Four Netflix alternatives tested

We tested Netflix against four solid alternatives to see whether switching video providers is worth it.

By Sarah Jacobsson Purewal, PC World |  Networking, amazon prime, Blockbuster

When Blockbuster opened its On Demand service for business, it claimed that it didn't have an unlimited streaming option because it was focusing on new releases. But Blockbuster On Demand doesn't have as many new releases as iTunes or Amazon Prime. In the "Action and Adventure" category, for example, only about 25 titles are from 2011 at this writing, and they don't include the most recent Spider-Man, Thor, or Fast Five (though they do include 2011's Almighty Thor and 200 M.P.H. In the "Romance" category, only seven titles are from 2011 as yet.

Blockbuster On Demand is not the same as Blockbuster Movie Pass, the company's recently introduced unlimited-streaming service that is available exclusively to Dish Network subscribers. Blockbuster Movie Pass combines unlimited streaming with a DVDs-by-mail service; it costs an extra $10 per month for Dish subscribers.

Streaming Quality

Blockbuster lets you view video content in two ways: in its Movielink player or streaming in your browser. Using the Movielink player involves downloading the movie from Blockbuster in advance; as a result, the image quality is better (you don't have to worry about streaming skips), but the download can take awhile, depending on your connection speed (a 1.5GB movie takes my system about 30 minutes to complete).

You're allowed to choose only one viewing preference during the 24-hour viewing period. So if you choose to watch in-browser, you can't later (in the same) period decide to download the film and take it with you.

For my Blockbuster test, I watched 9 (the post-apocalyptic rag doll movie starring Elijah Woods' voice). Before I could stream in-browser, I had to install a plug-in for Internet Explorer (for some reason, I couldn't even check out a movie using Firefox, let alone stream it). Video quality was pretty good, even by DVD quality standards. I noticed some artifacting in darker scenes, but it was very slight.

The in-browser video player is fairly basic, and the only extra viewing option you have is to view in full-screen mode. Blockbuster On Demand doesn't offer closed captioning.

Ease of Use

Blockbuster's website is confusing--really, really confusing. If you want to rent a movie from its On Demand section, the website informs you that you have to "Activate a Device" first--even if you're using a PC. To satisfy this condition, you must download Blockbuster's Movielink player for Windows PCs--a painless but unnecessary download, because once you've installed Movielink, you'll encounter a new ad that says "Instantly Stream Movies on your Mac or PC: Now you can stream Blockbuster On Demand movies right in your browser!" This information should be on the front page of the Blockbuster website.


Originally published on PC World |  Click here to read the original story.
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