The most innovative streaming device of 2023

Look, we’ll be completely honest here: There’s nothing particularly innovative about streaming devices these days. This is actually a good thing. There’s nothing to explode or reinvent from one year to the next, which points to a product category that mostly does what it does very well, allowing the edge features to really stand out. Allowed to separate.

This means that when we get new hardware, it looks and works mostly like the hardware it’s replacing. Wisely: A Roku is still a Roku. Chromecast with Google TV hasn’t been updated for a while. Apple TV continues in the same Apple way with minor changes every couple of years.

And Amazon Fire TV? Well…there’s something to talk about.

Want to see the rest? Check out our full list of the hottest innovative tech products of 2023!

Winner: Amazon Fire TV 4K Max

Amazon Fire TV Max 4K was the most innovative streaming device of 2023.
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Well, the same can be said about the Amazon Fire TV. For the most part, it looks and functions the same as it has in years past. Yep, it’s got some sizable visual refreshes. Yes, the hardware is updated on a fairly regular schedule. And, yes, it’s still a very affordable device in that Amazon way that makes you ask “How much is it only?”

But when announcing the 2023 Amazon Fire TV 4K Max at an event in September at HQ2 just outside Washington, DC, Amazon announced some new features for this particular Fire TV Stick — this is the best of them — that actually What makes it different from others. Varieties in the Fire TV Lineup.

We have to pay a little attention to things. Some of the features we are going to mention are now available on the Fire TV Stick 4K Max. And some are still coming as software updates in 2024. While we generally like to address technology that’s actually in front of us and possibly not coming (even in the future), these are all things that Amazon showed us and told us we’re getting. So we will hold on to them.

ambient experience

Amazon Fire TV ambient experience with widgets.
Amazon Fire TV ambient experience, with widgets. Phil Nickinson/

For some time now, Amazon has had what it calls “ambient experiences.” It’s basically a great screensaver-type option that turns your TV into something you’ll want to leave on for everyone to watch, with a number of widgets also available to take you even further into the Amazon ecosystem. like suggesting things to watch or listen to – or even cook dinner – or help track your Amazon purchases.

This is all great stuff, and previously it was only available on Amazon’s Omni QLED televisions, not lower-priced sticks. So this is a big thing.

AI is coming to Fire TV

Several AI-powered features are also coming at some point in 2024. While it’s true that you can’t shake a stick without hitting something with the letters “AI”, Amazon had something concrete to show us. Better search results for beginners. It’s kind of the bread and butter of all this, but Fire TV vice president Daniel Roush said at the September event, “We’ve completely redesigned the Fire TV search experience.” And, indeed, that initial demo looked extremely promising. Better, more natural results with better context.

Daniel Roush, VP of Fire TV and Alexa for Amazon, in front of an AI-generated photo on the Fire TV.
Daniel Roush, VP of Fire TV and Alexa for Amazon, in front of an AI-generated photo on the Fire TV. Phil Nickinson/

Roush also demonstrated a cool feature within Amazon Photos that takes advantage of AI to take your native phone-based images (honestly, that’s what most of us are shooting, right?) and Transforms them into works of art that are more than worthy of the biggest screen in your home. Or, you can ask it to draw AI-generated images on the fly. It may not change the way you use your Fire TV much, but it’s something no one is doing yet.

And in a year in which we didn’t really see any other major changes to streaming hardware, that’s enough to stand out.

Runner-up: Apple TV 4K

It’s a bit strange to mention Apple TV 4K in a context that doesn’t put it at the forefront of the pack. (After all, we believe it’s still the best streaming device for most people.) And Apple won’t release any new hardware for it in 2023. The most recent version came out in November 2022, which is close enough to our objectives.

Apple TV 4K (2022) and Siri remote on a table.
Caleb Dennison/

The Apple TV 4K is still a great device. It has hardware to last for years. And it has the software support behind it that will keep it feeling fresh for so many years. But Apple TV 4K is on the verge of becoming an extremely powerful gaming platform that doesn’t require the capital (either mental or financial) that you have to spend on major gaming platforms like Xbox or PlayStation.

Again, this is a space we’re watching very closely – and look no further than Apple’s iPhone 15 announcement for a testament to just how serious it is about gaming in the middle part of this decade.

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