Amazon Instant Video offers one of the largest libraries of movie and TV titles available, and offers both pay-per-title and subscription options to those that want to stream its content, but experts find some noteworthy shortfalls. It's not a good destination for HD as image quality -- at 720p -- falls short of most competitors, most notably Vudu (*Est. $1 to $6 per rental) with its HDX format that many say rivals (though doesn't quite beat) Blu-ray Discs. It also offers fewer HD titles than most competitors, and places some restrictions on where those can be watched.
Those looking for an alternative subscription service to Netflix might be interested in the Amazon Prime program (*Est. $80 per year), which includes access to some of Amazon's streaming content, free two-day shipping on orders from the site, and access to limited ebook rentals. However, Amazon Prime streaming shares the same the same major negative as Netflix (*Est. $8 per month) -- access to very few recent hits -- and has even less HD content. Still, with a library of 10,000 movies and TV episodes available, those willing to venture off the beaten path, or take a trip down memory lane, will find plenty to watch.
You can rent content or buy it. However, like Vudu, what you are actually buying is the right to view the program whenever you want -- the file itself remains on Amazon's servers. Purchased movies on Amazon Instant Video typically cost $15, though cheaper titles are also available. HD movies cost a little more and can only be watched on a compatible consumer-electronics device, not on a PC. TV shows can only be purchased and usually cost $2 each ($3 in HD). You can also buy complete seasons at a slightly reduced cost.
Amazon Instant Video apps can now be found in lots of consumer electronics gear, though support is not as widespread as some other services, such as Netflix. However, mobile device support is limited to just the Amazon Kindle Fire and videogame consoles are not supported at all.
We saw a bit of feedback on Amazon Instant Video. PCMag.com offers a recent review, while CNET looks at how Amazon Prime streaming stacks up to Netflix. TechOfTheHub.com and TNL.net look at how content stacks up compared to Amazon Instant Video's closest competitors.
PCMag.com gives Amazon Instant Video 3 stars. Jeffrey L. Wilson finds lots to like, including a generous library and "reasonable" prices. The lack of HD content gets dinged. Focus is on using Amazon Instant Video with a PC rather than with connected home theater gear.
Review: Amazon Instant Video, Jeffrey L. Wilson, June 28, 2011
In the wake of the release of the Amazon Kindle Fire, Rick Broida looks at how Amazon Prime stacks up compared to a Netflix subscription. Though reading and shopping are considered as well, he says there's quite a bit of value to the service -- but that there's room for more. He complains about the interface for browsing Prime eligible videos, and that the video library available to Prime members, while growing, could stand to be bigger still.
Review: Crunching the numbers: Amazon Prime vs. Netflix, Rick Broida, Nov. 17, 2011
Amazon Instant Video is compared to its streaming video competitors. Gabe Gagliano takes issue with how Amazon counts the number of titles offered, but its library is still very large when compared to the alternatives. The growth of Amazon Prime Instant Video is also noted.
Review: Streaming Services Compared: Amazon, Hulu Plus, iTunes, Netflix and VUDU, Gabe Gagliano, Aug. 29, 2011
Amazon Instant Video stacks up well in this analysis, which looks at which streaming service has the most recent hits. While the number of top movies is the same as other pay-per-title services (iTunes and Vudu) it clearly outdistances Netflix. Amazon Prime Instant Video, however, is not considered.
Review: Where the Hits Are Streaming in 2011, Tristan Louis, Jan. 14, 2012
Tristan Louis compares Amazon Instant Video to iTunes, Neflix and Hulu to see which one is doing the best job delivering recent top TV series. He says that Amazon is a company to watch as "it seems to have earmarked video as one of the areas in which it is willing to go big and it has quietly grown its catalog over the last year." For now, Amazon and iTunes do an impressively and equally good job delivering current top TV programs.
Review: Legal streams for 2011 TV hits, Tristan Louis, Jan. 21, 2012