Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K (2nd gen) review: Solid streaming at an affordable price

 Fire TV Stick 4K (2nd gen) close up.
Fire TV Stick 4K (2nd gen) close up.

2023 Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max specs

Starting price: $49.99
Size: 99 mm x 30 mm x 14 mm (housing)
Processor: Quad-core 1.7GHz MT8696 (650MHz)
Wireless: Wi-Fi 6 dual-band
Storage: 8 GB
Ports: HDMI, Micro-USB
Max video resolution: 2160p up to 60 fps
HDR formats: Dolby Vision, HDR 10, HDR10+, HLG
Audio formats: Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby Atmos
Remote: Alexa Voice Remote

The new Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K (2nd gen) looks and performs much like the old Fire TV Stick. Not a lot has changed between generations — the new model has a more powerful processor and better connectivity, but not much else is different. You could swap out the older version from the back of your parents’ television and they would never know.

Like all Fire TV streaming devices, the Fire TV Stick 4K (2nd gen) works fine. High-quality video streams without much of a hitch. Sure, apps open with a longer lag than they would with the new Fire TV Stick 4K Max (2nd gen) or higher-end devices like the Apple TV 4K (2022). But you get what you pay for.

That’s the nut of it: the Fire TV Stick 4K (2nd gen) is super affordable, especially when one of Amazon’s many sales events is in effect, but that low price tag comes with a catch — the interface.

Read on for our full Fire TV Stick 4K (2nd gen) review to see if it will make our list of the best streaming devices.

Fire TV Stick 4K (2nd gen) review: Price and availability

Components included in Fire TV Stick 4K (2nd gen) box
Components included in Fire TV Stick 4K (2nd gen) box

Any Fire TV device’s main selling proposition is value, and the same goes for the Fire TV Stick 4K (2nd gen). At $49.99, the retail cost is the same as rivals Roku Streaming Stick 4K and the Chromecast With Google TV 4K.

Yet, you’ll likely be able to get the Fire TV Stick 4K (2nd gen) for much cheaper if you bide your time. Amazon holds a number of sales events throughout the year, including Black Friday and Prime Day, when they usually slash prices on their own products. Last year, the first-gen model was selling for 40% off, and we expect a similar discount during holiday sales. If that is the case, the Fire TV Stick 4K (2nd gen) becomes one of the most affordable 4K streaming devices.

Fire TV Stick 4K (2nd gen) review: Performance

Amazon touts the Fire TV Stick 4K (2nd gen) as “30% more powerful” than the original. Unfortunately, we can’t test that claim and have to rely on anecdotal evidence. Is the new version faster and more powerful? According to my unscientific survey of app load times, yes — but by a very little bit.

On average, apps opened about four seconds faster than the first gen stick. But it was outperformed by its sibling, the Fire TV Stick 4K Max (2nd gen), which apparently does earn Amazon’s PR plaudits as its “most powerful” streaming stick yet.

As you can see, we’re talking about a slightly longer lag of a few seconds. At no point was I staring at the Netflix logo or a buffering wheel for long enough to get impatient. So, while the Fire TV Stick 4K (2nd gen) has slower load times than my usual choice of an Apple TV 4K (2022), it’s also 60% of the price.

Fire TV Stick 4K (2nd gen) review: Video quality

As I mentioned in my Fire TV Stick 4K Max (2nd gen) review, streaming devices have hit a wall. Upgrades are pretty incremental from generation to generation. The new Fire TV Stick 4K (2nd gen) streams high-quality video at a level comparable to its predecessor and rivals.

There’s no discernible difference in the picture, which looked crisp and vivid on my older TCL 4K television set. Since it’s not an OLED, I wasn’t able to check out the full HDR capabilities, but the colors were bright and the blacks appropriately dark. That was good enough for me, and should be good enough for most users.

Again, at this stage, a mid-range streaming stick is not going to fail when it comes to video quality. If it does, it’s more likely the fault of your internet connection.

Fire TV Stick 4K (2nd gen) review: Interface

Fire TV interface on the Fire TV Stick 4K (2nd gen)
Fire TV interface on the Fire TV Stick 4K (2nd gen)

The bigger drawback of the Fire TV Stick 4K (2nd gen) —and any Fire TV device — is the interface. The Fire TV interface is not our favorite, as we’ve stated in reviews over the years. It’s essentially a big ad for Amazon content. While you can access Netflix, Disney Plus, etc., the Fire TV interface really, really, really wants you to know about all these Prime Video, Freevee and MGM Plus shows that Amazon offers. The only instances when the interface elevates other content is because of a sponsorship.

It’s annoying, I won’t make any bones about it. I much prefer the clean elegance of the Apple TV interface or even the simple, (slightly) more agnostic Roku navigation. As much as I enjoy some Amazon-produced content like The Summer I Turned Pretty and the improved Wheel of Time, I don’t need it thrown in my face at every turn.

Fire TV Stick 4K (2nd gen): Verdict

The new 2023 Fire TV Stick 4K might not be a powerhouse, but it does the job (high-quality video streaming) well. And when it goes on sale, it will be super cheap. It’s a decent streaming device you can use to upgrade your parents’ television or the set in your guest room.

If it was up to me, though, I'd go with the Roku Streaming Stick 4K, which is the same price and also often gets deeply discounted during holiday shopping sales. Roku's interface is much less promotional and easier to navigate.

Still, perhaps you're an Amazon fan who wants their streaming stick to seamlessly work with their other Amazon-produced smart home devices. Just be aware that you’re trading that functionality and affordability for the clunky, Amazon-schilling interface. If you can tolerate having Prime Video and Freevee shows thrown at you non-stop, then the Fire TV Stick 4K (2nd gen) is a solid choice for a streaming stick.