One legitimate concern with the new Amazon Fire TV Stick 2 is how well it handles heat dissipation. Cramming in a quad-core CPU into such a tiny package, without any forced airflow, could be a recipe for disaster if heat isn’t managed correctly. Many 1st-generation Fire TV Stick owners know too well that it can get quite toasty, which is likely why Amazon under-clocked its dual-core CPU to 1Ghz, even though it was manufactured to run at 1.2Ghz. To determine how well the 2nd-gen Fire TV Stick handles heat, I’ve taken internal and external temperature measurements of the 1st and 2nd-gen Fire TV Sticks, both at idle and under a 100% CPU load stress test. I’ve concluded that, while the 2nd-gen Fire TV Stick’s CPU runs at a notably higher temperature than the 1st-gen Fire TV Stick’s CPU, the 2nd-gen Fire TV Stick dissipates heat better, which results in lower external temperatures.
My temperature test was fairly straightforward. I left both the 1st and 2nd-gen Fire TV Sticks off in the same room for an extended period of time to ensure they were both at room temperature, which was right around 80 °F. I powered both devices on and let them sit idle on their home screens for 5 minutes, then I started a stress test app which maxed out their CPUs at 100% usage.
I measured temperatures both internally at the CPU and externally on the exterior housing. For internal temperature measurements, I wrote a script that polled each device once per second and recorded the CPU temperature reported by the OS. For external temperature measurements, I manually measured and recorded the temperature every 10 seconds during the stress test, using a digital laser infrared thermometer. I also measured the external temperature just before powering on, 1 minute after booting up, and 5 minutes after booting up, to establish an idle baseline temperature.
As you can see from the graph above, idle internal temperatures reported by the CPU are about 10 degrees apart, with the 2nd-gen Fire TV Stick running at a higher temperature. However, external temperature measurements for the 2nd-gen Fire TV Stick are about 8 degrees lower than the 1st-gen Fire TV Stick at idle. With an internal versus external temperature difference of about 25 degrees for the 1st-gen Fire TV Stick, and a difference of about 40 degrees for the 2nd-gen Fire TV Stick, it appears the newer device does a much better job of dissipating its heat away from the CPU.
At 100% CPU load during the stress test, the temperature gap between the 1st and 2nd-gen Fire TV Sticks grows greater than at idle. I suspect both devices are thermal throttling at some point during the test, but the larger gap could be an indication of the 1st-gen Fire TV Stick thermal throttling earlier. I ended the stress test earlier than I originally planned because the 1st-gen Fire TV Stick disconnected from its remote and became unresponsive. Temperatures for both devices had not plateaued at that point.
Overall I’m pleased with the performance of the 2nd-gen Fire TV Stick in this test. I expected its much more powerful CPU to run hotter, but it’s pleasantly surprising to see that doesn’t translate into a device that feels hotter than the 1st-gen Fire TV Stick. Good heat dissipation is a serious concern for these devices, both for longevity and performance, since they tend to get crammed behind already hot electronics. There’s no point in a powerful CPU if it’s just going to throttle down its performance because it gets too hot. These test results indicate that heat should be less of a problem with the 2nd-gen Fire TV Stick than with the 1st-gen device.