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Amazon Fire TV Stick Basic Edition review: Aussie debut lacks bite

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Designed to give your television a smart overhaul, the $69 Fire TV Stick Basic Edition is the first new Amazon gadget to arrive on our shores since the online retail giant's local expansion.

Similar to Google's Chromecast and the Apple TV, it plugs into your television's HDMI input and connects to your home Wi-Fi, letting you watch online video on the big screen rather than on your handheld gadgets.

You can drive the Fire TV Stick from your smartphone or tablet, plus — unlike the Chromecast — there's a physical remote control to live on your coffee table. This makes life easier for people who don't always have a smart gadget at hand.

The Fire TV Stick also has the advantage of access to an app store where you can download streaming apps like Spotify and TuneIn as well as jack-of-all-trades media players like Plex and VLC.

You can even install games and connect Bluetooth game controllers, similar to the Apple TV, but Amazon's selection of games is poor and the performance is rather sluggish. Even simple games like Crossy Road feel less responsive than when playing on the Apple TV.

Unfortunately Amazon only sells the Basic Edition of its Fire TV in Australia and we miss out on US models which pack more grunt, support faster Wi-Fi, handle Ultra HD streaming and work with Amazon's talkative Alexa smart assistant.


These models might come to Australia later this year, once Alexa and Amazon's Echo smart speakers are officially supported locally. Alternatively it's not difficult to import an Alexa-capable $US39 ($50) Fire TV Stick via a middleman like PriceUSA and get Alexa working today.

For now the Fire TV Stick Basic Edition's big appeal in Australia is the ability to watch both Amazon Prime Video and arch rival Netflix through one device.

You can sign up for a 30-day Prime Video trial, after which you'll pay $US2.99 for the first six months and then $US5.99 per month. You might need to dive into your Amazon Prime settings and set your country to Australia if you've previously tricked it into thinking you're in the US so you could set up Alexa, Echo speakers or Amazon Music.

Amazon Prime Video's Australian library isn't as extensive as Netflix but still offers a wide variety of movies and TV shows including Amazon originals like The Grand Tour, American Gods and The Man in the High Castle.

The Fire TV Stick's biggest shortcoming is that it's still very US-centric. You can watch Prime Video, Netflix and a handful of B-grade services, but you can forget about Australian streaming services like Stan (co-owned by Fairfax Media), Foxtel Now or catch-up from our free-to-air broadcasters.

Meanwhile the Fire TV Stick's screen mirroring options are much more limited than what you enjoy via Google's Chromecast mirroring or Apple's AirPlay.

All up, the Fire TV Stick Basic Edition feels like a poor man's Chromecast, even though the Chromecast is $10 cheaper. The Fire TV Stick's only redeeming features are the physical remote control and the ability to watch Amazon Prime Video, which you can't watch on a Chromecast due to Amazon's ongoing turf war with Google.

Amazon recently buried the hatchet with Apple, allowing the Prime Video app to finally come to the Apple TV, but Apple's player costs north of $200. Alternatively you can install Prime Video on a PlayStation or Xbox.

If those options are all too rich for your blood, but you're determined to watch Prime Video on your television, then there might be a spot for Amazon's Fire TV Stick Basic Edition in your lounge room.