Amazon's video streaming service has become almost a different beast since it was rebranded from Lovefilm in 2014. Amazon Prime Video is now the main global rival to Netflix and like its peer, it offers TV shows and movies to watch instantly on an internet connected device.
Amazon also invests fortunes in original TV content, including the multiple award-winning Transparent and the show from ex-Top Gear presenters Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May: The Grand Tour, which is now in its second series. All of the Amazon Originals are exclusive to the platform, so you need a subscription to access them.
So should you want to watch those or any of the thousands of other programmes or films, this is all that you need to know - including how to get it on your TV.
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What is Amazon Video and how much does it cost?
Amazon Video is the name given to Amazon's TV show and movie streaming application and service available on multiple devices. It comprises two elements; there are thousands of films and TV box-sets to rent or purchase digitally, which you pay for on an ad hoc basis; there is also Amazon Prime Video, a subscriber service that offers thousands of other TV shows and movies to watch as part of a Prime membership.
Prime content is clearly marked as such, and much of the TV programming available is homegrown. Amazon Originals is the name of the many series made by Amazon itself, plus localised exclusives, such as Vikings and Mr Robot, that are screened on TV in the States but are first available to Prime members in the UK.
You use an Amazon Video application on one of many supported devices and the content streams over your internet connection. Video is available in standard definition (SD), high definition (HD) and 4K Ultra HD, depending on the device you stream with/to and your broadband connection. There is also HDR support for certain devices and on much of the 4K content.
You can either gain access to Prime Video through an Amazon Prime membership, which costs £79 ($99) a year or £7.99 ($10.99) a month, or can pay £5.99 a month in the UK for just Prime Video access. A 30-day trial of Amazon Prime is available for new users.
Does Amazon Video have offline viewing?
Rentals and purchases through Amazon Video can be downloaded, but unlike some rivals so can a lot of the subscription covered content on Amazon Prime Video.
Several of the films and all of the TV shows designated Amazon Originals can be downloaded to a mobile device for viewing later. The offline viewing functionality is limited to just two films or shows at a time, unless it is an Amazon Original, and once you start to watch one you only have 48 hours to complete it, but it's a great service to have when you need to travel and will have no internet connection.
What do I also get with Amazon Prime?
As well as Amazon Prime Video, your Prime membership fee gives you so much more. Here are some of the additional benefits you get when subscribing to Amazon Prime:
- Unlimited one-day delivery on millions of eligible items (same-day in some cases).
- Prime Music - ad-free streaming of albums, tracks and playlists.
- Twitch Prime - ad-free viewing of Twitch, a Twitch channel subscription and discounts on games.
- Unlimited photo storage in the cloud.
- Kindle Owner's Lending Library - free rental of millions of ebooks.
- Early access to Lightning Deals, Amazon's great product sales.
What broadband speed do I need for Amazon Video?
Amazon streams video using adaptive bitrate technology, which adapts the image quality depending on your device and internet connection. Its subscription includes 4K Ultra HD streaming (soon to be in HDR too), although there are currently few devices that can play it. You also need to be able to attain decent broadband speeds.
These are the minimum broadband speeds that are recommended for different resolutions:
- 900Kbps - recommended for SD quality.
- 3.5Mbps - recommended for HD quality.
- 15Mbps - recommended for 4K Ultra HD quality.
In most cases, bar mobile platforms, audio is offered in 5.1 surround sound.
How to watch Amazon Prime Video on your TV
Amazon Video apps are available for several Smart TVs from multiple manufacturers. These include, but are not exclusive to, TVs from LG, Panasonic, Samsung and Sony.
You just need to download the app onto your set, open it, enter your Amazon account details and away you go.
Some of the more recent TVs from several manufacturers are also able to playback 4K Ultra HD content too, including those from LG, Samsung and Sony. You can find out compatible models here.
How to watch Amazon Prime Video on a set-top-box
Amazon Video apps are also available for a selection of set-top-boxes, although its not as widespread as Netflix in support.
Amazon's own set-top-boxes - the Amazon Fire TV and Fire TV Stick - have access hardbaked into their operating systems, so you see the content as part of the homescreen menus and search results. Other devices offer a separate Amazon Video application to download and install. These include the Apple TV, Roku boxes and Blu-ray players from manufacturers such as LG, Samsung and Sony.
You just start up the apps and navigate using your respective remote control.
4K Ultra HD and HDR support is available through the latest Amazon Fire TV set-top-box. It requires a HDMI 2.0 port with HDCP 2.2 copy protection enabled on your TV to work.
How to watch Amazon Prime Video on a games console
There are Amazon Video apps for all the major games consoles: PlayStation 4, PS3, Xbox One and Xbox 360. We're waiting for the Nintendo Switch to also add support.
All consoles are capable of streaming HD content, however, only the Xbox One S and Xbox One X are currently able to stream Amazon Video in 4K with HDR. Even the 4K-enabled PS4 Pro is only able to play 1080p Amazon Video content at present.
On all devices, you just need to navigate using a gamepad or optional dedicated remote control.
How to watch Amazon Prime Video on Chromecast
Sadly, Amazon Video does not naturally support Google Chromecast. You can still play Amazon Prime Video content through your dongle onto your TV, but you have to do so through the Chrome browser running on a PC or Mac.
Start the video in the browser window, running from the Amazon Video site, then use Google Chrome's own Cast button, which can be added to your browser as an extension from here.
Your Chromecast will then mirror what's playing in your browser onto your TV. It's not ideal and far from the full experience, but it is possible.
How to watch Amazon Prime Video on a smartphone or tablet
Android and iOS devices, such as iPhone and iPad, have their own Amazon Video apps, with the former being added recently.
Naturally, Amazon also fully supports all of its own Fire tablets and the now discontinued Amazon Fire Phone. They all have the content accessible from a dedicated section of the Amazon Fire OS.
How to watch Amazon Prime Video on a PC or Mac
Amazon Video content, Prime or otherwise, can be viewed on a PC or Mac through an internet browser. Just head to the Amazon Video section of its website and you can choose between Prime shows and movies or the retailer's digital video store.
Video played on a computer can be viewed in either SD or HD, but will not have 5.1 surround sound.