One of the best features of the new Amazon Fire TV is that it supports 4K video playback. However the interface, apps, and games will not be displayed in 4K. Here’s why that’s a good thing, as well as everything else you need to know about the 4K aspect of the new Fire TV.
Before we get into the nitty gritty of the new Fire TVs 4K capabilities, I’ll preface this article by saying some of the information contained was obtained from a trusted source at Amazon, while other information from is from Amazon’s website.
The new 4K Fire TV supports a resolution of 3840 x 2160 (2160p UHD) at a frame rate of 30fps. It, of course, also supports a resolution of 1920 x 1080 (1080p HD) at a frame rate of 60fps. The important specification to key in on is the frame rate. The new Fire TV cannot display 4K video at 60fps. While it would be great if it could, here’s why it’s probably a good thing that it can’t.
The main reason you need 4K support is for 4K movie and TV show video playback. You’re not going to be playing 4K games on a device like the Fire TV when consoles like the XBox One and the PlayStation 4 don’t even support it. Sure it would be nice if some apps, like weather and photo apps, could be displayed in 4K, but where you need it most is with video, and that’s where the new Fire TV has you covered. Since pretty much all video is shot at 30fps or less, the new Fire TV’s 30fps 4K support is more than sufficient. Any app, like Netflix, will be able to switch into 4K video playback. It’s not limited to just Amazon video.
The other place you won’t see 4K being displayed is with the Fire TV’s interface. That will be output at 1080p and 60fps just as it is on the 1st generation Fire TV. Sure, Amazon could have probably chosen to display the interface at 4K and 30fps, but trust me, you don’t want that. If you use the trick I discovered to force Fire OS 5 developer preview into 30fps, you’ll immediatly see how horrible the interface becomes. At 30fps, the animations and transitions are noticeably choppy. I’ll take buttery smooth 1080p over choppy 4K anyday.
The big upside to the approach that Amazon chose of reserving 4K strictly for video playback is cost. Supporting 4K at 60fps, even if just on the interface, would have required much more processing power and significantly increased the cost of the new Fire TV. Amazon has pulled off a sub $100 4K streaming device by not trying to do too much and spending money only where you need it most.
The downside to this approach, other than not being able to display everything in 4K, is that you’ll see a short delay when playing and stopping 4K video. When you start a 4K video, the new Fire TV will switch from 1080p to 4K. The screen will go black for a few seconds when that happens. The amount of time that the screen stays black is dependent on how fast your 4K TV can change resolutions. You’ll see the same black pause when returning to the Fire TV interface after stopping a 4K video.
Seeing how this is new Fire TV of the first 4K capable streaming boxes, there are bound to be compromises, especially when the device is priced as low as the new Fire TV is. Most people only need 4K support during movie and TV show playback, so if you ask me, Amazon made the right choice limiting the new Fire TV’s 4K capabilities in exchange for a lower price point.