Every time a new Fire TV model is released, I run it through benchmark utilities like Geekbench and GFXBench and post the results compared to all previous Fire TV models. Those tests serve as a good way to measure the raw performance of a device, but I always preface the results by saying that it’s not a good representation of how the devices will perform in actual daily use. A better indication of real-world performance is seeing how quickly each device executes the most common task of a streaming device, which is the launching of apps. I measured how fast every Fire TV, Fire TV Stick, and Fire TV Cube model launches apps and the results were quite surprising.
I’ll include details of how this app launching test was performed at the bottom of the article, but the short version is I measured how long it takes to sequentially launch HBO Max, Disney+, Fubo TV, Sling TV, Tubi, and Pluto TV. Timing started when the first app was clicked and stopped when the sixth app reached its home screen. I, notably, did not include Netflix because the Netflix app is preloaded on certain Fire TV models to make it launch faster, which would have been an unfair comparison across devices. Each 6-app launch sequence was done 3 times on each device and the fastest 2 results were averaged for the final score. If you need to determine exactly which Fire TV model you have, to know how it ranks in this test against other models, in you can use my Informer app or follow this quide.
Traditional benchmark utilities primarily tax the CPU and GPU of a device. Launching apps in rapid succession, as I did for this test, is also a good measurement of processor performance but it also heavily relies on how fast the internal storage and the memory (RAM) can be read and written to. Another aspect of the device that makes a significant impact is how much RAM the device has. With more RAM, going back to the Fire TV’s home screen in between each app load, for example, will be quicker because more of the home screen elements will still be stored in the RAM, as opposed to needing to be read from the much slower internal storage.
Comparing the results above to the Geekbench benchmark scores, you can see that devices with more raw power absolutely do not always launch apps faster than weaker devices. I’ll go into more detail about how each model scored below, but an immediate surprise is the Fire TV 2, which is the 2nd most powerful device but is only the 5th quickest to launch apps. In contrast, the Fire TV 1, which is the oldest device and ranked 8th in raw power, is surprisingly the 3rd quickest to launch apps. The original Firestick 4K also launches apps more quickly than its power ranking, since it’s the 4th quickest to open apps but the 6th most powerful device.
Fire TV Cube 2 (Released 2019): 55.7 seconds
The 2nd-gen Fire TV Cube is the most powerful model and the only one with a 6-core CPU. It also has 2GB of RAM, which matches several other models for the most memory. Unsurprisingly, it launches apps the quickest, but what is surprising is that it does so nearly 4 times faster than the 1st-gen Fire TV. That’s a pretty compelling reason to upgrade from the old Cube to the new one, even though both models share the exact same features.
Fire TV Stick 4K Max (Released 2021): 63.2 seconds
At the risk of sounding like a fanboy, the brand new Fire TV Stick 4K Max continues to impress me with each new test I throw at it. I expected it to rank high, based on its benchmark utility scores, but I absolutely did not expect it to score within 11% of the Fire TV Cube 2 on this test. With only a 7 second difference across the launch of 6 apps, you really aren’t going to notice much of a performance difference between the Fire TV Stick 4K Max and the Fire TV Cube 2 in real-world use. Compared to the original Fire TV Stick 4K, the new model launched apps 35% faster. That likely has just as much to do with the 2GB of RAM in the new device, compared to 1.5 GB in the old model, as it does with the CPU performance.
Fire TV 1 (Released 2014): 97.7 seconds
Talk about an underdog coming out of nowhere to impress. The 1st-gen Fire TV that started it all just barely edged out the next model to, surprisingly, be the 3rd fastest to launch apps even though it ranks close to the bottom of the pack in raw performance figures. Its age is probably what actually ended up helping it the most in this test because there are some features, both in the OS and in the launched apps, that aren’t available on the original Fire TV. While you can certainly argue the benefit of features versus speed, that lack of bloat is probably what keeps it so snappy.
Fire TV Stick 4K (Released 2018): 97.8 seconds
The Fire TV Stick 4K certainly holds its own at nearly a tie for 3rd place. It’s certainly no slouch and these results help explain why Amazon has decided to keep it around and even rejuvenated it with a new remote, even though the Fire TV Stick 4K Max is now available. The Fire TV Stick 4K has nearly the same processor as the Fire TV Stick 3 and Stick Lite, but, notably, launches apps about 11-14% faster. That’s certainly all due to the fact that it has 1.5GB of RAM compared to 1GB in the non-4K Firesticks.
Fire TV 2 (Released 2015): 107.5 seconds
One of the biggest surprises of this test, in a bad way, is the 2nd-gen Fire TV ranking 5th in app launch speed, despite it being the 2nd most powerful device. That highlights how raw performance does not directly correlate to real-world advantages. One explanation for the poor ranking is that the 2nd-gen Fire TV is the only Fire TV model using a 64-bit operating system. 64-bit architecture, compared to 32-bit which all other Fire TV models use, takes a hit in performance, especially when software running on the device doesn’t take advantage of the extra addressable space. This is a big reason why Amazon switched back to a 32-bit OS with all newer models.
Fire TV Stick 3 (Released 2020): 109.7 seconds
The 3rd-gen Fire TV Stick expectedly ranks in the middle of the pack in terms of app launch speed because that’s around where it falls in raw performance. As noted previously, the Fire TV Stick 4K, which uses nearly the same processor, launches apps 11% faster primarily due to the extra 0.5 GB of RAM that it has. The extra RAM keeps more of the OS in memory, so switching between an app and the home screen is snappier. One thing to note is that the gap between the 3rd-gen Fire TV Stick and the Fire TV Stick 4K is greater if the latter is set to 1080p, since this test was run at the device’s maximum resolution.
