Amazon Prime Instant Video £5.99
14th Mar 2014 | 10:08
It's not as brilliant as Netflix but there's still a lot to like about Amazon Prime Instant Video
When we reviewed Amazon's LoveFilm Instant streaming video service back in December, we weren't entirely complimentary: while the movie catalogue was pretty good, the service fell short in lots of crucial areas.
But now it's back, and it's got a new name, too: LoveFilm is now Amazon Prime Instant Video.
If you're thinking "hang on, doesn't Amazon already have a video service, called Amazon Instant Video?" you're right - but that's a different deal.
Instant Video sells downloads. Prime Instant Video is an all-you-can-eat streaming service. There's no way that's going to get confusing. Name aside, is the service any better than before? Let's find out.
How much does Amazon Prime Instant Video cost?
If you're already a member of Amazon's Prime club, you'll get Prime Instant Video automatically - but the price of your membership will also go up automatically at your next renewal, rising from £49 to £79 per year. That's a compulsory 60% hike for those Prime members who were quite happy without streaming video, thanks very much.
If you want the video but don't want the full Prime membership, which gives you free delivery on eligible orders and free ebook borrowing, Prime Instant Video is available for £5.99 per month.
What devices does Amazon Prime Instant Video work on?
The service supports Kindle Fire HD and HDX, iOS, Xbox 360 and Xbox One, Nintendo Wii and Wii U, PS3 and PS4, LG, Sony and Samsung Smart TVs, Sony's Network Media Player and Home Cinema System, and Blu-Ray players from LG, Samsung and Sony. Android isn't supported.
The web-based version uses Silverlight, so if you're running Windows 8 you'll need to run the desktop version of Internet Explorer (or another browser), and the iOS app requires Wi-Fi - even if you're on a super-speedy 4G network connection. Perhaps somebody should tell Amazon it's 2014.
What quality does Amazon Prime Instant Video deliver?
Prime is capable of streaming up to 1080p video to PCs, Macs and Kindle Fire HDs, but most other devices get 720p.
LoveFilm didn't have licences to stream HD video on iPads, and the quality doesn't seem to have improved with the updated app: we found the iPad video quality poor, and it was really noticeable when we AirPlayed video to a current-gen Apple TV.
What personalisation does Amazon Prime Instant Video offer?
LoveFilm enables you to create watch lists of titles you'd like to see. You can also set parental controls, protected by a PIN, which apply to the website, the PS3 and PS4, Samsung TVs and Blu-ray players (other devices, such as the Kindle Fire and Xbox 360, have their own parental control systems).
What can I watch on Amazon Prime Instant Video?
The Amazon Prime Instant Video catalogue runs to more than 15,000 titles (compared to 40,000 in the US). When you compare it with arch-rival Netflix, you'll generally find Amazon is better for movies - especially children's movies - and Netflix is better for TV.
Don't assume that your favourite film or show is on each service. Both services are keen on exclusivity - something that paid dividends when Netflix had the UK exclusive for Breaking Bad - and if they can't ink exclusive deals, they'll commission their own content.
Naturally, that content doesn't go to rivals: don't expect to see Kevin Spacey in House of Cards on Amazon (it's a Netflix show) or the intriguing detective series Bosch on Netflix (that one's Amazon).
While Amazon is generally better for movies, there's a big "but" coming: streaming services aren't a priority for film studios, and as a result they don't get the big titles until long after they've done the rounds of DVD, Blu-Ray and movies on demand.
If you search for the UK DVD chart, you won't find any of the films on the streaming services, but at the time of writing all bar one of the current top ten (Toy Story of Terror, which Sky has as an exclusive) were available in the various pay-per-download shops.
That's something that frustrated us about Prime, because searching the Prime catalogue also searches the pay-per-download Amazon Instant Video.
That service has 50,000 titles to Prime's 15,000, and our whoops of joy at discovering a recent blockbuster or an old TV favourite, such as NYPD Blue, often turned to groans when we realised we were looking at pay-per-download results.
Many people will be OK with that - better to be given the option of a paid download than getting a "no results" message - but we found it intensely annoying, a "here's what you could have won" from a game show host delighting in our defeat and showing us a sports car. Maybe that's just us.
Is Amazon Prime Instant Video worth the money?
Prime represents good value for money unless you want to use a mobile device: video on iPads is awful, it isn't available for Android and you can't stream over 3G/4G.
If those aren't deal-breakers, though, the service itself is very good. The film selection is stronger than Netflix's, there's a good kids' section and the parental controls are effective; and while the browsing experience is pretty dull, it's no worse than any other online shop.
You get a lot of movies for £5.99 per month, and if you go for the full Prime subscription at £79 per year, you're essentially getting free delivery on a year's worth of Amazon orders for just £7.
Overall, Prime Instant Video is a decent but flawed streaming service, just like LoveFilm was. Back in December, we said that "Amazon has enormous resources, but it does look as if it has concentrated them on its own Kindle Fire tablets to the detriment of other, more popular platforms." That still seems to be the case.
Amazon Prime vs Netflix
Compare all the features across both services so you can be sure you're subscribing to the right one! Amazon Prime Instant Video vs Netflix