Redbox vs Amazon vs Netflix: Progress Is Cool
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Redbox vs Amazon vs Netflix: Progress Is Cool.

By Jodi Clager | Think Pieces | February 5, 2013 | Comments ()


Were you aware of Redbox wading into the streaming business? They have partnered with Verizon to offer Redbox Instant for $8 a month. That paltry fee gives you access to their streaming library and four credits to trade for kiosk DVD rentals. I was lucky (?) enough to receive my invitation code to try Redbox Instant free for one month. Since I also have access to Netflix Streaming and Amazon Prime Streaming, I decided that a comparison was in order to help you in choosing which provider to use.

How did I go about my comparison? I used my laptop to watch the horrible The Devil Inside and then I used my iPad for the same purpose. I watched Amazon Streaming on my television via Blu-ray and Netflix Streaming via Apple TV. I also browsed the websites, checked out their streaming content, and challenged them all to a fight. They declined.

Netflix Streaming costs $7.99 a month for unlimited streaming and no DVD rentals. Let’s start with it since it is probably the most familiar and because I said so. First of all, the Netflix website is kind of a turd. The side scrolling makes me angry, the New Releases are the same sad offerings for months on end, sometimes it seems like they don’t have anything decent in horror, and they think I want to watch Abduction. However, searching is easy and adding or deleting items from my queue is simple.

Netflix Streaming on my laptop was excellent in quality and loaded the fastest of the three services. The movie viewer is shaped and sized to be easy to watch without going the full-screen route. I only watched enough of that terrible The Devil Inside to ensure it was not going to be a weird buffering jerk or anything like that. The same is true of my iPad app. The Netflix app doesn’t crash or freeze up like some others do and it is updated enough to keep problems at bay. The picture quality is awesome, which was great for that weekend I had to spend in bed with horrible back spasms.

Apple TV’s Netflix app is also easy to use and has a great picture quality. I’m trying to remember the last time we had a problem with Netflix on there and, knock on wood, I’m coming up short. Navigation is simple and intuitive, content loads quickly, and buffering is a rarity.

Amazon Prime Streaming costs roughly $6.60 a month and offers more perks than just streaming the huge catalog of “Mystery Science Theater 3000” episodes. Searching for content is easy, but culling only the movies or shows free to Amazon Prime members is a bit difficult. You can type in the name of what you want to watch and be careful that it is free before you click. Their site also seems to feature the same movies for a long period of time. They don’t try to make me watch Abduction though. Well played.

Using my laptop, Amazon’s movie player is shaped ridiculously. It is a very short, wide rectangle that spans the screen but only used the middle portion to show the movie. Full screen lessens the quality but makes it easier to watch. It took longer than Netflix for the movie to load, but it didn’t buffer while watching or do anything strange to ruin the experience. The Amazon app on my iPad seems to crash a lot, but it was just updated. Like Netflix, it is easy to use and the quality is very nice, but it takes longer for movies to load. The app on our Blu-ray player isn’t as intuitive as Netflix on Apple TV, but it isn’t difficult to use either. Again, Amazon is slower to load content and you may experience buffering while watching. Buffering annoys me greatly, but it is better than un-synced picture and audio.

Redbox Streaming’s website does not put their best foot forward with content. You don’t want your top picks for streaming to be Bloody Bloody Bible Camp and Zombies vs Strippers. Not interested, but thanks for the offer. Using the search methods and drop down boxes allows you to find the quality among the chaff, but it’s basically the same selection you can get from Netflix and Amazon. This is important because the movie player quality is terrible, grainy, and looks a bit cheap, like watching a bootleg recorded in a theater. Not that I’ve ever seen anything like that, but you can imagine, yeah? Ahem. 1 minute 24 seconds into The Devil Inside and the player had to buffer. It also skipped a portion of the opening 911 call. It just sped the words on the screen up and then skipped the audio. In fact, both of the movies I tried on Redbox would frequently carry on with the audio and freeze the image as well. It was the worst of the three, by leaps and clumsy bounds.

The Redbox app had an error first thing when I tried to play a movie. I immediately tried again, and the quality was poor, just like the website player. The freezing problem seemed to be absent from the app, but it’s a case of too little and late not being a factor.

Redbox is the clear loser here. Even with the four credits for DVDs, one of which I used to watch the kick-ass Dredd, this isn’t worth your time or money. Netflix is the solid champion and Amazon is nipping at its heels. Either of those streaming services would be better than paying Redbox for basically the same content. It would be akin to watching HD movies on an eighteen inch television in black and white. Sure, you’re watching something new and beautiful, but you’re watching it through a dirty window that has the occasional moron standing up and blocking the view.

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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not

  • I have Netflix and use my brother's Hulu Plus account, and I'll just offer a little bit of advice: Don't get Hulu Plus.

    The selections are no better than the regular Hulu website, the streaming is fucking terrible--particularly when trying to fast-forward or rewind-- and there are more and more ads every time. It's not worth it at all.

