Amazon’s foray into the world of media streaming devices has been generally well-received. The accessible price of the Fire TV along with Amazon’s ever-increasing content selection has made it a very popular choice among cord-cutters.
It seems like new iterations of the Fire TV, Fire TV Stick, and a number of other peripherals and devices are being released every year. Trying to keep up with the likes of Google is no easy task.
If you’re in the market for a Fire TV Stick but don’t know where to start, here’s a breakdown of the newest versions on the market.
A Brief History of Fire TV
The very first Fire TV was released in 2014. Apple TV and Roku were starting to see a lot of traction among early cord-cutters and Amazon felt that they needed to join the party.
Like its competitors, the Fire TV was a machine with relatively humble internals. It wasn’t meant to compete with gaming consoles but it had some gaming capabilities and a controller accessory.
The popularity of the Fire TV grew quickly. It was fuelled mostly by the increasing adoption of Amazon’s Prime Video service. Amazon didn’t dawdle, releasing the second-generation Fire TV the following year. They improved just about everything that could be improved, including the processor and chipset. Most importantly, the new Fire TV supported 4K viewing.
The third, and latest, generation was released in 2017. Along with all previous improvements, Amazon integrated Alexa functionality into the Fire TV remote.
In the process, while releasing Fire TV iterations, Amazon has been offering increasingly improved versions of their lightweight player — the Fire TV Stick. The first Stick was released in 2014. The idea was to provide a much smaller form factor for users that didn’t want a box.
The Fire TV Stick retains a lot of the functionality of Fire TV but significantly cuts down on processing power. The Second generation of Fire TV Stick saw some minor upgrades across the board but retained the same size and accessibility of its predecessor.
Latest Fire TV Stick and Confusion Over Reissue
In 2018, Amazon released the third generation of the Fire TV Stick. The new device saw an upgraded CPU along with support for 4K viewing, Dolby Atmos and some encoding upgrades. A serious improvement over the second generation.
They also released the Alexa controlled remote, which includes an infrared emitter allowing control over TV functions as well as the Stick. This effectively allowed the Fire TV Stick to take over a TV entirely without other inputs. With the Alexa-enabled remote, it makes and HDMI-capable TV into a voice-controlled media center.
The remote is backward compatible with Fire TV boxes. However, it isn’t compatible with previous generations of the Fire Stick. This prompted the re-release of the second-generation Fire TV Stick in early 2019. The reissued second-generation Stick is compatible with the 4K remote but comes with a more accessible price tag than the third generation.
So that leaves the story of the Fire TV and Fire Stick looking something like this:
If you’re looking for the latest generation of Fire Stick, it’s technically the Fire TV Stick 4K; the last generation to be released that includes the upgraded remote with volume buttons and Alexa controls.
However, if you’re looking for the latest Fire Stick chronologically, that would be the re-issued second-generation Stick. Released in 2019, it supports the new 4K remote but doesn’t support 4K viewing output.
There isn’t a big difference in price, so it’s difficult to recommend the re-issued second-generation Stick over the newer, 4K capable one.
What the Future Holds
In September of 2019, Amazon announced a slew of new hardware and software updates to its lineup. In terms of the “Fire” line of products, that means some exciting things in the pipeline.
Late in 2019, the new Fire TV Cube is set for release. The hardware in the cube has been significantly upgraded to a Hexa-core processor. Amazon claims that it will massively increase voice recognition times and improve voice navigation overall.
The Fire TV edition of the Nebula soundbar was also announced. Anker’s benchmark soundbar with Fire TV capabilities has all the quality of the Nebula with Alexa controls and Fire TV streaming optimization.
The lineup of Fire TV-enabled televisions is broadly expanding. The Toshiba 65-inch 4K Ultra HD Fire TV Edition Smart TV was announced along with eleven other models. If you think you might be upgrading your TV soon, it could be worth waiting to see if there’s a Fire TV edition that would suit you.
There have been no announcements yet about plans for the next Fire TV Stick. But given Amazon’s track record, it’s likely that a new version will be released next year.
Keep Your Fire Going
There’s probably more here than you wanted to know about the Fire TV Stick. Unfortunately, Amazon confused the situation in an attempt to cannibalize its own product.
The latest generation of the Fire TV Stick is the 4K Stick with Alexa remote, but that doesn’t mean it’s the newest. The newest version is a re-release of the previous generation. The benefit of the re-release is access to the new all-inclusive Alexa remote. The price tag is only slightly different so unless you never plan on having a 4K TV, go with the newest generation.