Services like Netflix, Amazon Prime Instant Video, and the newly-simplified Hulu offer a massive amount of on-demand content at a low monthly cost. Each service makes for a fantastic way to provide extensive entertainment options to an entire family, and they’re increasingly becoming an alternative to the bloated pricing of cable and satellite subscriptions.
For some cord-cutters, a mix of two, or all three of these services is the best solution. But if you’re trying to figure out which subscription service to use while sticking to a frugal entertainment budget, check out our updated 2015 breakdown of the three most popular streaming video services to find out which one rules in various categories, and which one is best for you.
Price, supported devices, and interface
Price: Amazon Instant Video
While Netflix always takes the headlines, Amazon Prime is quietly clawing its way into the upper ranks. And price — or more to the point, value — is one category where the other services really can’t compete. Prime membership bundles video streaming with free, two-day shipping, which is a near-vital necessity in today’s online shopping paradigm. In addition, your $99/year Prime account gets you access to Amazon’s streaming music service, and you can share accounts with friends and family. Netflix costs individuals from $8-9 (depending on whether or not you’re a new subscriber) and Hulu costs $8 for the regular service, and a whopping $12 for the new commercial free option.
Also, for those who want to stream 4K at the lowest possible price, Amazon is the cheapest bet. At this point, Amazon has stated that the company won’t raise prices for 4K streaming. Throw in Amazon’s student discount, and it’s an easy win.
Supported Devices: Netflix
All three services are offered on the majority of streaming devices, but Netflix is often the easiest to access on Blu-ray players, DVRs, and TVs. Many even feature the red Netflix logo directly on their remote. Amazon is a runner-up, especially since it comes on most smart TVs, and it’s one of the most readily available services for voice-operated search on many devices. However, these days, just about every service and major device has gotten into the voice-search game, including the new Apple TV with Siri and the new Chromecast — neither of which carry Amazon Prime. And since Netflix is part and parcel with virtually every streaming device on the planet, it takes the medal here.
Interface and Ease of Use: Netflix
While there are some detractors when it comes to searching through its crowded vault of content, Netflix has terrific search functionality, more personalized “top picks,” and a slick design with an intuitive carousel. Perhaps more importantly, its interface is also universal throughout HDTVs, gaming consoles, Rokus, and Blu-ray players, and other devices.
Along with its more simplified name, Hulu has recently redesigned its interface which makes searching and finding the “Shows You Watch” even easier for a second place finish, while Amazon comes in third with a slightly more scattered interface, though, like its rivals, it’s constantly improving. We’ll also add a caveat here to say that searching for Amazon content is optimized on the Fire TV with voice command prompts, but that applies to a limited populous at this point.