Amazon says the new Fire TV Stick 2 is 30% faster than the previous generation Fire TV Stick, however they don’t clarify on how they came up with that figure. While I don’t have the new device on hand to run through benchmark tests, I do have the next best thing, and that’s the Fire 7″ tablet. That’s because the Fire TV Stick 2 and the Fire tablet use the exact same CPU, GPU, and RAM. The two devices probably won’t perform exactly the same, but with identical hardware where it counts the most, the Fire tablet is a perfect substitute to give us a pretty good idea of the new Fire TV Stick 2’s performance. Here’s a CPU and GPU comparison of a theoretical Fire TV Stick 2 compared to all 3 other Fire TV models.
Below are the result from GFXBench’s benchmarking app. Since the Fire TV Stick 2 runs at 1920 x 1080 and the Fire tablet runs at 1024 x 600, I used the off-screen values of each test which eliminate the device’s resolution as a factor of the benchmark. Again, these numbers are not completely accurate, but I’m confident they will be very close to what the Fire TV Stick 2 would actually score.
The first benchmark is GFXBench’s T-rex test. This is a demanding OpenGL GPU test that uses 3D graphics, high resolution textures, parallax mapping, motion blur, and complex particle systems. This is a good overall indicator of the GPU’s raw performance in gaming. The results indicate the Fire TV Stick 2 is around twice as powerful as the Fire TV Stick 1 and 60% as powerful as the Fire TV 1. This increase in GPU power is what allows the new Fire TV Stick 2 to run games like Goat Simulator, Farming Simulator 16, and Leo’s Fortune, which the Fire TV Stick 1 cannot run.
The next test is GFXBench’s Alpha Blending test. This is a lower level test that measures GPU aspects commonly used by fancier hardware-accelerated user interfaces. Similar to the previous benchmark, the GPU in the Fire TV Stick 2 is expectedly twice as powerful as the one in the Fire TV Stick 1, but about half as powerful as the Fire TV 1.
Next is GFXBench’s ALU test. This is a low-level benchmark that tests raw shader performance. Shader complexity impacts lighting, animation, and image quality in apps and games. The Fire TV 1 and 2’s gaming centric GPU shines in this test, but the Fire TV Stick 2’s score is significantly better than the previous generation Fire TV Stick, at nearly 3 times the score.
Last in the comparison is GFXBench’s Driver Overhead test which, unlike the previous two tests, stresses the device’s CPU performance more than the GPU. This test taxes the GPU’s software driver by performing many draw calls for simple primitives. The results show how fast the software processes the various calls. I’m not sure why the new Fire TV Stick 2 outperforms the Fire TV 1, but this test can be influenced by driver software improvements found in different operating systems and chip architectures.
Benchmarks are generally not a good indicator of a device’s real world performance. A device that scores twice as good as another device in a benchmark does not necessarily mean the better device will feel twice as fast in everyday use. The new Fire TV Stick 2 has twice as many cores as the previous model, which is likely why the benchmark scores are generally twice as good, but those cores are individually only 30% faster (1.3 GHz vs 1.0 GHz) than the first generation Fire TV Stick. While an app, like a benchmarking utility, that can max out all available cores will perform significantly better on the new hardware than the old hardware, most apps simply do not take advantage of all cores, which explains Amazon’s more conservative 30% performance improvement figure.