  • elsie_the_first

    Since I don't have cable and rely on Netflix for my tv viewing, I haven't seen any of season 3 of Downton Abbey yet. So last night I was googling around trying to determine how much longer I had to wait until it came to Netflix and discovered that apparently Amazon has bought exclusive rights to DA, which means that I'll have to subscribe to Amazon if I want to see it. Eventually they are going to yank S1 and S2 off Netflix too.

  • Christy

    You can watch Season 3 of Downton Abbey right now on just after the episodes air.

  • elsie_the_first

    Thank you. I haven't heard of that. I'm also looking for where to watch The Walking Dead S3 since I'm about about of patience waiting for it to come to Netflix.

  • John G.

    The Netflix App on my PS3 has the same problem as your Ipad app. It's hard to see anything new or interesting, because they keep offering me the same stuff. I've learned to search on their website, put things in my instant queue that I might have any interest in, and then they're easy to find on the App. There are lots of apps not put out by Netflix that make searching their online database much easier than they do.

  • Pinky McLadybits

    Streaming Soon is also a good way to figure out what is actually new on Netflix. I use that a lot.

  • Candee

    Amazon is pretty nice about stuff though, at least in my experience. Too often I'm an idiot that buys the wrong thing, or buys a show without checking if it's in HD or not (if it isn't on Prime). I've regularly asked for refunds or some sort of exchange, expecting to be told no, and they do it no problem.

    Also, I once rented a movie for streaming that wasn't available on Prime. The next day I received an email saying that they refunded the rental because of playback problems. There WERE playback problems, but it wasn't enough for it to bother me. I appreciated it though!

    Lately, I've been using Amazon for streaming more than anything else. I like that when I buy a show or movie for streaming, I can access it in the same way I access the Prime streaming - on the Xbox anyway.

  • Pinky McLadybits

    It's getting a lot of play in my house because of the MST3K episodes. I love them so!

  • Thank you for this. We just had the discussion about killing the cable in our house to save money, and this is quite helpful. I already have Amazon Prime, so it sounds like adding Netflix will give me what I'm looking for.

  • FireLizardQueen

    I have Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu Plus. I went from having full cable with DVR to killing the cable box entirely (just have basic now). Hulu Plus completely replaced my DVR and the few shows I watch that aren't on Hulu (e.g., Downton Abbey) I watch with my laptop plugged into the TV.

    In terms of movie selection, I have watched a lot of what's available and interesting on Netflix. I mostly love Netflix for their TV content, full seasons of amazing shows. Then when I catch up, I watch the most recent on Hulu. Works quite well. I already had Amazon Prime for books, but now I use it mostly to rent the occasional movie I've been dying to see. Amazon's movie browsing is appallingly bad so I very rarely search for movies, that said I do like the recent addition of the watchlist. All that plus my mom's HBO Go log in and I'm all set.

  • Deidra

    Of course Redbox has the most limited selection, which is to be expected as it's the newest, but all three share the same primary distribution partner (Epix). And Netflix and Amazon are available on more devices and have a more stable app/player for the same reason. The $8 Redbox plan doesn't grant access to Blu-rays (that's a dollar more per month). Prime videos have a filter that's one simple checkbox, is very easy, and basically a free service entirely for Prime subscribers. As for the formatting and player appearance, how much of that is your laptop or connection? Did you not look into any of this? The Redbox offering is much better compared to the Netflix + 1 DVD, in which case it's been my experience that Netflix has a broader DVD collection, but Redbox gets newer titles more quickly and conveniently, but you may have to get off your couch to do so (or research before writing a "think piece").

  • Even Stevens

    You know, you had some good points right up until the end there. Do you work for Redbox? You'd think she kicked your puppy or insulted your mother with the snide response you gave at the end there, sheesh. If you didn't notice the think piece is about streaming content only, so the Netflix DVD plan doesn't apply here, nor do the physical Redbox locations. Being on the couch is kind of the point of this whole thing.

  • Deidra

    But if you get the free physical rentals with the subscription, it becomes entirely applicable because Redbox can't compete on a streaming level with Hulu Plus or any of the rest (or at least definitely not at this point). I can't call out what I think is a lazy piece of writing? I'm sorry that it came off harshly to someone you like, but give us some real insight instead of the Netflix website being "kind of a turd" and describing another player as "a very short, long rectangle".

  • TherecanbeonlyoneAdmin

    Yeah Jodi! What do you think posting to a pop culture and entertainment website is? Not a thesis on streaming media for a PhD? Next you'll be making spelling mistakes!

  • Jannymac

    I should know more about this than I do, but aren't most of the free streaming movies and series options older titles from the 80's/90's? It's been a couple of years since I analyzed this, but I came away with the idea that streaming wasn't going to impact linear tv that much until all of the rights issues are worked out. In other words streaming services are going to have to start ponying up LOTS of cash to start buying into the pay window (6-12 months from box office) or broadcast window (24 months from box) for movies. And don't get me started on the series issues with cable out there trying to get their hands on anything viable. Content is still king and where and how you get it is less of an issue. This will change with time, but right now, not so much.

