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Netflix v. Amazon Prime

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Ever since I bought my Google Chromecast I've been a Netflix subscriber. And Netflix is pretty good: for a subscription of £5.99 of a month I get access to a lot of films and TV programmes and the list continually changes1. Most of the time I watch content not on the Chromecast but on my tablet. The Chromecast mainly gets to be used when Beth and I sit down together to watch a movie.

Google Chromecast But it has its limitations. It's a bit like a video rental shop where the films are a bit old or what they call in the trade "straight to video" films. There's been the odd highlight like Brave (now gone again) but there's a lot of movies I've wanted to watch which haven't turned up there. Yet.

So far I've "bought" one movie from the Google Play store, the wonderful Guardians of the Galaxy2 but I've resisted buying any more content since buying The Newsroom Season 2 from Blinkbox.

Anyway all of this is to set the scene for my purchase last week of a year's subscription to Amazon Prime as it was on special offer. As you probably know Prime offers a number of benefits but only two really interested me: free next day delivery (for both me and Beth) and Prime Instant Video.

At first glance this latter is largely a re-working of Netflix but with different content.

So what's the verdict? Well, on the plus side the range of movies which are free to watch on Prime seems superior. So for example I now have in my watchlist the following to view when I've got time3: J Edgar, '71, The Imitation Game, A Good Day to Die Hard, Garden State, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Punch Drunk Love, The Falklands Play, Striptease, Source Code, The Love Punch, Rush, The Dark Knight Rises, Life of Pi, Despicable Me, Cloud Atlas, 12 Years a Slave, RED 2, and Gatsby.

So that's nineteen films to watch, all for free now I have Prime.

The down side is how I get to watch them:

  1. You can watch content in your web browser ... but it doesn't work with Google Chrome, on Linux at least, only Firefox (this is the reverse of Netflix). This wouldn't be a problem as Firefox is my preferred browser anyway if it wasn't for the next issue.
  2. There is no support for Prime Instant Video on Chromecast. Now this isn't entirely true: in theory you can cast it from another device but I've tried from both my phone and tablet and it stutters like crazy. In the ideal world I could cast it from my desktop as I've more processor bandwidth there but only Chrome supports casting of content to the Chromecast and ... see point 1. Amazon Fire Stick
  3. In consequence of 1. and 2. I had to buy another streaming device to let me play content on my sitting room monitor and hi-fi. I bought (using Prime next day delivery) a Roku Streaming Stick as that allegedly supports everything only to discover afterwards that although it does stream Prime in the US it doesn't in the UK4. So that had to go back and I ended up forking out £35 for an Amazon Fire Stick. That does play Netflix too ... but not Google Play, so I can't discard (or rather sell) my Chromecast which I'd originally hoped to in order to offset the purchase of a new streaming device.
  4. All of which brings me on to point 4 which is that you can't control the volume on the Fire Stick. I suspect to the designers this was something they never even thought about, I'm sure their hi-fi has remote control or they were only thinking about streaming to a TV with remote control, but my hi-fi is vintage and the amp is a late '70s Sansui and is still going strong. So no remote control. Both the Netflix app and the Google Play app let me control the volume of the content I'm watching from the tablet I'm using to direct the playing of it. With the Fire Stick there's nothing like that, on either the app or the remote control itself.
  5. Finally there's the app for watching Prime content on my tablet itself, which is the main way that I do. When I compare that to Netflix it sucks pretty badly especially in sometimes failing to remember where I am if I come back to content I've stopped watching part way through. The only plus is that, like Google Play, it does show details of the actors on screen at any time.

So overall it's a bit of a curate's egg. If they improved the Android app and gave me volume control for the Fire Stick I'd be a lot happier. As it is I suspect we won't be renewing Prime next July.

  1. By the way if you are a Netflix subscriber in the UK too and you're on Twitter I recommend following @NewOnNetflixUK as he has written some excellent scripts which let you know what's been added to, and is about to be taken off, Netflix. He also provides a far better way of seeing everything on Netflix UK than their own app via the catalogue on his web site.
  2. Which is a blast by the way, highly recommended
  3. Feel free to judge me now for my movie choices.
  4. Some dispute with Sky over content allegedly.

Written 12/07/15

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