Best Fire TV stick in 2021


This story is part of Holiday Gift Guide 2021, our list of ideas, by topic, by recipient and by price, to help you discover the perfect gift.

The market is full of streaming devices these days, and it’s easy to see why. The inexpensive little sticks can turn just about any TV into an entertainment hub where you can easily access all your favorite shows. Roku is one of most popular makers of streaming players, but big companies like Apple, Google and Amazon make their own streaming boxes and sticks too. 

Amazon in particular has pushed aggressively into the streaming space by producing a plethora of Fire TV-branded streaming devices. Overall, we tend to like Roku products best for their easy use and their platform-agnostic approach — Roku’s menus don’t favor one services (like, for example, Prime Video) over others. That said, Amazon’s Fire TV devices are very capable too, especially if you want Alexa voice integration. 

Read more: Roku vs. Amazon Fire TV: Which streaming device is best in 2021?

Amazon’s range includes the basic $20 Fire TV Stick Lite, the new Fire TV Stick 4K Max at $35 and the Fire TV Cube at $75, 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.  

Sarah Tew/CNET

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 and the fact that ads are 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.

 

Sarah Tew/CNET

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.

 

Sarah Tew/CNET

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 UHD picture, as well as audio support for Dolby Atmos. 

Read our Fire TV Cube review.

 

Sarah Tew/CNET

The Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K debuted in 2018 at $50 and today it hovers around $30. While we generally think it is 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 latest bells and whistles, namely Wi-Fi 6 and blazing 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.

Read our Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K review.

 

Amazon

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, then the Fire TV Stick is a good choice for you. 

Read our Amazon Fire TV Stick review.

 

Ry Crist/CNET

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 is 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.

 

Fire TV FAQs

What’s the difference between a Fire TV device and a Fire TV television?

A Fire TV device, like the ones in this list, are small stick-shaped or square-shaped pieces 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 pre-installed. This means that your TV will automatically have access to the Fire TV interface without the need for an additional streaming device. 

What streaming apps are on Fire TV?

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. 

Do I need an Amazon Prime membership to use Fire TV?

No. While you don’t need a Prime membership to use Amazon Fire TV, it is useful and recommended. The 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. This, and other Amazon-branded content, is 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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