Fire TV Stick Lite (Released 2020): 114.4 seconds
The Fire TV Stick Lite, much like the 3rd-gen Fire TV Stick, ranks as expected because the two devices share the same hardware, so the comments above apply to it as well. The 4% difference between the two models is larger than I would have expected. My best explanation for the difference is that the Fire TV Stick Lite was the last device I tested, whereas the 3rd-gen Fire TV was among the first. Sitting powered on longer, relative to the others, and being tested during a hotter part of the day probably made the Fire TV Stick Lite run a bit hotter during the test than the 3rd-gen Fire TV Stick, which hurt performance.
Fire TV 3 (Released 2017): 115.7 seconds
The 3rd-gen Fire TV (pendant) holds its own in this test. Even though it’s near the bottom, it rounds out the pack of models that come in close to the 100-second mark, so it’s not much slower than those above it. While it has a weaker processor than most of the Firesticks above it, it’s helped by the fact that it has 2 GB of RAM. While most Fire TV 3 owners were absolutely fine skipping on the Fire TV Stick 4K, unless Dolby Vision support was important, the Fire TV Stick 4K Max does present a decent upgrade, since it launches apps about twice as fast.
Fire TV Cube 1 (Released 2018): 180.9 seconds
The 1st-gen Fire TV Cube has had the reputation of being underpowered, since it has the exact same hardware (CPU, GPU, and RAM) as the Fire TV 3 (pendant) but carries the performance burden of far-field mics that need to constantly process audio for wake word detection. It is a bit surprising that the mic burden results in such a slower device, with apps launching 36% slower than the Fire TV 3. This really makes me hope that whenever Amazon makes a 3rd-gen Fire TV Cube, that they also release the same hardware in a non-far-field variant for those that are willing to give up the hands-free voice capabilities in exchange for even better performance.
Fire TV Stick 2 (Released 2016): 297.7 seconds
Despite all the surprises already, easily the most surprising results for me were with the 2nd-gen Fire TV Stick. I knew it would be slow, but I did not expect it to be as slow as it is. This certainly wasn’t always the case with the Fire TV Stick 2, but years of bloat in both the OS and in 3rd-party apps have bogged this device down to where it is infuriatingly slow if you want to use more than a couple of apps. It’s passable if you’re just opening an app and spending all of your time in that one app, which I suspect is how most people are using it, but switching apps grinds it to a halt. Additionally, heat build-up seems to be a big issue with the Fire TV Stick 2 when quickly performing many tasks. Most devices scored slightly faster times with each iteration of my test as more background tasks were forced out of RAM to make room for the apps being launched. The Fire TV Stick 2, on the other hand, clearly got slower and slower with each iteration, most likely due to the device getting hotter and hotter, which slows down the processor. If you are still using a Fire TV Stick 2, and can afford to do so, you will absolutely not regret upgrading, no matter which new model you buy.
Fire TV Stick 1 (Released 2014): 495.6 seconds
The 1st-gen Fire TV Stick is almost unusably slow for everything other than single-purpose streaming in a single app. If all you do is launch one app and start playing a video every so often, it’ll still be slow but usable. Once you start switching apps you might as well go grab a snack or do some stretches between button presses. Unlike all other Fire TV models that have at least a quad-core processor, the original Fire TV Stick is the only model with a dual-core processor, which is likely what contributes most to how slow it is. I’m always hesitant to say someone absolutely should upgrade a device, because everyone’s financial situation can vary greatly, but, in the case of the Fire TV Stick 1, nobody should still be using it since the Fire TV Stick Lite can be purchased for around $20 when on sale and launches apps over 4 times faster.
Testing Procedure Details
Each Fire TV model was factory reset and updated to the latest available software version, including both OS updates and system app updates, prior to the test. Each model was running at its highest resolution with default settings. The latest available version of each app in the test was installed from the Amazon Appstore. I chose HBO Max and Disney+ to represent paid on-demand apps. I chose Fubo TV and Sling TV to represent live linear cable-replacement apps. I chose Tubi and Pluto TV to represent free ad-supported apps. HBO Max, Disney+, Fubo TV, and Sling TV apps were logged in but Tubi and Pluto TV were not used with accounts. In full disclosure, Fubo TV and Sling TV provide complimentary access to AFTVnews for review purposes, but they had no say in their involvement in this test and had no influence on the results. All 6 apps were placed in the first 6 slots on the Fire TV home screen’s app row and were launched sequentially from the home screen, in the same order every time, using the Fire TV remote. When each app was launched, a user profile was selected when presented (i.e., for HBO Max and Disney+), and I waited for all elements and images on the app’s home screen to fully load before proceeding to the next app. The Fire TV home screen was loaded in between each app, in order to access the next app, but I did not wait for the home screen to fully load and, instead, proceeded to launch the next app as quickly as possible. Timing started when the first app was selected and timing stopped when the final app’s home screen fully loaded, which constituted one complete sequence. On each Fire TV model, after all apps were installed and logged in, the device was restarted and allowed to sit idle before starting the test. The first sequence of app launches was performed and not measured to ensure that all apps had an opportunity to cache their needed data. Then 3 back-to-back sequences were performed and separately measured, only pausing in between each sequence to record the results and reset the timer and cursor position. Of those 3 measured sequences, the fastest two times were averaged for the final score.