Amazon Fire TV Stick Lite review
- Extremely low cost
- Alexa integration for voice searches
- Apple TV compatible
- Remote is horribly inconsistent
- No 4K support
- Predictable focus on Amazon content
- Amazon sells much better Fire TV models overseas
Amazon's initial entry into the Australian streaming market with an incredibly cut-down version of its Amazon Prime Video streaming service wasn't particularly stacked with great watchable content, but over a couple of years it's grown into a highly accessible and entertaining library of shows and movies that many Australians enjoy essentially as an adjunct to their existing Amazon Prime subscription.
You've pretty much only got to order one item from Amazon per month for it to pay for itself and the video streaming service is a lovely "free" extra. That's because Amazon's put in a lot of work to make Amazon Prime Video highly appealing to Australian audiences.
However, when it comes to streaming hardware, while in its home US territory it offers up a wide array of Amazon Fire TV devices to suit every budget and viewing style, here in Australia we've only ever seen the entry-level Amazon Fire TV models for sale. Its first model sold here, the Amazon Fire Stick Basic, lived up to that suffix with an astonishingly rudimentary set of onboard apps.
The Amazon Fire TV Stick Lite is better, with a wider range of streaming apps on board, but it's still a low-cost product that needs some serious refinement, so while Prime Video has gotten a lot better over the years, we're still stuck with lesser effort hardware to watch it on.
- Simple stick is easy to install
- Poor remote control response
Rarely has a product been so aptly named as the Amazon Fire TV Stick Lite. At 32g, while that's not what the suffix really means, it's certainly light. It's also a stick with an HDMI plug at one end and a microUSB socket for power on the side. That ubiquitous Amazon smile logo is stamped on the side, and you get an HDMI extender if you need it and a power plug and USB cable in the box, and that's your lot.
The whole idea here is that the Amazon Fire TV Stick Lite is meant to be a no-fuss, easy install product, and that's actually quite true, until you get to the remote control. It's also quite basic, with simple playback controls and a central control rocker for selections, but even at the install step I found it was extremely problematic with many missed inputs when trying to select keyboard inputs for passwords and email addresses and the like. Sometimes it wouldn't register at all, and sometimes it would decide that a single tap left was instead 15 of them.
At first I wondered if it was an interference issue, so I switched from directly plugging the Fire TV Stick Lite into my TV to using the supplied HDMI extender, but it didn't make that much of a difference. It was highly intermittent, but the whole point of this kind of device is meant to be enjoyable couch potato binge fests, not fighting the remote control. This gets a lot easier for streaming services that allow you to sign in on a laptop or tablet and apply a simple code displayed on the screen, but not every streaming service works that way.
- Covers the streaming basics well
- UI massively prefers Amazon content
- Full suite of catch-up apps
- Apple TV is a nice inclusion at this price point
- No direct Foxtel app
- No 4K
The industry's more or less settled on carousel-style user interfaces for Smart TV products, so that's exactly what you get with the Amazon Fire TV Stick Lite. Rather predictably, it's primarily focused on Amazon Prime Video content and content you can buy or rent through Amazon itself, but you can also install a range of apps to cover most streaming services Australians are likely to be keen on.
That includes all the major free to air catch-up services such as ABC iView, SBS On Demand, 9Now, 7+ and 10Play, plus subscription services such as Netflix, Stan, Disney+ and plenty of more niche sports, TV and movie streaming services.
The Amazon Fire TV Stick Lite includes Amazon's Alexa assistant for content searching as well as smart home control if Alexa is your preferred platform for those kinds of services. Voice can work OK, although it can get a little befuddled when searching for content, which may be a function of how well it parses Australian accents.
One interesting inclusion is that the Amazon Fire TV Stick Lite is compatible with Apple TV and Apple TV+. It's easily the cheapest way to access those services, subscription and content costs not included of course, and outside my issues fighting the remote, it might even be a better way in one respect than Apple's own ageing Apple TV 4K.
That's because Apple's done a terrible job of content discovery on its own platform, mixing in every other app amongst its own AppleTV+ content, but on the Amazon Fire TV Stick Lite Apple TV app, it's directly there for you to discover.
The big notable omission in the local space is the lack of support for full Foxtel streaming. There are apps for Kayo and Binge (which is more than you can say for the Foxtel Now Box these days) but no support if you've got a purely IP-based Foxtel subscription you wanted to access that way.
The reason why the Amazon Fire TV Stick Lite carries the Lite suffix is because it's absolutely the entry-level product in Amazon's Fire TV range, and that brings with it a rather significant limitation. It's only capable of displaying up to 1,080p ("Full HD") resolution, not 4K, despite the fact that plenty of services, including Amazon Prime Video itself, provide 4K content.
To rub just a little salt into the wounds, one of the content areas that the Amazon Fire TV Stick Lite's interface calls out is 4K content, despite the fact that it's never going to display those shows and movies that way. The best you're going to get in that respect is 4K or 8K upscaling based on whatever your TV can do, not what the Amazon Fire TV Stick Lite can put out.
Where this feels galling is that Amazon has Fire TV products in the US market that can absolutely handle 4K with ease, but here in Australia they're simply not selling them.
It's unlikely that you'd find the range of local catch-up apps if you imported a 4K Fire TV stick, but with only one option in market and Google's new Chromecast with Google TV coming in at under $99, it's a truly weird exclusion move for Amazon to make. Outside the flaky remote control the Amazon Fire TV Stick Lite is fine if a bit basic, but for those of us who appreciate better quality visuals, why not make them available to us when there are warehouses full of them sitting somewhere in the States?
Should you buy the Amazon Fire TV Stick Lite?
- Buy it if: you want a really low-cost streaming solution with Apple TV+.
- Don't buy it if: you want a richer app experience or a good remote control.
The Amazon Fire TV Stick Lite absolutely lives up to its name. It's a stick that you stick into your TV to add smart TV functions, and it's Lite in terms of resolution and price. At its absolute price point, it's probably as good as you're going to get if you want basic smart TV functions on a TV that doesn't support them, or where the smart TV app selection is lacking.
That being said, Amazon Prime Video is available across a lot of other set top box devices, gaming consoles and more, so it's not as if this is your only way to get that fix. There's a wider market of devices out there for not much more than the Amazon Fire TV Stick Lite, and Amazon's decision to only offer the most rudimentary option to Australians is a serious challenge to its value proposition.
Pricing and availability
Images: Alex Kidman
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