(Pocket-lint) - The Fire TV is Amazon's fastest selling product of all time, both in its original set-top-box and streaming stick forms. It has beaten Kindle and Fire tablets, oh, and the phone of course, although that one has since been swept under the carpet.
In fact, there's only one product that deserves to best its sales records, and that's the second-generation 4K Ultra HD version. It is, quite simply, the best streaming box on the market.
Having 4K Ultra HD support on board helps, of course, especially when few rivals offer similar (in the UK at least). While announced for America recently, Roku's 4K box isn't coming to Britain any time soon and the new Apple TV has nary a whiff of 4K about it, with the Cupertino firm opting for 1080p at launch.
Only the Nvidia Shield Android TV box is as capable with 4K output (more so, to be honest) but that's almost twice the price. Pound for pound, you will not be able to get anything better for streaming media than the Amazon Fire TV. Can it do no wrong?
Amazon Fire TV 4K review: Design
Looks-wise the 4K Amazon Fire TV is almost identical to the last model, similarly adopting an invisible approach to aesthetics. It is a matte black, flat, square box the size of a mug coaster, crafted to be hidden from sight.
On the rear there is a HDCP 2.2-capable HDMI 1.4 port (to ensure 4K compliance), Ethernet socket (for the fastest connection) and slots for microSD card and a USB memory stick to expand the storage from the 8GB that's on board.
It's a doddle to setup and even if you don't have a LAN internet connection near your TV, Fire TV has dual-band, dual-antenna 802.11ac Wi-Fi built-in which potentially has enough bandwidth for a stable connection, even for 4K video.
We'd always suggest you wire your internet connection if you plan to stream 4K content, especially if you don't have a super-duper router, but bar a couple of bitrate drops at the beginning of a stream, most likely as it was caching, we've been able to maintain a decent quality over Wi-Fi ourselves. So that is a decent enough fall back position if there's no other option.
Amazon Fire TV 4K review: Minimum requirements
It's always worth noting that Amazon recommends at least 15Mbps broadband for 4K UHD video streaming and we'd push that slightly up if you have a household that likes to stay connected and use the home network for other things at the same time. You can get away with less if you only plan to use the box on a Full HD TV though.
Another minimum requirement for 4K use of the new Fire TV is a HDCP 2.2-enabled HDMI port on your TV. Not all 4K TVs have this – especially those bought during the initial wave two years ago or more – so you should check your TV manufacturer's guidelines before upgrading from the previous Fire TV, for example.
If you don't have a set with HDCP 2.2, you will be able to use the new Fire TV, just not for 4K video playback.
You also need to check your AV receiver if you use one, as not many actually have an HDCP 2.2-enabled port. Even if your TV is compatible, if your receiver is not you will not be able to pass Ultra HD images through it.
Unfortunately this is the way it is going to be with all authorised UHD content from now on, be that 4K Ultra HD Blu-Ray, Netflix in 4K and more. Our own receiver only has one HDCP 2.2 HDMI 2.0 input, so we're faced with that issue ourselves for when 4K Blu-ray players arrive and need more than one device connected at a time, but we'll have to cross that bridge when we come to it.
Amazon Fire TV 4K review: Punchy performance
If everything talks to each other nicely, the 4K from Fire TV is a joy. That's when you know the new box is head and shoulders above any of its similarly priced peers.
As well as the resolution spike (which is up to 4K 30fps, not 60fps like the Shield TV - only a potential issue for gaming or high frame-rate movies), the Fire TV has an all-new MediaTek quad-core processor, running two cores at 2GHz, two at 1.6GHz. It also has 2GB of RAM and a Power VR GX6250 600MHz graphics chip.
This ensures that the menu system runs as smoothly as on any device on the market – faster than most, in fact. It's even smoother than the Xbox One or PlayStation 3 user interfaces to zip around, which actually makes it a more comfortable device to access and subsequently watch shows from services like BBC iPlayer and Netflix.
Amazon Fire TV 4K review: Netflix, apps and games
Yes, you read that right; the Amazon Fire TV does have Netflix support through a downloadable application that makes it one of the very few streaming boxes on the market to offer both Amazon Prime Instant Video and Netflix services.
It is unlikely that you will only subscribe to the latter and still want to use the Fire TV to access it, thanks to the setup of the device, but if you subscribe to both, you have that variety.
