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Amazon Prime Video Review: Amazon’s streaming service v Netflix?

Written by  Sep 04, 2018

The great thing about Amazon Prime Video is that it’s totally free for all Amazon Prime customers. That is to say, if you already pay Amazon £79 a year or £7.99 a month for its unlimited one-day delivery service, then you already have access to the video streaming library.

Compared to Netflix, then, which is only a streaming platform, paying a monthly or yearly fee to Amazon grants you plenty more perks – there’s also unlimited music streaming and unlimited photo storage, to name two more. That might sound as though you can chalk off a win for Amazon right away, but how does its streaming service stack up against its rivals in terms of content, picture quality and accessibility?

Prices and packages

Full Prime membership costs £79 a year or £7.99 a month, although if you’re a student, the fee is halved. That means you get free next day delivery and all the usual perks for a mere £39 a year or £3.99 a month.

As well as being a Prime benefit, you can buy a subscription to Amazon Prime Video on its own (forgoing the other perks of Prime membership) for only £5.99 a month. Regardless of which plan you choose, there’s no difference in content or streaming quality, or the number of devices that you can watch on simultaneously.

Also, regardless of whether you choose to sign up for the full Amazon Prime package or just Prime Video, you’re entitled to sign up for a 30-day free trial, which means you can see for yourself whether you think the service represents good value for money. Students get an even sweeter deal on this front, because Prime Student comes with a generous 6-month free trial before any money is withdrawn from your bank account.


Amazon Prime Now


To elaborate on stream quality, the majority of TV shows and films on Prime Video are available in HD, and select content is also available to watch in both UHD and HDR. However, streaming in these formats is only possible on specific devices: UHD, for example, is available on the Amazon Fire TV 4K, Xbox One S and Samsung, Sony and LG UHD TVs from 2014 onwards, while the list of devices that can play HDR content is even more limited. You can check if your device is compatible with the different formats on Amazon’s FAQ page

Naturally, you can download Prime video apps for both Android and iOS devices. It’s worth noting, though, that picture quality is restricted to SD on the majority of Android devices.

Regardless of what you’re watching on, you’re limited to using three devices at once, and can watch the same title on no more than two screens simultaneously. Like Netflix, content on Amazon Prime Video is available to download, although you can only do this in the Android, iOS or Fire app and not in your web browser.

Content

Prime Video is significantly younger than Netflix, and was only introduced as a perk for Prime subscribers in 2014, but that doesn’t mean the service is inferior to its rival. Far from it, in fact – just like Netflix, the company has invested heavily in developing its own in-house productions, and although its catalogue isn’t quite so extensive, you can certainly make a case that it matches the popular streaming juggernaut when it comes to quality.

Transparent and Mr Robot, for instance, have been met with wide critical acclaim, both winning Golden Globe awards in their respective categories. Amazon’s successes don’t stop there, either – other popular “Prime Original” titles include The Tick, The Man in the High Castle and The Grand Tour.

If you’re not already an Amazon Prime subscriber, The Grand Tour is the one name on that list that will probably jump out at you, because it was extensively used by Amazon to promote its streaming service after the very public departure of Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May from the BBC’s Top Gear in 2015.

Like Netflix Originals, you can be sure that any Amazon-owned content should be available to stream on Prime Video for good. That’s handy if you’re the sort of person who starts a series but then takes a break from it for weeks at a time.

Outside of its original content, Amazon has a decent range of licensed TV series to choose from, too. The first seven seasons of The Walking Dead are currently available to stream alongside Desperate Housewives, Grey’s Anatomy, and classic US comedy Seinfeld. There are also a number of Amazon exclusives including Preacher, Vikings and Lucifer.

There’s not a huge amount in the way of British TV, but Prime Video does at least have a good range of both Hollywood and independent films. Indeed, you could definitely make a case that Prime Video is stronger than Netflix in this department, with current big-name films available to stream on the platform including The Girl on The Train, The Death of Stalin, Batman vs Superman and The Theory of Everything.

There’s a good range of kids’ content, too. With films including Paddington, Despicable Me, Babe, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, The Gruffalo and Happy Feet all currently available to stream, Prime Video should help keep your little ones entertained.

Competition

Undoubtedly, Netflix is Prime Video’s biggest rival not only in terms of popularity, but also with the vast catalogue of content it offers. The streaming platform has three different plans to choose from, ranging from £5.99 to £9.99 a month.

Buy Fire TV 4K

For £5.99, the Basic plan entitles you to stream in standard-definition on one screen at a time. If you want Full HD-quality streams and the option to watch on two screens simultaneously, you’ll need to front up £7.99 a month for the Standard plan. Alternatively, if you want to make the most of your 4K TV, the Premium £9.99-a-month plan unlocks UHD and HDR streams (both HDR10 and Dolby Vision are now supported) and the ability to watch on up to four screens simultaneously.

The other big player in the UK is Now TV. Its Entertainment pass, which includes premium channels such as Sky Atlantic and Comedy Central as well as plenty of TV box sets, costs £7.99 a month. With Now TV, you can stream on four devices, but only two at the same time and at a maximum resolution of 720p (1080p support is coming later in 2018).

The Entertainment pass gives you access to an impressive range of top-quality programming, from Game of Thrones to The Handmaid’s Tale, but most series are only available to stream for a set period of time. For this reason, it’s worth checking what’s currently available (and how long for) before you sign up. Unlike Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, Now TV won’t let you download any programmes to watch offline – although this feature is also coming later this year.

Crucially, the Entertainment pass doesn’t give you access to films. To unlock access to all 11 Sky Cinema channels as well as more than 1,000 movies on demand, you need to buy a Now TV Sky Cinema Pass, which is £9.99 a month. Paying £18 a month for Entertainment and a Sky Cinema Pass is a lot to fork out but, if you’re happy to pay up front, Sky usually offers some good bundle discounts.

Verdict

Amazon Prime Video represents outstanding value for money when purchased as part of an Amazon Prime subscription. For only £80 a year (or £7.99 a month), you not only get free 1-day delivery on all Amazon products, but you also unlock the option to stream and download a superb range of TV and films on multiple devices (not to mention the other perks).

Even on its own, though, it’s difficult not to recommend Prime Video as a service. At £5.99 a month, it’s the only platform that allows you to stream in UHD and HDR on up to two devices simultaneously, and download programmes to your phone or tablet.

As ever, though, content is king, so whether you want to subscribe to Prime Video will come down to whether there’s something you want to watch in its ever-growing catalogue of content. What could make it better? Well, there is talk that Amazon might soon launch a free, ad-supported version of the service...

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