Amazon Video on Demand Review
Written by Alan Friday, 22 January 2010 08:00
Formerly known as “Amazon Unbox”, the Amazon Video on Demand service has improved by leaps and bounds since it’s launch a couple of years ago. That being said, there are still improvements I’d like to see.
Let’s start with the positives. There is a wide selection of movies and TV shows available and the movies can also be rented for varying prices ranging from $0.99 to $3.99 and the normal rental period is 3 weeks. TV shows can only be purchased and prices are generally $0.99 or $1.99 and some are even free. Most new release movies are available the same day as the DVD (there’s a catch here that I’ll get get to in the “Negatives” section of this post). You can choose to either watch your rental or purchase streaming or download it and watch locally. Either way, you will have to install the Amazon video player software. This gives you easy access to all of your purchases and rentals and plays back in high-quality full-screen. You can also choose to watch your video inside Windows Media Center by simply adding the Amazon download folder to your list of watched folders in the WMC video section. WMC uses Windows Media Player as it’s engine which is about equal in quality to Amazon’s player. The advantage of using WMC is that if you have a Media Center remote or keyboard then you have access to all of buttons for play, pause, etc which the Amazon player is not compatible with.
Now, let’s look at some of the negatives. First, and this is my pet peeve, the videos are in stereo and not 5.1 surround sound. I will say that I have heard of others getting surround sound, and one claiming that TiVo’s Amazon plug-in gave surround, but on my Media Center PC, using both the Amazon player and WMC I have only heard 2-channel sound. The next negative is the rental period. Yes, I listed the 3 week rental in the positives, but that’s only half the story. 3 weeks is great, but the problem is that once you begin watching a video you have 24 hours to complete it. A real bummer for folks like us who who children and take 2 nights to watch the average movie. Rumor has it that 36 hour rental is coming, but I have not seen it yet. The final negative is availability. Most movies are available on the date of the DVD release, but some are not. As an example, the move Up, which has been out on DVD for over two months is still not available on-demand. And the other catch is this: while purchase is available on day-of-release, rental in generally delayed for two or three weeks. In other words, buy and watch now, rent and watch later. I have a strong suspicion that these last couple of negatives can be blamed completely on the studios and not Amazon. So, I will leave only the surround sound in Amazon’s court.
On the whole, this is a strong contender in the video-on-demand market. And, it’s coming to more and more living room devices such as the Roku and DVD players. That’s a big plus for those without a Media Center PC.