Top positive review
19 November 2018
Most of my TV viewing comes from Amazon Video or Netflix, so this device is important to me. We have smart TV's, but dislike the interface, so to get a consistent system on each of our TV's, we need a corresponding amount of streaming devices. We have a variety of Fire TV devices to achieve this, which includes Fire TV 2, Fire Stick 2 and Fire TV 3 (pendants), despite being different versions, all have the same interface, which is great for ease of use. I had a Fire TV 3 previously on my main TV (Sony 4K HDR), it worked ok, but I had expected a bit more after the Fire TV 2. It was effectively a streaming device following in the footsteps of a mini-console/streamer and appeared to be moving away from games. I hoped that the new 4K Fire TV Stick was going to be an improvement in terms of performance, but it made pre-ordering a bit of a gamble without seeing reviews - would it take after version 2 or version 3. Also, with the 4K Stick being a Stick, was it going to be lacking in terms of power and prove to be a low powered Stick, like my less responsive Fire Stick 2?
When the 4K Stick arrived, in the box there is the device, a USB power lead, a remote (with batteries), HDMI extender cable, a power adapter & instructions. I had the Ethernet adapter from my Fire TV 3, so I set it up with wired ethernet. The hardest part about the setup was opening the battery compartment on the remote, so it was a smooth ride to get the device going. There was a software update, then a software update for the remote to go through a little later. The remote went through a setup screen, which enabled it to control the TV's volume and turn the TV on or off. This is a new feature and works well for my TV.
The 4K Fire Stick is slightly longer and ticker than the Fire Stick 2. On one of my TV's this would of had it sticking out of the side of the TV, but beyond that, I discovered that the slightly thicker 4K Stick prevented it from being put directly into the HDMI socket. I avoided these issues by using the small HDMI extender you get in the box and using Velcro adhesive picture hangers to position the 4K Fire Stick to the rear of the TV, which allowed it to be very neat. The interface operates smoothly and is very Amazon centric. You need a Prime subscription to get the most out of it. You can play your Amazon Music, Audiable books, Prime Video and gain access to YouTube via a web browser. Netflix works very well, as do iPlayer, All4, Demand 5 and ITV's catchup service. There are many more apps to choose from. The apps have a good level of responsiveness and function. The size of the device means that taking it on holiday or to hotels would be an option, providing that they offer sufficient WiFi coverage. There is no real heat from the device, it just does not feel cold. I have added some size comparison photographs and how I used the picture hangers to fix the 4K streamer to the rear of my wall mounted TV. I do not use the feature, but I have noticed that a mobile device cannot be cast (mirrored) to the 4K Fire Stick, as you could with previous models. If you read this review long after product release and are perplexed by this because this feature does exist, then it would have arrived in a future software update. I obviously have no knowledge if the feature has been removed, or is just due to be added after release. For me, it would be something I would not use, so has no influence on my review score.
In operation, the 4K Fire TV is just brilliant. The picture & sound quality are significantly improved over the Fire TV 3 (or any other streaming device I have encountered). Operation of the device is slick and fast. I watched it for an afternoon whilst I did some paperwork and then watched it more intently in the evening, it worked very well. In trying to characterise what this new device takes after was a mistake. It is shaped like a Fire Stick, but performs like a Fire TV, so it cuts its own path and definitely does not look backwards, except in retaining the same interface. The 4K & HDR is far more evident than with the Fire TV 3 and the picture quality looks noticeably improved. The only very minor issue I could find & I am not sure if it is an issue with the Fire TV or the settings on it, is where the TV will act as if it has changed channel (without the channel being changed) or as if it disconnects and immediately reconnects, the title of the HDMI input will appear on the screen and the sound will be interrupted for a fraction of a second. This happened infrequently and there was more than an hour between occurrences. I would like to eliminate this, but I am unsure what the cause behind it is. The only progress on this so far, is that I know that the TV does not do this with other devices. It did not impact my viewing pleasure to any extent, the Fire TV 3 also did this, but less often.
This 4K Fire Stick is an outstanding device, my pre-order gamble paid off more than I dared to hope. Of course I would still like to see an Micro SD card slot, a full USB port and an inbuilt Ethernet port, perhaps more storage but at this price, size & performance, I have no complaints.
I have since had a chance to look at some professional reviews on the web from technology and TV sites\magazines and it appears I am not alone in being impressed nor am I alone in awarding 5 stars in a review. The issue I had (channel changing without changing) was not reported, so I need to dig through the settings on the 4K Fire Stick & the TV to see if I can eliminate the issue in my setup.
What might be useful to know, is that I have one of the 4K Sticks on a bedroom TV (this TV is about 10yrs old). That 4K Fire Stick is powered by the TV's USB 2 (low powered) socket, using the adapter sold by Amazon, which is designed for a Fire TV 3. The adapter has a battery in it - please note that the previous version of the battery supported power cable designed for the Fire Stick 2 is too light weight for the Fire TV 3, but appears to work for the 4K Fire Stick, but will cause problems and needs to be upgraded to the current model. I have also tried powering the new 4K Fire TV Stick on a modern TV's USB 3 (higher power) socket without an adapter. The good news is that this powers the 4K Fire Stick just fine. This is good news for people with limited power sockets or where TV's are on walls and reduced wiring is desirable.
WiFi performance is much improved on the 2.4 & 5Ghz frequencies. The 5Ghz signal shows significant improvement over the Fire TV 3, which often would refuse to function for me on that frequency, leaving the slower 2.4Ghz frequency as the default. This change makes the 4K Fire Stick more responsive when connected on WiFi.
As for my mixed environment of Fire TV 2's, a Fire Stick 2, Fire TV 3's and the new 4K Fire Stick, that has all changed. I have been so impressed with the 4K stick that I now just have two Fire TV 2's and four 4K Fire Sticks in use. The rest have been put in a bag at the bottom of my old tech crate in my garage. Sadly for the Fire TV 3 and the old Fire Stick, this is the technology equivalent of being shot at dawn!
The only issue with pre-ordering, is that within a few days of release, £15 had come off the price, great if you avoided the pre-order.