  • Actually, it doesn't take nearly as long for movies to appear on Netflix as it used to. I've been surprised how quickly movie titles are showing up, and tv seasons are only one behind - for example Netflix has all of Parenthood, except for the season that just finished last month, so it's not as out of date as you may think.

  • Jannymac

    Hmmm, I just had another, random thought...I wonder if streaming services are managing to pick up on all of the serialized dramas (like Parenthood) that cable isn't really that interested in since they don't repeat well.

  • Jannymac

    Yeah, about 2 seconds after I hit post, I realized that I actually did that analysis about 3 years ago and the media world changes really fast. I was in a meeting a few weeks ago where Warner Bros was pitching and we got on a general conversation tangent about streaming. The Warner rep was really admiring Amazon's and Netflix's business models by saying that they didn't know a lot about syndication, but the way they've structured their businesses means that if mistakes are made they can fix them fast and move on to something else.

  • I have both Netflix and Amazon. Their catalogs are similar, but not identical, with Netflix having the larger catalog. Amazon does have some stuff that Netflix used to offer, like Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. I don't really think of Amazon Prime as a monthly purchase, though, since you have to purchase it a year at a time and the streaming videos are just one of several benefits like free two day shipping and monthly kindle downloads. One advantage to Netflix is that you get HD streaming at no extra charge if it's available. The only way to get HD on Amazon is to pay extra for that particular video.

    Side note - I have hulu plus as well. Its app is seriously clunky when used on my roku player, and some content is available only on a computer. On the plus side, if you like interesting art house type flicks, they do have the Criterion Collection which is filled with things you should see. Another advantage to Hulu Plus is that they have seasons of current tv shows. BIG downside is the commercials.

  • Green Lantern

    Katie - We also have Hulu. I'm still not completely convinced of its value, but seeing where it picks up on things that Netflix leaves off still intrigues me.

    But I'm with you on the commercials. I'm PAYING for you could give me fewer (or none) commercials, Hulu!

  • I paid for American Horror Story: Asylum on Amazon. It really irritates the hell out of me that after paying actual money for each episode, they all end with ads for other FX shows. It's actually kind of turned me against both Justified and The Americans.

  • F'mal DeHyde

    It's an FX thing, I bought Justified and they've got the same kind of ads for SOA and AHS

  • Candee

    I think that's just FX. I bought a couple of episodes on iTunes, and I believe it did the same thing...I can't remember.

  • huh. I've purchased several shows on Amazon and haven't had that experience. None of them were FX shows though.

  • I've never had that happen on the shows I've watched with Prime, or any movies I've rented or purchased. Warehouse 13 has also been free of commercials, and it's the only other show I've ever purchased.
    Well, I bought American Horror Story last year, but I paid for it after the season was over rather than during. I haven't tried watching an episode recently, but regardless of whether the ads are still there, it was pretty cheesy.

  • absolutely. I'd be mad, too.

  • lowercase_ryan

    I love knowing that, if possible, you really would have challenged all three to a fight before anything else.

  • Blake

    As neither Amazon or Redbox are available in Canada Netflix (with it's crippled / limited selection) wins by default.

  • TK

    You don’t want your top picks for streaming to be Bloody Bloody Bible Camp and Zombies vs Strippers.

    The hell you say, crazy woman.

  • Pinky McLadybits


  • TK

    This is the best I can offer on short notice:

  • Pinky McLadybits

    That'll do...FOR NOW.

  • Mrs. Julien

    My name is not Prolixity and I endorse this suggestion.

  • TherecanbeonlyoneAdmin

    For me, the choice is quite simple as Amazon and Red box are racist against Canada and Apple TV is, well, Apple. Nuckflix it is!

  • Even Stevens

    I love you and your snark.

    Also, if you're signed in with Amazon Prime there is an option to show just the free Prime movies.

  • Kballs

    Amazon Prime is pretty awesome, especially if you have little kids. Yo Gabba Gabba gets some serious action on my Fire.

  • Mrs. Julien

    Yes, but I've been trapped on Gilligan's Island through Amazon for a week now.

  • Kballs

    Don't forget about the once-per-month free book rentals. I've read Elizabeth Street (pretty good) and am working on Guns, Germs and Steel. You can save a solid $100 a year just for this benefit.

    I tried Gilligan's Island and even as a kid wondered how the shit they ended up so far from civilization in three hours. Used to drive me nuts.

  • $27019454

    THIS ISSUE AND ALL ITS RELATED ISSUES (Really, Ginger? Evening gowns and heels? Alternatively: Awesome! Ginger is wearing evening gowns and heels!) need a (or several) Pajiba posts. Make this happen pleease!!

  • Pinky McLadybits


  • Mrs. Julien

    I'll second that!

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