Once upon a time, Amazon was just an online book seller, but now it does everything - books, tech, furniture, groceries - even TV and movie streaming. But in a market dominated by Netflix (opens in new tab) and with new competition from Disney Plus (opens in new tab), how does Amazon Prime Video stack up against the best TV streaming services (opens in new tab)?
Amazon's original programming has been lagging behind Netflix's for some years now. Don't get us wrong, there are some good shows on there (The Boys is excellent), but it hasn't had a smash hit on the same level as Stranger Things or Daredevil yet. But that doesn't mean it isn't worth your time, especially if you're a big online shopper.
Likewise on the movie front, Prime Video's original content efforts have been mixed so far. Borat: Subsequent Moviefilm was good, but The Tomorrow War is comically bad (clean sweep at the Razzies coming up for sure). Prime's library of movies is decent though, and you can always rent other movies for an extra fee if you really feel the need to watch something specific. It's not the best movie streaming service (opens in new tab) out there, but it's worth checking out.
Depending on where you live, you might be able to do all your household shopping via Amazon, in which case having Amazon Prime solely for the free shipping is a very smart investment that nets you Prime Video as a free bonus. If you’re not in that camp, however, Amazon Prime Video is...well, it’s a little weird, to be honest.
Amazon Prime Video review: TV Shows
Prime Video has its own line of high-quality original content, though not in the same volume or frequency as other services like Netflix. The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel continues to win awards, Good Omens is delightful, and Fleabag is a masterpiece, but they are the few jewels scattered among the rest of Amazon’s so-so library of originals. Prime Video is best suited for people who don’t mind occasionally paying to rent a movie, and don’t mind putting in a bit of search work to find what they want to watch.
Outside the scope of Amazon originals, there are also a ton of other TV shows on this service including classics like The Sopranos, Downtown Abbey and Star Trek: The Next Generation so you'll never be short of quality content to binge, even if most of it wasn't created by Amazon.
Amazon Prime Video review: Movies
Amazon doesn't really do it's own movies, so almost everything on here came from a third party creator. With that said, Amazon Prime Video's movie collection is extensive and varied.
There are plenty of excellent movies to blast through including critically-acclaimed gems like Creed 2, Blade Runner 2049, and A Quiet Place alongside bombastic blockbusters like Transformers: Dark of the Moon . As things currently, stand, a lot of the Marvel movies like Avengers and Iron Man are still on the service, but once existing deals run out these are unlikely to remain due to the advent of Disney Plus (opens in new tab).
You can also rent or buy movies on demand using Amazon Prime Video. You have to pay for each of these movies, but the selection includes the latest movies that have just finished their cinema runs. The current selection has huge titles like Joker, IT: Chapter Two and The Gentlemen. It also has Cats, but the less said about that the better.
Amazon Prime Video review: Pricing
Video streaming services typically work one of two ways: either you pay for each piece of individual programming (iTunes) or you pay a monthly subscription fee and belly up to the all-you-can-watch buffet (Netflix). Amazon Prime does both, resulting in a very large library (which is great) where you’ll never be quite sure if you have to pay to watch or not (which is not). Some content is free with the monthly fee, some isn’t.
Amazon Prime costs $12.99 per month (opens in new tab) if you choose to pay monthly, or $119 per year if you pay outright. You can also just subscribe to Amazon Prime Video, if you're not interested in the free delivery and other services that Amazon Prime offers. Amazon Prime Video costs $8.99 a month when bought separately.
The really good news is that Prime has a 30-day free trial period, leaving you plenty of time to figure out if you’re happy with the ratio of free-to-paid content, and with the service’s UI, which is both pleasingly granular and maddeningly obtuse. Prime Video doesn’t make personalized recommendations and instead leaves you to browse yourself. You can even browse by channel, especially handy as you can upgrade your Prime Video subscription with content from HBO, Starz, and Britbox. This makes for a nice transition from cable to streaming, but you have to pay to watch content from each channel.
Depending on the channel, you can sometimes purchase one episode at a time if you’d prefer avoiding a subscription. This is the same for many movie titles; they appear available until you hover your cursor over them, at which time you find out you’ll need to pay an additional fee to watch the movie through HBO, Starz, Showtime, etc.
Amazon Prime Video review: User Interface
The homepage for Amazon Prime Video is a little chaotic, but it does a good job of presenting you with a variety of the services content. You can search by genre or title, but the search results include options you have to pay extra for, which is annoying. On the other hand, our reviewers said they didn’t have to wait for any video to load. They also really liked the mobile app and the fact that on the desktop version, the overlay screen that pops up shows you who is in the title you’re watching.
While the screen is unique and informative, some reviewers also felt it was too distracting and took too long to disappear. One tester also didn’t like using Amazon Prime Video through a Roku because she couldn’t select which episode of a TV show she wanted to watch. Using Prime Video on an Apple TV is similarly frustrating, as not all of the content is available.
Should you subscribe to Amazon Prime Video?
As a service by itself, Amazon Prime Video is a little difficult to justify when compared to its rivals, Netflix, Hulu (opens in new tab), and Disney Plus. There are a few gems hiding in the Amazons Originals collection, but the quality of their home-brewed programming is certainly nowhere near Netflix's level, and neither is the quantity.
But if you're already a regular Amazon customer who would make the most of the free delivery and other perks, the Amazon Prime Video is an absolute steal.