Netflix vs Amazon Prime Video: When it comes to on-demand video streaming services, there is none bigger than Netflix. It’s far from the most popular service of its kind, both in the U.S. and abroad. But that doesn’t mean it’s the only option. As the market for such services evolves, new competitors keep popping up. One of the most appealing to many people is Amazon Prime Video, simply because many people already have a relationship with Amazon.
And yet, as much as these two services compete for our entertainment dollars, they are radically different in several areas, such as price, content selection and additional features. So, if you have to choose just one, which one will you choose? It’s not an easy decision to make, so we’ve put together a cheat sheet that will allow you to compare the two devices on some of the most important criteria. So get your scorecard and wallet ready… it’s Netflix vs Amazon Prime. Let’s get ready to do battle.
We’ll start with one of the biggest differences: How much you have to pay if you want to watch. Netflix’s pricing model is very simple to understand: There are three tiers of streaming video services called Basic ($9 per month), Standard ($14 per month) and Premium ($18 per month).
Each Netflix subscription gives you access to Netflix’s entire catalog of movies, TV shows and ad-free specials. The only things that change as the subscription price increases are the video quality and the number of devices you can use to watch at the same time. Basic, as the name implies, provides one stream and is limited to standard resolution (480p). Standard gives you a second simultaneous stream, and both are available in HD (up to 1080p). Premium allows you to watch simultaneously on up to four devices, and content can be streamed in up to 4K Ultra HD with HDR, as well as Dolby Atmos (if the show or movie is available in those formats).
Amazon Prime Video is even simpler. A one-year $119 Amazon Prime membership gives you ad-free access to the full Amazon Prime Video catalog, plus several of the shopping benefits Amazon adds for that price (and even the Amazon music service). You can also purchase Amazon Prime for $13/month or subscribe to Amazon Prime Video only for $9/month if you wish.
A one-year Amazon Prime membership will allow you to watch streaming video in the highest quality your TV, streaming device and Internet connection can support, including 4K Ultra HD with HDR as well as Dolby Atmos. As with Netflix, the quality depends on the movie or TV show. All Prime Video programs allow you to watch up to three movies at once, but you can only watch the same movie on two devices at the same time.
Even the most affordable Netflix plan costs about the same as Amazon Prime Video, which means that from a purely financial standpoint, Amazon Prime Video wins this round.
The winner: Amazon Prime Video
Participating in a streaming program doesn’t make much sense if it’s not compatible with the devices you own. Amazon Prime Video is compatible with a wide range of devices and platforms, including PC or Mac web browsers, Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV and Amazon Fire devices, iOS, Android, Xbox One and Series X, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and later, Nintendo Wii U, various models of plug-in Blu-ray players, smart TVs, and Chromecast and Chromecast Ultra from Google.
Netflix, as the ancestor of the streaming media space, has the most device compatibility of any service. With support for all the same devices as Amazon and a few others, including the Nintendo 3DS and Windows Phone, we favor Netflix. But now that Amazon and Google have buried the hatchet and added Chromecast to the list, it’s closer than ever.
Netflix has thousands of licensed Hollywood movies, TV shows, documentaries and specials. But over the years, it’s Netflix originals like “The Queen’s Gambit,” “Bridgerton,” “The Witcher,” “Stranger Things” and “Umbrella Academy” that have captured attention and increased Netflix’s appeal. The only content producer that consistently surpasses Netflix in quality is HBO – fans of shows like “Game of Thrones,” “Veep” and “Barry” know exactly what we’re talking about.
In fact, over the years, Netflix has steadily shrunk its catalog of movies while increasing its arsenal of TV shows, and the original series play a big part in that growth. Unfortunately, with the launch of its Disney+ streaming service, Netflix is slowly losing some of its most popular movies. All new installments of the Marvel, Disney and Star Wars franchises are expected to become exclusive to Disney+ (and/or Hulu) in the coming months, and it is unknown how long Disney will allow Netflix to continue licensing existing movies, such as the popular “Avengers” and “Star Wars.”
If you view Netflix solely as an alternative to renting Blu-rays or going to the theater, it may not seem like a good decision. But even without those titles, it’s hard to beat Netflix’s offerings if you value high-quality entertainment in virtually every genre.
According to a June 2020 Reelgood report, Amazon has a much larger total library of movies and TV shows – more than 12,000 movies, surpassing both Netflix and Hulu. But size isn’t everything. Amazon’s most recognizable Hollywood movies tend to be older ones, such as “Inception,” “Unraveling” and “Cabin in the Woods,” and there are many mediocre (or worse) movies among the good ones. Amazon is also investing in its own original content, such as “The Wonderful Mrs. Maisel,” “Flea Bag,” “Jack Ryan” and “The Man in the High Castle.” This is probably the right strategy in the long run, but for now Amazon just can’t compete in this arena.
User experience, audio and video
Amazon’s interface can be a bit cumbersome. It varies in style and usability depending on the device, with the best experience (not surprisingly) on the Fire TV’s own media streamers, while the execution on some smart TVs is less intuitive. The web interface for Prime Video is presented as a section in Amazon’s online store, rather than its own, separate interface. This can be a little confusing, especially when you’re trying to figure out how to search for a movie. The large search bar at the top of the screen is the right place, but it looks like you’re going to search on Amazon.com instead of Amazon Prime Video. Although Amazon has added the ability for users to create up to six profiles, the service’s video recommendation system is not particularly sophisticated. Complaints about how hard it can be to find something decent to watch are not uncommon.
