Each of the company’s three set-top boxes plug into your television’s HDMI port and provide instant access to the expected suite of popular apps and subscription services, from Prime Video to Netflix, Hulu, and the like. Beyond these similarities, though, they vary in fairly subtle ways that may matter to you, especially if you just bought a new 4K television.
If you’re considering Amazon’s set-top boxes primarily because you are an Amazon Prime subscriber, there are only a few other options that work with Prime Video on the big screen. You could check out the new Toshiba LED television that comes with Fire TV built-in. Otherwise, the short list of devices that natively support the app includes the Apple TV, the fleet of Roku devices, Sony Android TVs, and the Nvidia Shield, though Echo compatibility and Alexa support is exclusive to Amazon devices and the aforementioned Toshiba TV.
Amazon Fire TV Stick
The $39 Amazon Fire TV Stick sits at the bottom shelf in terms of its low price and comparatively limited feature set. Nevertheless, this is a competent option for those who just want in at the base level without spending too much cash.
The Fire TV Stick tops out at 1080p resolution for streaming, and navigating the interface is made easy with the remote that is included with purchase. Fortunately, if you’d rather not fuss with the directional pad and the bevy of buttons, the remote also supports dictation, so you can search for content with your voice.
If you own an Amazon Echo or have Alexa set up as a voice assistant on your smartphone, Amazon makes it simple to link up your devices to enable hands-free use. Instead of looking around for remotes, you can simply give Alexa a shout to launch a game, TV show, or movie.
Buy it here: Amazon Fire TV Stick
Amazon Fire TV with 4K
At nearly double the cost of the Fire TV Stick, the Fire TV with 4K’s main attraction is, as you might have expected, its ability to stream content in 4K HDR — should your TV and internet bandwidth support it.
Video quality aside, almost nothing is different here compared to the cheaper model. Its design is slightly more obtuse, though it may be a more favorable option for those with ambitions of mounting their TVs, but are hindered by rear-facing HDMI ports that don’t allow for the clearance that the Fire TV Stick demands.
Finding enough 4K HDR content to make the jump up in price worth it isn’t the concern it used to be, with much of Amazon’s original Prime programming and “thousands” of other titles being offered in 4K HDR, according to Amazon.
Like the Fire TV Stick, the $69 Fire TV with 4K comes with the Alexa-enabled remote, and it offers the same cross-device functionality via your Amazon Echo just by shouting a command.
Buy it here: Amazon Fire TV with 4K
Amazon Fire TV Cube
At $119, the Fire TV Cube is currently Amazon’s most costly set-top box, though for good reason, it seems.
It packs in the 4K HDR capability of the $69 model, then builds on it with features that you won’t find in Amazon’s other set-top devices — or ones made by other companies, for that matter.
The Fire TV Cube is made for hands-free use, negating the need for an Amazon Echo to help you get situated with the next episode or a flick. Out of the box, Amazon’s costliest set-top option supports loads of voice commands, but it comes with a remote control for the moments when manual navigating is easier or just plain necessary.
Also included is the ability to control other devices, making the Fire TV Cube into a universal remote, of sorts, capable of powering on and off your A/V equipment. Amazon lets you name the devices living in your entertainment center, so all it takes is a voice command to Alexa to start things up.
There’s an important (and somewhat strange) distinction between the Fire TV Cube and the rest of Amazon’s Fire TV devices: your voice can turn off your equipment here while the others cannot. Turning on each of your devices is only half of the battle, so if you want an option that can let you stay horizontal on the couch, the Fire TV Cube might be worth looking into.
Beyond just controlling your home entertainment gear, the Fire TV Cube can also control other smart home products that are Alexa-compatible. This device’s lean into Internet of Things territory could be overkill for some, but its native Echo-like skills and 4K HDR support make it an unbeatable value if you’re keen to stay in the realm of all things Amazon.
Buy it here: Amazon Fire TV Cube