Online retail giant Amazon on Wednesday took the wraps off of its updated Fire TV HDMI dongle, which now supports 4K video output, Dolby Atmos surround sound and three major formats for high dynamic range video: HDR10, HDR+ and Dolby Vision.
Faster, new remote & more
It’s 80+ faster than the previous generation thanks to a new 1.7GHz quad-core chip.
Now costing $10 more than its predecessor, the $50 accessory comes with an overhauled remote that now finally features its own power, mute and volume control buttons. Similar to Apple’s own Siri Remote that came with your Apple TV, the new Alexa Voice remote has Bluetooth and multidirectional infrared technology so you can control your TV, switch inputs, tune to a channel on a cable box and control other AV equipment, all with a single remote.
Of course, you can use your voice to quickly find the content you want (i.e. “Find 4K movies”). You can even connect your Fire TV Stick 4K wirelessly to one of Amazon’s Echo speakers and use their far-field microphones to control content playing through the stick on your TV.
Improved streaming performance
You’ll also notice improved streaming performance across the board.
“The team invented an entirely new antenna technology and combined that with a powerful 802.11ac Wi-Fi chip that optimizes for the best possible 4K UHD streaming experience, even in congested network environments,” Amazon said.
These new features bring the accessory on par with Apple TV 4K which also supports the aforementioned surround sound and HDR standards. Fire TV Cube, which launched earlier this year with support for HDR10 and HDR10 formats, was not refreshed today.
About Dolby Atmos & HDR standards
Unlike other surround sound formats that deal with per-channel audio, Dolby Atmos treats sounds as virtual objects that can be placed anywhere in a virtual three-dimensional environment to simulate things like bullets ricocheting off the wall, a plane flying overhead etc.
With Dolby Vision, your Hi-Fi receiver receives these audio objects along with information about their placement in a virtual room and movement. The receiver then does all the heavy lifting and audio rendering, depending on your speaker setup.
When it coms to HDR video, Dolby Vision is arguably the best format, followed closely by HDR+. Both formats deliver dynamic metadata information that allows the director to control the look and feel of their scenes on a per-frame basis, resulting in better detail in highlights and shadows on compatible TV sets.
Pricing and availability
Fire TV Stick 4K, as it’s called, costs $50 a pop. The accessory will begin shipping in the US and Canada on October 31 and in the United Kingdom, Germany and India on November 14. Japan will get its Fire TV 4K stick by the end of the year. The new Alexa Voice Remote can be pre-ordered separately for $30 ahead of its scheduled October 31 launch.
By comparison, Apple TV 4K is $179/$199 for the 32GB/64GB version. Meanwhile, Roku’s Premiere with 4K support was recently discounted to just $40 in the US.