Price: $7.99 per month
Six words or less: Netflix is awesome
I actually had a Netflix account once, but found the selection lacking and eventually cancelled the subscription. The task of writing this review made a good excuse to try the service again.
Set up is quick and you start with a free one-month trial, a great way to get people hooked.
You’re given the option to create a taste profile and start ranking films right away. I’d recommend doing this, not only because it’s fun — for people with my level of OCD anyway, I spent an hour giving star ratings to 450 films — but because it gives Netflix the ability to suggest titles you might like. And it does a great job, rightly guessing I love Alfred Hitchcock, Fawlty Towers and comedian Louis C.K., and recommending several westerns, screwball comedies and blacksploitation flicks I’ve been meaning to watch for years.
Netflix isn’t meant for catching the latest DVD release. I found myself almost overwhelmed by the number of classics I wanted to watch immediately, from Inherit the Wind to Coffy to the original Psycho, and was impressed by Netflix’s lineup of modern films and TV shows.
You can watch on a computer, smartphone and any modern gaming console or Internet-enabled TV or Blu-ray device. The quality is near-HD and streams almost flawlessly, even on a phone’s data connection.
Netflix is easy, intuitive, and the recommendations system ensures there will always be something worth watching right on your home page. For $8 a month, it’s a bargain.
Price: Varies by title
Six words or less: Massive selection, kind of pricey
Around since 2008, the iTunes Store’s video section got the jump on Internet rentals, and has a robust library as a result.
The HD comedy section alone has 738 titles. There’s also an enormous selection of classics, including a huge library of brilliantly restored Criterion collection films and a full list of new releases. Downloads are available in standard and high-definition (including full Dolby 5.1 sound) and the HD is Blu-ray quality.
The videos are playable on iPhones, iPads, Macs, PCs and Apple TVs, and available to watch for 30 days from the time of purchase (although this drops to 24 or 48 hours once you press play for the first time). Rentals start as low as $3, with new releases and HD copies costing a couple dollars more. There are also videos available for full purchase as a digital copy, but these cost up to $24.99, which is outrageous; some new Blu-rays cost less.
There are a few other disadvantages. Videos can’t be streamed, only downloaded, which means you need the digital file on a device to watch it. If you download on a computer and move it to an iPhone, the file ceases to exist on the original hard drive, and users can’t transfer the file at all if it’s downloaded on a mobile device.
And movies take hours to download.
Although it doesn’t offer anything like Netflix’s recommendation system, the iTunes Store does have a handy power-search option.
Price: Varies by title
Six words or less: Not much on offer
Launched last summer, Google’s service is still experiencing growing pains. The selection isn’t great, in numbers or quality.
There wasn’t a single feature on its homepage I was interested in watching, and, after a cursory look through the genre categories, I found myself scrolling through pages of documentaries before finding something worth renting.
Clicking on The Corporation, I agreed to pay $3.99 — a quick process since I was already signed into my Google account — hit play and a Youtube video launched. The quality was poor, with bad colours and too much pixelation, and constant buffering made watching in full screen impossible.
A higher-quality download option would have been nice, but users can stream rentals instantly on Android phones without having to transfer files — a great feature.
Pricing mirrors the iTunes Store, and you get the same 30-day/24-hour window for viewing.
Rogers on Demand
Price: Varies by title with some free content (and premium content available to Rogers customers)
Six words or less: Mediocre
Rogers on Demand (ROD) is a strange service. It currently only has 46 videos available to stream for free, 24 for Rogers customers — ranging from Hoosiers to Foxy Brown and all three Robocops — and 22 accessible by anyone, but these were almost all trailers for years-old movies like Batman Begins and Twilight. In other words, the already mediocre offerings were obviously heavily padded.
Video quality was okay, about on par with a standard Youtube video — although some of the widescreen movies I watched were squished sideways into a 4:3 format.
The rental selection was much more diverse, but still underwhelming — I counted just over 1,500 titles going by the numbers listed in genre categories, but that’s also heavily padded because many films pop up in multiple sections.
Pricing is similar to the Apple and Google services and comes with the same window for watching. However, ROD is only accessible from a computer or cable box — the website doesn’t work on smartphones and the Rogers Live application doesn’t include movie rentals.
The service is kind of like the Google Market, nothing special, but worth looking through if you can’t find entertainment anywhere else.