Fans of trivia will appreciate Amazon’s X-Ray feature. It lets you access actor photos, biographies, filmographies, soundtrack information, and trivia without taking your eyes off the playback screen.
The video quality on Amazon Prime Video is generally very good, and it’s noteworthy that the service doesn’t charge more for movies, which are available for streaming in up to 4K with HDR and Dolby Atmos. Where content allows, soundtracks are offered in Dolby 5.1 surround. However, some people have noted that the quality of Prime Video can vary even with a very fast Internet connection, so your experience may be different.
Netflix, meanwhile, has one of the most consistent interfaces, with minor changes from one device to another, which are usually designed to take advantage of the strengths of a particular platform, like the mobile-optimized Netflix apps for Android and iOS. You can have multiple user profiles, each with their own unique recommendations, a kids-only profile to keep things PG-rated, and if you get tired of watching a wide range of categorized content, a great search feature is always nearby. Also, the streamer has finally given users the option to turn off that annoying auto preview feature.
The video and sound quality on Netflix is excellent. The company has mastered the art of adjusting the degree of video compression to match the speed of your Internet connection, so unless you intentionally set the video quality to a lower level to save data, you get crystal-clear picture and sound – especially if you’re on a Premium plan. As with Amazon Prime, Dolby 5.1 surround sound is available for most movies and shows, unless Dolby Atmos is offered as a higher level (assuming your AV equipment supports it).
With high-quality audio and video, and a user interface that we really like (despite annoying previews), Netflix wins here as well.
Live streaming and extra features
One of the attractions of Netflix is that it’s a comprehensive offering: For one monthly fee, you get access to everything. But if you’re a cable fan, you may need more than that to fill the gap left by discontinuing your cable subscription.
It’s worth noting that Amazon Prime Video gives you access to two types of premium content not included in the $119 annual Prime membership. There’s a Rent or Buy section that offers a good selection of both new and classic movies priced from $4. There are also Amazon Channels, which is a subscription to third-party cable networks such as HBO Max, Epix, Starz, CBS All Access and others. These channels often offer the ability to watch shows live as they are normally broadcast on cable or satellite, plus you can access all content on demand after the original air date. Pricing varies, but the menu offer may be appealing to those who just want HBO in their lives and don’t want to create a new subscription in a separate app to do so.
Amazon Prime also gives you the benefit of access to free content. Every Amazon Prime user can watch live coverage of Thursday Night Football of the NFL. With X-ray, you can see game stats, past games, team information and more. There’s also ad-supported IMDb TV.
Finally, don’t forget that Prime membership gives you other useful perks, including free two-day shipping on many Amazon products, Prime Music (a music service that’s not too bad, if not stellar) and unlimited photo storage.
Since Netflix has nothing extra, it becomes clear why this service is better.
Winner: Amazon Prime Video
Content is king, so we shouldn’t be surprised that Netflix is the biggest player to beat. With a huge variety of movies and TV shows without commercials, it is a strong competitor. It is by far the most popular service, not to mention the fact that its original content features some of Hollywood’s most famous actors. Netflix is very invested in its licensed and original content, always offering viewers something interesting. Netflix has developed an online video streaming model. As a result, the company’s interface is consistent and easy to use, making it easy for users to find the content they want. It’s clear why Netflix is our number one choice for streaming video online.
Netflix Standard may be more than some viewers are willing to pay. Fortunately for you, if you already use Prime Delivery, you may already have an alternative to Netflix. If you connected to Amazon Prime for Prime Delivery and Prime Music, you already have Prime Video. You’re sure to find some movies you’ll like, especially if you’re already paying for them.
If you can’t decide on a streaming service, why not try both. Using multiple streaming services is common these days. By using several different streaming services, you can be sure that you won’t miss out on any of the best original content, and you’ll also have access to your favorite classic movies and shows.
One thing’s for sure: the streaming wars aren’t going to end anytime soon, so we’d all better get used to that choice!
Other streaming services to consider
Of course, there are more streaming services than just Netflix and Amazon Prime – these are just the two largest. We’ve reached the point where almost every major TV channel and studio has its own streamer, and all that choice can be overwhelming. If you haven’t settled on Netflix or Amazon Prime (or want to add another service to your repertoire), check out some of the other top players in streaming:
Price: Disney+ costs $8 a month or $80 a year for ad-free streaming and unlimited downloads. You can also connect it to Disney’s other streaming services – Hulu and ESPN+ – for $14/month.
Content: Disney+ offers content from a vault of classic Disney movies, as well as collections from Star Wars, Marvel, Pixar and National Geographic. It’s the exclusive home for such hit Marvel shows as WandaVision and The Falcon and The Winter Soldier.
Price: HBO Max costs $15 per month.
Content: HBO Max is home to the entire HBO catalog, including hit shows like Game of Thrones, The Sopranos and Big Little Lies. It also hosts Max Original shows such as “Flight Attendant,” and has a film library larger than HBO’s. In 2021, it will also be the exclusive home for releases of the entire Warner Bros. cinematic assortment with release dates.
Price: Hulu offers several subscription plans. The basic Hulu plan costs $6 per month and contains advertising. The “No Ads” plan costs $12/month. You can also purchase Hulu + Live TV, a reasonable replacement for cable TV. With ads it’s $65/month and without ads it’s $71/month.
Content: Hulu was founded primarily as a source for watching network television. Today, it offers a huge library of TV and movie content, including many original movies. You can watch many shows from your favorite networks the day after they air.