The rise of streaming services has continued at a swift pace over the last year, with many platforms available offering multiple kinds of entertainment for all manner of different tastes.
However, there are two that remain the most talked about: Netflix and Amazon Prime Instant Video. They offer similar functionality, with TV shows and movies on tap for you to watch at your leisure. And they have both even expanded to offer 4K HDR content and offline viewing. It makes the choice between them even more difficult.
That's why we've put them head-to-head to find out. Which is best for you, Netflix or Amazon?
Netflix vs Amazon Prime Instant Video: Price
Netflix UK prices
- £5.99 a month - 1 screen at a time in standard definition
- £7.49 a month - 2 screens at a time, HD available
- £8.99 a month - 4 screens at a time, HD and 4K HDR where available
Amazon Prime Instant Video UK prices
- £79 a year - 2 screens at a time, part of the Amazon Prime membership that includes other benefits, also includes 4K HDR streaming
- £5.99 a month - 2 screens at a time, includes 4K HDR
Amazon Prime Instant Video wins the price war hands-down. Netflix has a three-tiered pricing system that starts at £5.99 a month, but that's for its basic package.
For that fee, you get access to standard definition streams of its films and TV content and can only watch on one device at a time (you can register up to six). The next package costs £7.49 a month and gives access to HD content - presented at 1080p - and can be viewed on two devices at the same time. The priciest plan costs £8.99, adds simultaneous viewing for four devices and gives access to Ultra HD 4K content (2160p) with HDR picture tech and Dolby Vision, depending on your TV.
Amazon Prime Instant Video, on the other hand, is part of an Amazon Prime subscription, which costs £79 a year. As well as give access to the entire range of SD, HD and 4K HDR content, you also get free next and same-day delivery (on millions of items on Amazon.co.uk), unlimited cloud storage space for photos, access to Prime Music - Amazon's audio streaming solution - and the Kindle Owners' Lending Library, which gives you the change to borrow an eBook to read on a Kindle or Fire device.
Alternatively, if you don't require the rest of the Prime benefits, you can sign up for £5.99 a month. There is no restriction on how many devices can be registered, but you can only stream to two separate devices at the same time, and they have to be different shows or films.
Amazon also has a large library of more recent movies and TV box sets to purchase or rent through the same account, which naturally costs more but is a nice addition.
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Netflix vs Amazon Prime Instant Video: Offline viewing
As well as stream shows or films when you are connected to the internet, both services offer the ability to download certain titles to a mobile device in order to watch them when travelling. This is ideal if you know you will have no access to even mobile broadband - such as on a plane or Tube train.
Amazon's offline viewing functionality is limited. There are plenty of TV shows and movies available to download, including The Grand Tour and all of the other Amazon Originals series, but you can only store two shows or films at once. That's not great if you want to binge watch a whole season of something when on holiday, for example.
Netflix, on the other hand, seemingly allows you to download as many shows as you like, to multiple devices. It also has a large library of content available for offline viewing, although it doesn't seem as well populated as Amazon's. However, it does put them in an easy to find menu so you know exactly what's on offer, unlike Amazon's which is more trial and error.
Both services provide different quality options for downloads, to help you sacrifice resolution and bitrate in favour of smaller files and therefore save storage space.
Amazon has three picture modes:
- Good - around 300MB for 1 hour of video
- Better - around 600MB for 1 hour of video
- Best - around 900MB for 1 hour of video
Netflix has two picture modes:
- Standard - around 270MB for 1 hour of video
- Higher - around 400MB for 1 hour of video
Netflix vs Amazon Prime Instant Video: Devices
Netflix wins when it comes to the amount of devices it can be viewed through. The list is seemingly endless, with almost all brands of Smart TV, media player, games console, Blu-ray player, smartphone, tablet or computer operating system having a Netflix app of some kind. Paid TV set-top-boxes from Virgin Media (the TiVo box and new Virgin TV V6 box) and BT and TalkTalk (YouView) also have access. You can find out an impressive list here, but we know of others that doesn't even cover.
Many of the devices are now also capable of viewing 4K content, with HDR or Dolby Vision where possible.
In comparison, there are still holes in Amazon device list, including the Apple TV - either 3rd generation or the new 4th gen box. It is, however, spreading its wings a little and has recently added support for Roku - something that owners of that device line have been bemoaning for years. You can see the device list here.
Amazon also lags a little behind in making 4K video accessible on all platforms. Most 4K HDR Smart TVs are capable of playing Amazon Video in Ultra HD, but the only external device supporting 4K playback is Amazon's own Fire TV set-top-box.
Netflix vs Amazon Prime Instant Video: Movies
When compared to a service like Now TV - which has on demand and live access to all films on Sky Movies - both Netflix and Amazon Prime Instant Video are fairly behind current trends. Bar one or two exceptions, even the latest movies in their respective libraries are a six months to a year old.