Like the other available applications, Netflix is part of the apps section of the user interface. There are also downloadable apps for the recently added ITV Player, plus Demand 5, TVPlayer, Flixster, Plex and plenty of others. There's still no All 4 for Channel 4's catch-up and on-demand offerings, but surely that's only a matter of time? An app is available for Amazon's tablets running Fire OS after all.
The other downloadable third-party apps that are available tend to be games. Amazon shouted long and loud during the last Fire TV release about its gaming prowess - but to be completely frank, it never really went anywhere. There are some good games available, including GTA III, GTA: Vice City, Crossy Road and some casual gaming hits, but there are others out there that are focusing on gaming a little more and are therefore providing a better library and service.
In terms of the Fire TV, gaming is a nice sidebar – with a new, optional Wi-Fi-enabled controller joining the fray for lower latency while playing – but a sidebar it is. The main draw of the set-top-box is its fast and easy access to a world of TV and movie entertainment.
Amazon Fire TV 4K review: Prime essential
Like previously, users will only get the most from a Fire TV if they have an Amazon Prime account or, at least, a subscription to Amazon Prime Instant Video. You can buy content directly through the box, which is interweaved into the same menu system as before, but that would be a costly endeavour if done all the time.
Amazon Prime Instant Video is the company's streaming solution and these days offers just as much to watch as its main rival, even standing shoulder to shoulder in the amount of home grown content it produces. There are thousands of TV shows and movies to instantly stream as part of the Prime membership or subscription package. And this time that includes 4K Ultra HD content too.
If there is a criticism of Amazon's simple and fast menu system it's that it isn't the clearest for all users to see what content is included in Prime and what is not. There is a bar across the top left-hand corner of the shows and movies that are available at no extra cost, with paid content being bar-free, but that's not always helpful when you're trying to scan through the kids section while a toddler is screaming at you for Peppa Pig episodes.
Ultra HD content actually makes that a little worse, as it adds another bar across the same corner, which is in addition to the Prime strap. And that means 4K or movies that aren't on Prime still have a left-corner strap and can therefore mislead you into thinking they are part of your package until you click on them and gasp at how much they cost.
Amazon Fire TV 4K review: 4K ain't cheap
Ultra HD movies especially are stupendously priced. They range from £18.99 to £22.99 to buy in 4K, with a few also available to rent for £6.99 a pop. Considering there are currently only 39 movies on the platform (listed in their own 4K Ultra HD Movies section) and most of those are older rereleases, such as Ghostbusters 2 and the crappy 1998 Godzilla flick, that seems unfairly steep.
Thankfully, Amazon's own original programming is presented in 4K where possible and as part of a Prime subscription, so there's still plenty of content to view until the library choices catch up. And that includes Bosch, Hand of God and the multi award-winning Transparent.
You also have plenty of 1080p content to watch too, of course, and everything comes with Amazon's X-ray service which pulls up IMDB information on scenes and actors during video playback. And all the content works with Amazon's ASAP (Advanced Streaming and Prediction) technology, which starts a stream almost instantly – an impressive feature for sure.
We're also still impressed with Amazon's search functionality, through the voice command microphone on the remote control. You can search for just about anything - TV shows, movies, actors, directors and genres - and it comes up with instant results. It never seemingly falters no matter the request we barked at it.
Amazon's second-generation Fire TV box is a real step forward in the media streaming sector and considering the popularity of the first one is bound to be the device chosen by many families up and down the UK as their main living room device.
By adopting 4K UHD streaming Amazon has set the bar high for others to follow and the team must have been cock-a-hoop when Apple unveiled its new rival box without that feature. We can kind-of see where Apple was coming from, after all the amount of actual 4K content available on the Fire TV is minimal at present. And what is there beyond a Prime subscription is pricey. But Amazon's device is futureproof and more content will undoubtedly become available in time.
As it stands, even without the Ultra HD angle, the new Fire TV is one of the best media streamers we've ever used, with only the Nvidia Shield Android TV box able to better it for speed and features. However, that specific streamer is almost twice the price and therefore the Amazon will appeal to a wider audience.
One thing's for sure, anybody with an Amazon account will be tempted, even if they are yet to buy a 4K TV. And if you do own a 4K TV then welcome to the best option for sourcing UHD content in the UK.