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Redbox vs Amazon vs Netflix: Progress Is Cool.

By Jodi Smith | Think Pieces | February 5, 2013 |

By Jodi Smith | Think Pieces | February 5, 2013 |

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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Jodi Smith is a Senior Reporter, Film & Television at Pajiba. You can email her or follow her on Twitter.