Netflix has recently started to introduce its own movies though, with The Ridiculous 6, Beasts of No Nation and the Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon sequel being funded and introduced onto the platform.
Amazon is yet to release its own films, although it does have its own original TV shows, and both sometimes sign exclusives that arrive on their platforms speedily.
Netflix has more than 2,300 movies available on its platform (almost 3,000 videos when you add TV shows), while Amazon Prime Instant Video lists less than that, with just over 2,100 videos in total. It's hard to get exact figures, but if you apply the same percentage of films to shows on Amazon (a little over a 76 per cent split), you'd get around 1,600 movies.
It's less but you'd be best to check out what's on offer on each and decide based on your preferences. It would be unwise to go by the numbers alone and then find out that 1,000 of the films are Police Academy sequels or something.
Netflix vs Amazon Prime Instant Video: TV shows
As we've proven above, there are more TV shows on Netflix than on Amazon Prime Instant Video. However, when it comes to TV content, the choice between the two is closer than you think. It's also quite subjective.
While both have content deals with plenty of broadcasters, with many shows being available across the platforms, Netflix and Amazon have each been investing fortunes into original and exclusive programmes.
Netflix and Amazon original programming is not just making it harder to choose between them, with great shows on each - Daredevil, Narcos and Luke Cage on Netflix, Transparent, The Grand Tour and The Man in the White Castle on Amazon, for example - it is also making waves in the more traditional sense. Both House of Cards and Transparent are winning Emmys and Golden Globes, even though they are streaming exclusives.
Essentially, you might make your choice of which to subscribe to through studying which shows are exclusive to which platform.
Netflix vs Amazon Prime Instant Video: 4K HDR
Both services embrace ultra high definition, with 4K content available on each and in HDR where possible. However, devices are still to catch up somewhat.
Amazon currently offers almost all of its own original programming in 4K with high dynamic response picture tech, and some UHD films are available to purchase or rent. Netflix's 4K content is mostly limited to its homegrown shows. And not all of those come with HDR.
You can find all 4K shows on a dedicated menu section on both services if you have a device capable of playing it and pay for the extra subscription (in the case of Netflix).
At present, the apps for both on certain 4K Smart TVs (from around 2014 and up) can playback UHD content, while the latest Amazon Fire TV can play Amazon's 4K content. Nvidia's Shield Android TV box, the BT Ultra HD YouView box, the Virgin TV V6 box and the Xbox One S and PS4 Pro consoles can play Netflix 4K content.
Netflix vs Amazon Prime Instant Video: Ease of use
When it comes to the applications and front ends, Netflix seems to have it more sussed than Amazon - not least because it has a more standardised approach to presentation. Nearly all of its apps, be they on tablet, smartphone, set-top-box or TV are presented in a similar fashion. There are one or two exceptions, but the content rich user interface is generally identical across formats.
Not so Amazon, which has greater diversity in its approach. Look at the front end of the Amazon Fire TV box and compare it to the Roku channel or Xbox One app, for example. They all present the same content but often in radically different ways.
The Amazon apps can also be confusing for customers in that as well as the content included in a Prime subscription, they give access to paid-for content. There will always be a section dedicated to Prime no matter the app or channel, but you can easily accidentally stray and think a show or film is included only to be faced with a screen listing additional prices.
Also confusing is that, because Amazon Instant Video content is available to those that don't have Prime membership, third-party apps (those on non-Amazon devices) often show the prices on selectable buttons even though it can also be streamed for free.
Video on both services works the same way though, with similar quality and variable bitrates depending on internet connections. And you can pause and pick up watching later in a similar way.
Netflix vs Amazon Prime Instant Video: Other features
Netflix has the ability to set profiles for each member of the family. Each person can have their own profile so Netflix will learn their particular preferences and offer suggestions based on previous viewing. It will also put their current wishlists and watchlists front and centre when they log in.
Kids too can have their own profiles, which can be locked to content appropriate to them. There is a whole kids section, with a dedicated front-end and menu system that can be locked to a child's profile.
Netflix vs Amazon Prime Instant Video: Conclusion
We'll say right now that choosing between Netflix and Amazon Prime Instant Video is not an easy task. It will likely boil down to two things though: price and preference.
For preference, you need to take into account what type of movies and shows you most like and compare the output of each - specifically the original and exclusive content. Top Gear fans, for example, will no doubt want to subscribe to Amazon's service for The Grand Tour, in order to watch the new exploits of Jeremy Clarkson and his stooges.
Marvel comics fans would rather choose Netflix, as that has a content partnership with Marvel Studios.
Preference also comes into play with what devices you own. Apple TV, for example, doesn't currently have an Amazon Prime Instant Video application but does have one for Netflix, which makes it simple it that's your primary viewing source.
Some though might simply look at the price and make a decision that way, and on that front Amazon certainly puts a convincing argument, especially if you buy a lot of products through the online retailer.
One thing is for certain, whichever you choose, you'll never be found wanting for something to watch again.