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How to pick the Amazon Fire TV that’s right for you

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It’s all about video quality and ease of use

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Which Amazon Fire TV device is right for you? That depends on what sort of features you want to have access to, as well as how much cash you’re willing to spend.

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.

Fire TV stick

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.

Now that the Fire TV Stick 4K is available at just $10 more, it has become tougher to recommend the slightly cheaper Fire TV Stick. Even if you don’t have a 4K TV, the new streaming stick will likely provide a more smooth experience, and the included remote will be worth the small premium for some.

Buy it here: Amazon Fire TV Stick

Amazon

Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K

At $49, the new Fire TV Stick 4K brings 4K HDR content to your television for less than the now-discontinued $69 Fire TV 4K. If you’ve invested in a Atmos soundbar and an HDR-ready TV, this cheap streaming stick will light it all up with Dolby Atmos sound, and the Dolby Vision and HDR 10+ video codecs.

The jump up in picture quality on offer for the price is certainly noteworthy, but the improved Alexa voice remote that’s included deserves some attention. It adds a few big features that we’ve felt was missing from the previous iteration: volume and home theater control. Once you’ve paired your equipment with the remote, you won’t have to fish for your dedicated television and cable box remotes as often, especially for tasks as trivial as powering on your tech or adjusting the volume.

Buy it here: Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K

Photo by Dan Seifert / The Verge

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