HDR resolution added to new, cheaper Fire TV sticks
Amazon announced two brand new Fire TV Sticks today that will replace the 2nd generation model that debuted in 2016.
The new Fire TV Stick 3 is priced at $39.99. The Fire TV Stick Lite is priced at $29.99. The two new devices have a 1.7 GHz quad-core processor that delivers up to 1080p streaming at 60 frames per second.
For the first time, the lower-tiered streaming sticks will support HDR, HDR10 and HLG video.
At first glance, it’s kind of an odd perk considering that there aren’t any 1080p televisions in the U.S. that I know of supporting HDR.
Is Amazon throwing shade at 4K TV sets? Probably not. The Fire TV Stick 4K, which supports 2160p video, is still being sold for $49.99.
The bottom line is that Amazon can offer high-end picture quality and audio perks at a lower price without having to murder its revenue from the higher-priced Fire TV Stick 4K.
The lower price point for HDR resolution helps Amazon compete with Roku, which debuted a 4K HDR streamer last year for $40. The Fire TV Stick Lite shares the same price point as Roku’s cheapest streamer, the Roku Express.
But the upgrade for these Fire TV streaming sticks might also say something about where Amazon sees the TV and streaming market going.
Amazon Prime video is among the few streaming services that offer on-demand movies and TV shows in HDR. (Amazon doesn’t make it easy to ferret out HDR programming, but the most obvious source is the company’s own original series and movies.)
Whether the HDR resolution — and the lower-priced Lite model — will actually move units in the run-up to the holiday season remains an open question. To some video enthusiasts, HDR support might be more important than 4K picture resolution.
My take? I imagine anyone caring deeply about High Dynamic Range at this point would prefer to spend another $10 for the Fire TV Stick 4K. But hey, that’s just me.
New Fire TV hardware specs
The new Fire TV Stick 3 and Fire TV Stick Lite share many of the same hardware specs.
They natively support an Ethernet adapter for better connectivity, and external storage so you can store apps and files without using the Fire stick’s memory.
Some things haven’t changed. The new Fire sticks still only have 1GB of RAM and 8GB of internal storage. Expanding memory will require an OTG cable sold seperately.
On the audio front, both new Fire TV sticks support audio passthrough for a number of surround sound formats, including Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital Plus and Dolby Atmos.
Different remote controls
The biggest difference between the new Fire TV Stick (3rd gen) and Fire TV Stick Lite for most people will be the remote control.
The Fire TV Stick (3rd gen) will have the same Alexa voice remote as the Fire TV Stick 4K and Fire TV Cube. You can use the remote to control TV power, volume and mute functions.
The remote for the Fire TV Stick Lite doesn’t have capabilities for controlling TV power, volume or mute. But it does have a new dedicated channel guide button. The guide button opens the grid-style channel guide, which supports a number of free and paid live TV options.
The channel guide integrates over-the-air channels (through the Fire TV Recast), free streaming services such as Pluto TV and live TV services such as Hulu + Live TV, Sling TV and Philo.
Both new Fire Sticks are available for pre-order and start shipping next week.
Founder and Editor of The Cord Cutting Report. Before launching the site in 2016, he worked for more than two decades as a staff writer or correspondent for a number of daily newspapers, including The Boston Globe. His enthusiasm for tech began with the Atari 2600. Follow @james_kimble