Welcome to the age of affordable 4K streaming. Not only do most 4K TVs now feature at least some form of app and streaming service support, but dedicated 4K media streamers are becoming less and less expensive. The Roku Premiere and Premiere+ were the first 4K models we've seen to dip under the $50 mark. They're joined by the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K, a $49.99 media streamer that doesn't represent a sequel to the 1080p Fire TV Stick, but instead completely replaces the 4K-capable Amazon Fire TV. The Fire TV Stick 4K is smaller, faster, less expensive, supports Dolby Vision, and features a more advanced remote to boot. It's the best media streamer you can for under $50, and our Editors' Choice. If you haven't moved up to 4K yet, though, the non-4K Fire TV Stick offers the same features and design for $10 less.
Design and Voice Remote
The Fire TV Stick 4K is slightly larger than the standard Fire TV Stick, measuring 3.9 by 1.2 by 0.6 inches (HWD). It's a simple rectangular matte black plastic bar with a male HDMI connector on one end and a micro USB port on one side. If it's slightly too large to fit comfortably in a port on your TV, a short, flexible HDMI extender lets you reposition it at a different angle.
Amazon has updated its Alexa Voice Remote with some new tricks. The second-generation remote is still a slim rectangular wand with a prominent circular navigation pad and a pinhole microphone near the top for using Alexa. It still has menu and playback controls, and now power and volume buttons join them. The Fire TV Stick 4K can directly control your TV's power and volume, letting you jump directly into watching streaming media without picking up a second remote. It currently only adjusts volume and toggles power, so you can't navigate your TV's menus or change inputs, but if your Fire TV Stick is the primary device you're going to watch, it's a very useful upgrade.
Setting up the Fire TV Stick 4K is simple, and works just like setting up any other Fire TV device. Plug it into your TV, plug in the power adapter, then follow the instructions on your TV to connect the stick to Wi-Fi. After that, you can log in with your Amazon account and you're set.
You don't need a paid Amazon Prime account to use the Fire TV Stick 4K; a regular, free Amazon account will work. If you have Amazon Prime, though, you'll automatically get access to streaming media through Prime Music and Prime Video.
Fire TV OS
The Fire TV experience is generally consistent across all Fire TV devices, from the non-4K Fire TV Stick to the Fire TV Cube to Fire Edition TVs. The main menu is arranged in large rows of apps and media, both personally organized by you and suggested by Amazon. Suggestions are obviously very Amazon-centric, but plenty of third-party apps and services are available, and the content search function aggregates across Amazon and several of those third parties.
Apple and Google services are noticeably absent on Fire TV, but nearly every other big video name is present including Crackle, Crunchyroll, HBO Go, Hulu, Netflix, Sling TV, Twitch, and Vudu. YouTube doesn't have its own app, but thanks to the Firefox and Silk Web browsers on Fire TV you can get the same experience through a YouTube shortcut that loads the web version of the service using a lean-back interface similar to the Android TV and Roku apps.
As a Fire TV device, the Fire TV Stick 4K has Amazon's Alexa voice assistant. Just press the microphone button on the remote and speak into the mic at the top to talk to Alexa (if you want hands-free Alexa in a media streamer out of the box, you'll need to get the Fire TV Cube). You can ask Alexa for general information or to search for media to watch or listen to on the Fire TV Stick 4K. Your connected TV will display visual information to go with Alexa's spoken responses, like weather forecasts with cloud and rain icons, sports scores with team logos and individual period scores, and lists of movies with summaries and listings of availability by streaming service.
Alexa also enables voice control of media playback, your TV, and any compatible smart home devices you have. You can tell Alexa to play, pause, and navigate through Amazon streaming media and a small handful of third-party services. Alexa also works with over 20,000 different home automation devices including smart lights, thermostats, and locks. You can even bring up live feeds of home security cameras like the Amazon Cloud Cam and Nest Cam IQ.
In the other direction, you can pair your Fire TV Stick 4K with an Amazon Echo device like an Echo Dot to enable hands-free voice control. Once they're paired, you can simply say "Alexa," (or "Amazon," "Echo," or "Computer," depending on your tastes) to play media or show information on your TV.
4K Streaming and Performance
Besides the updated remote, the Fire TV Stick 4K's biggest feature is right on its name: It can stream 4K media. Specifically, the Fire TV Stick 4K can stream ultra high definition (UHD, or 4K) video, including high dynamic range (HDR) media in HDR10 or Dolby Vision. This makes the stick even more capable than last year's Fire TV, which only supported HDR10. According to Amazon, the stick is also faster than the previous Fire TV.
In terms of hardware, the Fire TV Stick 4K uses a quad-core 1.7GHz CPU with 8GB of memory. It has MIMO 802.11a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 5.0 with BLE. The Wi-Fi specs are important, because unlike the larger Fire TV, there is no Ethernet adapter included with the Fire TV Stick 4K (though you can get an optional adapter for $15).
I streamed Daredevil in 4K HDR on Netflix with the Fire TV Stick 4K connected to my home 5GHz FiOS network. It loaded almost instantly and jumped to 4K resolution with Dolby Vision in seconds. Media playback was clear and snappy in testing, and you can reliably expect 4K video if you have a good wireless network.
Menu navigation is quick as well. Browsing through different rows on the main screen and switching between different apps feels very responsive. Alexa also responds to queries quickly, and the voice remote reliably activates Alexa and controls TV volume with little to no delay.
The Best $50 4K Media Streamer
If you need Google Play Movies & TV support on your $50 4K media streamer, you'll have to turn to the Roku Premiere or Premiere+ and sacrifice the voice assistant, TV volume control, and Dolby Vision support in the process.
The Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K is a nearly flawless media streamer. It supports 4K with HDR10 and Dolby Vision, it features Alexa for voice control with support for a wide selection of smart home devices, its new remote can control your TV's volume and power, and it can access a massive selection of streaming media both from Amazon's own libraries and most major third parties, all for just $50. It doesn't have an Ethernet adapter like the previous Fire TV, but that's the only trade-off for the smaller size, faster performance, Dolby Vision support, and $20 lower price tag. The Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K is simply the best media hub you can find for under $50 (and even under $100, for that matter), and easily earns our Editors' Choice.