The inventory at Amazon Prime includes a few good, recent titles, such as Elizabeth, The Tudors, and Numb3rs, but most of Amazon Prime-eligible titles are older (Notting Hill, You've Got Mail, Lethal Weapon) or classic (High Plains Drifter). Amazon recently inked a deal with Fox, so we should be seeing 2000 additional movie and TV show titles on Amazon Prime sometime this fall. Among the titles, reportedly, are Arrested Development, 24, The Last of the Mohicans, and Mrs. Doubtfire.
Amazon Prime gives you a choice: You can stream videos to your PC, Mac, or compatible device; or you can download a rental video and watch it offline on your PC or TiVo. If you choose to download the video, you must first download Amazon's Unbox player, which is not compatible with Macs.
In my Amazon Prime test, I watched the first season of National Geographic's Amazing Planet documentary series. Video quality was poor. Artifacts (in the form of blocks and fuzzy specks) were visible in most of the scenes. Most were confined to the edges, and therefore not intolerable, but this service definitely offered the worst video quality I encountered in my testing.
The Amazon Prime video player is simple, but it's surrounded by the rest of Amazon's interface. There's no option to "dim the lights," as in Hulu Plus, so your best bet is to go full-screen or pop the video window out. There is no closed captioning option.
Ease of Use
Amazon Prime is easy to use and to set up. You get a one-month free trial before you have to pay the $79 membership fee; and spread over 12 months, the $79 fee works out to about $6.50 per month, so it's cheaper than the other services.
Amazon Prime isn't exclusively a streaming-video service. It also has a shipping component, whose benefits include free two-day shipping on millions of Amazon items and $3.99 (per item) one-day shipping--so if you order a lot from Amazon, Prime may be worth your while even if you aren't a movie buff.
To use the entertainment services, just log in to your Amazon account, hand over your credit card number, and start searching for titles. Note: You must cancel before the month is up in order to avoid getting charged for an annual subscription.
Browsing Amazon Prime is easy because you can narrow your search parameters to search for Prime-eligible videos. The service also lets you browse movies and TV shows by genre, and sort by popularity, customer reviews, and release date.
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