iTunes Video Review

Updated February 28, 2014
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iTunes Video
Bottom Line

Experts say that using iTunes for streaming video rentals makes sense for those committed to the Apple way of doing things, but that it might be harder to justify for others. Video quality is good, but not as good as from some other video streaming services, such as Vudu, despite the recent upgrade that brought 1080p video to iTunes. More notably, unlike other streaming providers, Apple has not made deals with consumer electronics makers to bring direct streaming to TVs, Blu-ray players and other home entertainment gear. If you don't want to hook up your computer or laptop to your living room TV, the only way to bring iTunes content to it is via the Apple TV digital media player; see our report on digital media players for more information.

ProsGood selection of top hits and popular TV shows, Movies and TV shows in 1080p HD, Convenient for Apple usersConsNeed Apple TV set-top box to stream to a TV, Expensive, Not all purchased content can be seen via Apple TV

Though iTunes was widely criticized for its paucity of movie titles when it began offering those, things have brightened up in recent years. Standing at 14,000 titles according to one estimate, it compares favorably with some options, such as Vudu, though it continues to be dwarfed by others, such as Amazon Instant Video (Est. 99 cents and up per video). The TV lineup is also beefed up, and iTunes is among the better services when it comes to getting episodes of current top TV series. Previously, iTunes content that was purchased could not be watched via Apple TV, but that's changed with the new version of the hardware and the latest version of iTunes, announced in March 2012, which lets you access most of your purchased content via iCloud.

There are a few spots to learn about iTunes digital streaming. PCMag.com is one of the first with an in-depth review of the latest version of iTunes, including how it performs when streaming video. Ars Technica reports on video quality now that 1080p streaming is available. TechOfTheHub.com reports on how content, costs and features compare with iTunes streaming competitors, while TNL.net reports on how iTunes fares when it comes to offering recent movie hits and popular TV programs.

Our Sources

1. PCMag.com

Apple iTunes 10.6, Michael Muchmore, March 13, 2012

PCMag.com gives the latest version of iTunes its Editors' Choice award, though that applies to the entire software suite, not just the video-streaming features that it offers. Improvements of note include the ability to view content in 1080p. Michael Muchmore says that image quality is definitely improved, and now slightly better than Netflix HD, though still behind that of Blu-ray.

2. Arstechnica.com

iTunes 1080p video looks better, saves space using better H.264 compression, Iljitsch van Beijnum, March 9, 2012

This enthusiast site looks at iTunes video at 720p versus that at 1080p. Results vary by content, says Iljitsch van Beijnum, though some improvements -- and sometimes major improvements -- can be seen in most downloads.

3. TechOfTheHub.com

Streaming Services Compared: Amazon, Hulu Plus, iTunes, Netflix and VUDU, Gabe Gagliano, Aug. 29, 2011

Gabe Gagliano says that iTunes has made significant strides when it comes to HD content. The accompanying table shows how the service stacks up in the number of titles offered, technical details and costs, and includes several competing streaming video providers.

4. TNL.net

Where the Hits Are Streaming in 2011, Tristan Louis, Jan. 14, 2012

Tristan Louis compares streaming video services to see which ones do the best job delivering top movie hits. While iTunes beats out Netflix by a wide margin, there is little to separate it from services like Amazon Instant Video or Vudu, which all deliver the same number of the most in-demand titles.

5. TNL.net

Legal streams for 2011 TV hits, Tristan Louis, Jan. 21, 2012

In this article, Tristan Louis compares four services -- including iTunes -- to see which ones offer the most popular 2011 TV programs. The pay-per-title providers -- Amazon Instant Video and iTunes -- provide the most content (86 percent of the top 50 shows), clearly outperforming Hulu and especially Netflix in that regard.