The Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max is a clunky name for fast, slick TV streaming device.
The Max signifies that it is improved from the previous Fire TV Stick 4K because the new model has Wi-Fi 6 support, a slightly faster CPU and slightly more RAM as well as some other new software features.
What’s in the box is:
- the remote with AAA batteries
- micro-usb cable and power adapter (use these for best performance as your TV USB power port isn’t enough)
- HDMI extender which is useful for people who wall mount their TV
- Fire TV Stick 4K Max
One you’ve plugged it into power and your best possible 4K HDMI port, ideally supporting 60fps, ARC and HDCP 2.2 you’re ready to go. In my case I plugged the Fire TV Stick 4K Max into my Polk Soundbar which is connected to my TV’s ARC HDMI port.
On startup you’re asked to choose your language, then Wi-Fi network. Oddly considering that Wi-Fi 6 is a new feature of this gadget the Wi-Fi setup process doesn’t show which available networks are Wi-Fi 6 vs 5 vs 4 etc.
Once connected to Wi-Fi the latest software updates are downloaded. The Fire TV stick 4K Max restarts and the software update is installed.
Then you’ll be prompted to sign in with an existing Amazon account which is made easy via a web browser activation code or you can create an Amazon account if you don’t have one already.
Not using an Amazon account isn’t an option. Just like you can’t setup a Google Chromecast without a Google account. Once you’ve setup the Fire TV stick 4K Max it’s tied to your Amazon account and will appear in your Alexa phone/tablet app Devices list.
For the next setup step you’ll be asked what brand of TV you have. This is so the remote can be sent the correct codes to be able to send commands to your TV to change the volume etc.
If you tell setup that your TV doesn’t play audio, you can choose a soundbar like I did and send the Fire TV remote the proper volume codes for your soundbar.
The remote is easy to use and has in-built buttons at the bottom for Prime Video, Netflix Disney+ and Amazon Music.
You can also send commands by voice pressing the blue Alexa button on your remote eg:
- “Alexa, watch The Mandalorian.”
- “Alexa, Pause” or “Alexa, Play”
- “Alexa, Mute” or “Alexa, Unmute”
- “Alexa, forward 5 minutes”
- “Alexa, skip 30 seconds”
- “Alexa, play next”
Once the remote setup is done, if you’re not already subscribed to Amazon Prime you’ll be asked if you want to. Personally I’m not subscribed because Amazon shipping is free anyway if you buy more than $49 worth of things or if you use Subscribe and Save to get regular deliveries.
After you’ve chosen any other apps you want to install they’ll be downloaded. You can setup up to 6 User profiles and enable parental controls as well as requiring a PIN for purchases.
What’s Under the Hood
In terms of looks the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max and its remote look exactly the same as the Fire TV Stick 4K.
Under the hood there’s Wi-Fi 6 support, a slightly faster CPU, slightly more RAM, new version of Fire TV operating system which enables Dolby Atmos on Netflix, new support for AV1 video decoding as well as the ability to view picture-in-picture camera/doorbell vision.
In the future it’s likely Youtube, Netflix and other streaming services will require streaming devices to support the AV1 royalty free high efficiency video codec so with the Fire TV 4K Max you’ll be future proofed for a few years.
Dolby Atmos will only be of interest if you have a soundbar or TV sound system that supports it and you watch content that supports it.
Similarly for picture-in-picture camera/doorbell vision, this is only for devices that are compatible with Alexa live camera vision viewing and you’ve connected them to your Alexa account.
This is supposed to work for Ring Video doorbells either on demand or if someone presses your doorbell. I don’t have one of those to try out myself but I did press the remote Alexa button and ask it to view my Mirabella Genio backyard camera and that worked to see the grey rainy sky outside.
As you can see in the photos of my TV, you can view your camera/doorbell vision full screen or picture-in-picture in the corner which is quite handy if you’re watching TV while waiting for a parcel delivery or friend to visit.
At the top of the home screen there are large banners that rotate highlighting different shows on Free to air Catchup apps, Prime Video, Stan etc.
Underneath that is a customisable list of your favourite apps. Then bigger tiles for your 5 most recently used apps.
Underneath that is several rows of suggested shows, many of which are Prime Video shows which can be annoying if you’re not currently subscribed to it. It would be nice to hide suggested shows and movies for subscription apps that you’re not subscribed to.
You’ll have to login to all your apps eg ABC iView, Netflix etc one by one. Any Amazon apps are already logged in if you have a subscription eg Prime Video, Amazon Music etc.
Speaking of apps most of the usual big name apps eg Netflix, YouTube, Prime Video, Disney+, Apple TV, Paramount+, Stan, Amazon Music and Spotify can be installed. Foxtel apps are still not available eg: BINGE and Kayo.
Besides the home screen there’s also a Find screen which lets you search for a specific show/ movie or navigate through various categories to find something you might like.
Interestingly the Find Categories like Sci-Fi highlight things that you can watch with your subscriptions separately from things that you can watch free with ads eg using the TUBI app.
In reality I didn’t notice much practical speed difference between the Fire TV Stick 4K Max and the previous model Fire TV Stick 4K while using it to watch ABC iView, SBS on Demand, Disney+, Netflix, STAN etc. The original was already fast so the new one is not much more perceptibly speedier.
The Fire TV viewing experience was so smooth and fast with no glitches, crashes or delays I didn’t really think about which streaming device I was using and could just concentrate on the show or movie I was watching.
Should you buy it?
The Fire TV Stick 4K Max has been available for sale from amazon.com.au, JB Hi-Fi and other retailers since late October 2021 for a standard price of $99.
Compared to it’s main competitor the Google Chromecast with Google TV (which is also priced at $99 usually) the Fire TV Stick 4K Max has:
- Pros: More fully featured remote, AV1 codec support, compatible camera picture-in-picture viewing support
- Cons: No Chromecast functionality and missing Foxtel group apps
For the next few days you can get the Fire TV Stick 4K Max for $59 from most retailers during their Black Friday sale which is very good value for money and highly recommended if you’d like a high quality TV streaming experience, want to save $40, don’t need Foxtel apps or Chromecasting functionality.
Amazon has allowed Ausdroid to retain this streaming stick to see how software updates improve it over time