Pitching the 2020 Amazon TV Fire Sticks head-to-head

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By the time this article lands in our news pages, the latest Amazon Fire TV Sticks should be available around the globe.

For newbies to streaming TV services, Amazon’s Fire Sticks should be high up on their list of options, and for existing Fire TV Stick users, well, it could be time for an upgrade.

There are four ways to access the Amazon TV services in the UK, but for this comparison, we’re dropping the cube and sticking with, well, the sticks.

Let battle commence

There isn’t really much of a battle if we’re honest. The choices viewers face are to do with how much they're willing to spend, and what do they need for that money.

Amazon has been incredibly fair, though, as all of their 2020 sticks offer excellent value. There’s some superb tech inside those little black smiley cases, and without a doubt, they all provide an intuitive way to access the options a Smart TV does—maybe even more—yet, you can put this little wonder in your pocket and take it with you wherever you go.

The 2020 contenders

  1. The Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K
  2. The Amazon Fire TV Stick (3rd Generation)
  3. The Amazon Fire TV Stick Lite

The September 2020 introductions are numbers 2 and 3 on our list. The 4K Fire Stick has been around for a while; out of the three, it's the only one that still ships with the Fire OS 6 operating system (based on Android 7.1).

The two newcomers will both launch as standard with Fire OS 7 (based on Android 9). We’ll dig into that a little deeper, later on, but it looks like Amazon is making healthy strides to polish up their system control and user interface.

Once the new operating system is live, it should only be a matter of time before all appropriate existing users and devices will be able to upgrade, and the 4K is undoubtedly going to be top of the list.

Round #01 – Video quality

Bumped up frame rate

Not much difference here. The 4K offers, well, 4K, and the other two go neck and neck (you’ll see a pattern just like this forming very soon) with HD viewing at 1080p. The two new sticks have, however, upgraded from 30fps to 60fps.

The advanced frame-rate should offer smoother motion with less blurring and juddering than before, especially during fast-paced action.

That said; a lot of that depends on your TV and its processing power. Gamers should see the advantages of the improved frame-rate, though—an area Amazon is heading into with its upcoming Amazon Luna streaming service.

HD—and HDR—viewing for all

The 3rd Gen and Lite sticks now join the 4K model with HDR capability. The introduction of high dynamic range technology adds colour and contrast to HD images. It’s all about creating a broader spectrum of light and dark shades, delivering more refined tones.

Again, all that glitters is not gold; as to take full advantage of the HDR system, you’ll likely need the pixels and processing power a 4K TV provides. Still, it should deliver a boost to what you see—whether you’ll notice it or not while you’re engrossed in your favourite Prime show or Netflix favourite, only time will tell.

Round #02 – Processing power

The processors in the two new sticks feature upgrades to match the 4K option. So, right across the board now, there’s a 1.7Ghz quad-core brain taking care of business.

Amazon says it’s 50% more powerful than the chip in the 2019 models, so that’s got to be a good thing. The only other difference between the 4K and the 3rd Gen and Lite options is it comes with 1.5GB of RAM instead of 1GB.

When you marry this up to the dual-band, dual-antenna 5GHz WiFi connection (again, the same over all 3 models), it runs at half the power consumption of its precursors too.

Round #03 – Audio

There’s a slight difference between models here; the 4K and 3rd Gen sticks deliver stereo, PCM, Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital Plus, and Dolby Atmos.

The Lite is stripped out with only Stereo and PCM. There’s got to be a reason it’s called Lite, and this is part of the few differences.

Round #04 – The remote

All remotes now come equipped with Alexa as standard, allowing you to control what you watch simply by talking to them. The difference between models is that the 4K and 3rd Gen options include volume buttons for your TV and soundbar, and the Lite doesn’t.

The Lite, interestingly, comes with a ‘TV’ button instead. In the States, it’s likely to link to live programming on Fire, but in the UK, where there isn’t much by way of live TV to be had, it’s yet to be seen what the new button will bring.

Round #05 – Everything else

We said earlier that a pattern would develop, and this is it: apart from the four areas we’ve just covered, the rest of the tech in your Fire TV Sticks is pretty much identical.

So when the contest of which is best hits the table, you can make your mind up purely on those. Oh, and the £10/$10 between each model’s price points.

If you’re plugging your Fire Stick into your main TV, and it’s a 4K TV, then treat yourself, spend the extra few pounds or dollars, and enjoy the additional top-end functions on offer.

If it’s going in the kids’ room, your bedroom, or anywhere else, all you need to consider, really, is whether you want to be able to turn the volume up and down, or if your secondary TV is as big as the one in your front room (and 4K). But for a tenner/ten bucks, between options, why not treat yourself? It’s hardly going to break the bank.

Amazon Fire OS 7

Whichever way you go, it won’t be long before you’re enjoying the improved interface of Amazon’s latest operating system.

The new version offers much more personalization and customization for all the family, as well as an all-new navigation bar featuring your favourite apps for each profile.

One of the most exciting new features is the picture-in-picture mode. You can now load up more than one app at a time to see what’s on, on each channel.

The Alexa voice commands will now also be displayed in a separate, compact, text box—far neater than overpowering the full width of your screen.

The Result

In our book, they all win. Amazon continues to provide fabulous TV tech at super-value prices.

We can’t imagine anyone could find much to complain about, even in our high-standard society and its mass expectations. As far as we’re concerned, it just depends on whether you want to drop an extra couple of pounds or dollars into your investment.