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Amazon Fire TV Stick (3rd Gen) Review

Editors’ Note: This is still the most recent version of the Fire TV Stick. Read our original review from October 6, 2020 below.

There are plenty of good media streamers on the market for 4K TVs, with a variety of features and prices. If you still have a 1080p TV, your choices are a bit more limited, but also less expensive. The third-generation version of the Amazon Fire TV Stick doesn’t make many changes over the previous model, but it doesn’t have to. This $39.99 media streamer, which comes with a remote that accepts Alexa voice commands, is a bit faster than its predecessor, but otherwise identical in form and function. That’s perfectly fine, since the Fire TV Stick was already one of the best 1080p media streaming devices out there. With a nice bump in speed, the latest Fire TV Stick once again earns our Editors’ Choice award for 1080p media streamers.

Fire TV Stick Design

Physically, the Fire TV Stick is pretty much identical to the previous version, as well as the $49.99 Fire TV Stick 4K. It’s a simple 3.4-by-1.2-by-0.5-inch (HWD) black plastic rectangle, with an HDMI connector on one end and a micro USB port on the side. Just plug it into an HDMI port on your TV, connect it to power through the micro USB port with the included cable and wall adapter, and start streaming. The stick comes with a short HDMI extension cord that adds some flexibility in where you can place it, which is especially helpful if your TV has HDMI ports that point straight back.

The remote is the same as the one included with the Fire TV Stick 4K. It’s a thin black wand with a circular direction pad above menu and playback controls. A pinhole microphone and mic button near the top let you use Amazon Alexa voice commands, while the power, mute, and volume buttons can be programmed to directly control your TV’s power and volume. It’s a simple, functional remote that connects wirelessly to the Fire TV Stick.

The interface is, again, identical to the interface on the Fire TV Stick 4K. It offers direct and easy access to content on Amazon services like Amazon Prime Video, and aggregates additional content from other big streaming services like Netflix, plus Amazon subscription channels and free programming on Pluto TV.

You can use Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant on the Fire TV Stick by pressing and holding the microphone button on the remote and speaking into it. Alexa is a very useful voice assistant that can search for media, provide general information like sports scores and the weather, and control compatible smart home devices.

Fire TV Stick Performance

According to Amazon, the new Fire TV Stick is 50 percent faster than the previous one. Navigating the menu system is indeed quick, and switching between different apps and services only takes a few seconds. Again, the performance is comparable with the Fire TV Stick 4K.

Amazon Fire TV Stick

The big difference between the Fire TV Stick and the Fire TV Stick 4K is in the name: This device doesn’t stream 4K content. It can output video at resolutions up to 1080p, but that’s it. Oddly, the Fire TV Stick supports high dynamic range (HDR) video including HDR10, HDR10+, and HLG, but the majority of HDR content is going to be 4K to begin with. The Fire TV Stick also supports Dolby Atmos audio, but unlike the 4K model, it doesn’t support Dolby Vision.

In testing, the Fire TV Stick worked exactly as intended, streaming 1080p content to whatever display it was connected it to. I had no issues loading up different streaming services and watching shows on them. I also was able to use it to play games over Amazon’s Luna streaming service.

Amazon’s Fire TV Stick remains the best media streamer for non-4K TVs, and our Editors’ Choice winner. It’s worth mentioning Amazon offers an even more affordable 1080p media streamer in the form of the $29.99 Fire TV Stick Lite. We haven’t tested it yet, but the main difference is that the Lite’s included remote can’t be programmed to control your TV. For an extra $10, we think the TV controls are worth it, so if you still have a 1080p TV and want to breathe a bit of new life into it, the Fire TV Stick is the way to go.

That said, if you have a 4K TV, you should certainly spend the extra $10 on the Fire TV Stick 4K. It’s just like the Fire TV Stick, but can stream 4K content, and that makes for a markedly better experience than relying on your TV to upscale content from a 1080p signal. For the same price, we’re also fans of the Chromecast With Google TV, which uses the Android TV-based Google TV interface and offers a similarly massive selection of apps and services, with the ability to use Google Assistant through its remote instead of Amazon Alexa. The TiVo Stream 4K is another good choice, with a TiVo-themed interface built on top of Android TV.

Amazon Fire TV Stick (3rd Gen)

The Bottom Line

Amazon’s $40 third-generation Fire TV Stick is nearly identical to its predecessor, just a bit faster, which is enough to preserve its status as the best media streamer for 1080p TVs.

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