Amazon Fire TV Stick Lite review.
 
The Fire TV Cube does more than most media streaming devices. It will give you access to all your standard movies, shows and streaming services, but it also comes with a built-in microphone, speaker and Alexa capabilities. This means that it can double as a smart home hub. You can use your voice to search for shows and adjust the volume and inputs on your TV, dim lights, make Zoom calls, stream music and check the weather — all hands-free, without using the remote. It also features a hexa-core processor and 2GB of memory for lightning-fast streaming in 4K, as well as audio support for Dolby Atmos.
Read our Amazon Fire TV Cube review.
 
Although the Lite is a better value, the Amazon Fire TV Stick is another good choice for those who are still rocking regular HD TVs. The main difference between the Fire TV Stick and the cheaper Fire TV Stick Lite lies in the remote control. Fire Stick’s remote has buttons for volume, mute and power, allowing you to control those functions on your TV. The Lite lacks these capabilities and is therefore slightly less expensive. If you have a 1080p TV and don’t mind paying a little more for a remote that can control the volume on your TV, the Fire TV Stick is a good choice for you.
Read our Amazon Fire TV Stick review.
 
The Fire TV Recast is not a streaming stick, but is an important accessory for cord-cutters who have a Fire TV Stick and are looking for an over-the-air DVR — basically a box that lets you record antenna TV broadcasts from channels like ABC, CBS and PBS in your area. The Fire TV Recast is our favorite OTA DVR period, due to its combination of features, flexibility and lack of monthly fees. It’s a network streaming DVR, meaning it doesn’t connect to a TV directly. Instead it streams to TVs, your mobile device and more. The Fire TV Recast is relatively expensive, but if you want to record shows from an antenna it’s a great choice.
Read our Amazon Fire TV Recast review.
 
Every Fire TV Stick we review receives hours of hands-on testing. Typically, this involves installing the device on multiple TVs, evaluating the setup process, adding popular streaming channels and using the product as if it were our own. We use all of the major features available and note how they stack up against other Fire TV models in the company’s lineup. To do this, we hook up multiple Fire TV streaming devices to the same TV so we can switch back and forth easily to compare the experiences.
Our metrics that we look at to rate a device include hardware design, distinctive features that differentiate models, remote capabilities and design, overall ease of use, effective layouts and design, search capabilities, privacy settings, the number of apps and their performance and the overall speed and reliability of the system.
A Fire TV device, like the ones in this list, is a small stick-shaped or square piece of hardware that plugs into an HDMI port at the back of your TV. This gives your TV access to Amazon Fire TV software and content, no matter what brand of TV you own. 
Amazon also makes Fire TVs, which are televisions that come with Fire TV software preinstalled. This means that your TV will automatically have access to the Fire TV interface without the need for an additional streaming device.
Fire TV offers a long list of streaming apps, including Netflix, Disney Plus, Apple TV, Hulu, HBO Max, Paramount Plus, Peacock TV, Tubi, Pluto TV, Showtime, Discovery Plus and others. Spectrum cable users, however, do not have access to the Spectrum app on Fire TV.
No, though you will need a free Amazon account in order to set up the device. While you don’t need to pay for a Prime membership to use Amazon Fire TV, it is useful and recommended. Membership comes with a selection of Prime Video content, including access to shows such as The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, The Expanse and Wheel of Time. These shows and other Amazon-branded content are heavily advertised in the Fire TV system and a Prime membership makes it easier to check out all that Amazon has to offer.

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