Amazon Prime Video Review
What is Amazon Prime Video and what’s it like in Australia?
Unsatisfied with ruling the online shopping world, paying less annual tax than a lowly tech journalist, or running warehouses with sweatshop-like working conditions, Prime Video is Amazon’s foray into the video streaming world.
Like Netflix, Prime’s Australian library is considerably smaller than its American counterpart. But, at more than 1300 TV shows and nearly 6000 movies, there’s more than enough content for any of us to absorb.
Prime Video Verdict
With a growing library of quality classic films and TV shows, new exclusive programming that rivals Netflix’s, and a smattering of nifty bonus features not found elsewhere – like IMDb integration and free shipping on Amazon – Prime Video should be a serious contender for your entertainment dollars. If you’re on a tight budget and can handle missing out on some of the must-see shows on Netflix, Prime Video is the best alternative.
How Much Is Prime? Any Bonus Extras?
At $6.99 per month or $54 annually, Prime Video is less than half the price of Netflix or Stan. There are no pricing tiers either, so you don’t need to pay extra for HD or 4K streaming. Put simply, it’s exceptionally good value.
In addition, membership comes with a number of benefits across Amazon’s other arms. Chief among these is free two-day shipping on anything ordered from Amazon Australia and free shipping on purchases over $49 on items from Amazon’s international outlets. If you do a lot of online shopping, it’s almost worth signing up before you even consider the entertainment on Prime Video.
You also get access to Prime Reading and Twitch Prime. The former has more than a thousand books and magazines that can be read on Kindle, iOS and Android devices; the latter is great if you like watching people with webcams play video games while yelling. Twitch Prime also comes with a few free video games each month and exclusive in-game loot items like skins and weapons – the kids will dig it.
What Can I Watch Prime Video On?
Nearly everything: web browsers, Samsung and LG Smart TVs, iOS and Android devices, Fire tablets, Amazon TV Fire Stick, Apple TV, Telstra TV, Xbox One, Xbox 360, PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 3.
How Much Data Does Prime Video Use?
Amazon has not made this information publicly available, so no one knows for sure. It is, however, reasonable to assume it’s within the ballpark of direct competitors. As a reference point, Stan advises that SD streaming uses 1.13GB of data per hour, HD uses 2.89GB, while 4K will swallow 7GB of your monthly cap per hour. Plan accordingly.
Picture Quality? 4K Content?
If you have the connection speed (we recommend 20mbps) and the required hardware, Prime can stream in 4K HDR. At this resolution, the image is stunning: sharp, clear, with deep blacks and brilliant light tones. Equivalent to Netflix and 4K Blu-ray. We’ve had little trouble hitting this resolution, too; buffer time is ever so slightly longer than Netflix’s, but we’re talking a handful of seconds at most.
However, outside of Amazon Originals (more on these later), there’s practically nothing worth watching available in 4K… unless you’re into Bollywood films and that Baby Shark song toddlers love. Fortunately, the HD picture quality is impressive. I watched Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse in 1080p and never once felt like I was experiencing an inferior version.
On TV screens you can’t manually choose to lock resolution at a lower/higher setting if your stream is chugging, but Prime does at least let you know what resolution is being streamed in real-time – information that is surprisingly hard to come by elsewhere. (You can lock stream quality on mobile devices.)
How Does Prime Work? UI and Functionality
Like every other streaming service in existence, Prime Video’s dashboard uses large thumbnails displayed in horizontal rows arranged by categories like “comedy” or “top movies”. A submenu at the top of the screen allows easy flipping between TV shows, movies, and kid-friendly content to suit the moment.
The UI is clear, simple and easy to parse at a glance. The genre rows don’t loop back around on themselves, meaning it can take a while to get back to where you started – a minor irritation, but something Netflix manages to avoid with its carousel.
On the surface, particularly if you’re accustomed to Netflix, the home screen feels Spartan, lacking the technical pizzazz of the auto-preview function, and it doesn’t have an attractive “headline” spot to fill the top section of the screen. But dig a little deeper and some nifty features emerge. What it lacks in wow factor, it makes up for in the information department.
Prime Video has direct IMDb integration. This means you can see a program’s critical score aggregate on the dashboard without needing to open up a website. Even neater, pausing a show or movie will bring up a list of the actors currently onscreen. Clicking on their names displays a short bio, great for those “Arggghhh, what’s she in?!” moments that plague us all. It’s a cool system.
What’s the Catch?
There is, however, one notable downside. Prime Video has unskippable pre-roll ads that occasionally play before your selection. Mercifully, they’re short and are limited to ads for Prime programs, so you won’t be bombarded with promos from the local second-hand car dealership… yet. It’s a jarring experience in the usually ad-free walled garden of video streaming.
What is on Prime Video?
Speaking of exclusives, like Netflix, the real highlights of the service are the Amazon-produced Original series. Amazon throws squillions of dollars at these programs, and you can see every cent on screen. The results are predictably mixed, but they’re all big budget if you’re in the mood for something pretty, and there’s some undeniably excellent, premium TV.
The Expanse is the best sci-fi space opera currently on TV. Set in a tense cold war between the Solar System’s competing powers – Earth, Mars, and “The Belt” – it’s part detective noir, part space epic. The Man in the High Castle is a big-budget adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s dystopian alternative history novel, set in a USA divided between the Axis Powers after the Nazis won the Second World War. The Grand Tour is, for all intents and purposes, Top Gear, just without the licensing rights to call itself that; car nuts and fans of Jeremy Clarkson and co. will eat it up. And The Boys is a fantastic (but bleak) spin on the superhero world, in which altruism rarely gets in the way of a good corporate sponsorship.
Speaking of superheros, Prime has a chunk of the non-MCU Marvel Sony movies, from Sam Raimi’s trilogy to 2018’s Venom to the aforementioned Into The Spider-Verse. Eric Bana’s strange turn as the Hulk is also accounted for. Michael Bay’s Transformers movies are here, but skip them and go straight to 2018’s Bumblebee for a less painful experience. The best ongoing action movie series in the world, Mission Impossible, is here in all its “I can’t believe Tom Cruise did his own stunts” glory.
There’s a decent array of classic movies, too. The Godfather trilogy, the Jurassic Park (but not World) trilogy, Airplane, Shaun of the Dead, Ace Ventura, Django Unchained and Heat are all worth your time. And in the comedy aisle, The 40-Year-Old Virgin, 50 First Dates, Meet The Parents, and Bridesmaids are always good for a laugh.
For the kids, there’s a wealth of old-school shows like Bob The Builder, Fireman Sam, SpongeBob SquarePants, and Defenders of the Earth, and some new Original programs like Stinky & Dirty, Kung Fu Panda: The Paws of Destiny and Pete the Cat.
While there’s tonnes of good stuff, it must be said that the library is bulked out by some straight-to-home-video rubbish from a bygone age. Take, for example, School Spirit, a film about a horny ghost haunting its old high school.. with sexy results! Or “documentaries” like Secrets of the Ancient World, which exposes the “truth” about the ancient knowledge contained within the pyramids, hidden from us by “the elites”.
There’s also some extremely niche material. The promotional cartoon that was made to accompany EA’s 2010 video game Dante’s Inferno is here. For some reason. And it probably won’t mean much to anyone else, but I enjoyed a documentary about Leeds United’s 1989 season when they topped the English Second Division.
How Do You Cancel Prime Video?
Prime has no lock it contract so you can cancel it whenever you like. Cancelling Prime requires logging in to Amazon on your web browser. You can do so here.