Netflix vs Amazon Prime Instant Video: which is best for you?

Best movie streaming services compared feature-by-feature

Netflix

Owning stuff is so 20th Century: these days, the smart money gets spent on streaming.

Why pay for shiny and expensive discs when you can stream almost everything ever made to every device you and your family own for a small monthly fee?

That's what Netflix and Amazon Prime Instant Video offer, but there are big differences in the way they do things and in the stuff you can see. Let's discover which streaming service is best for you.

Netflix vs Amazon Prime Instant Video: price

The standard Netflix UK service is £5.99 per month or £6.99 if you want high definition streaming (where available); if you've already signed up as a customer that £1 price increase has been delayed until 2016.

If you want Ultra HD/4K streaming you'll need to pay a bit more: that's £8.99 per month.

If you're a member of Amazon's Prime free-delivery club the Instant Video service is free - although the annual price of Prime has been hiked from £39 to £79 and gives you video whether you want it or not.

If you want Amazon Prime Instant Video but don't want the other benefits of a Prime membership, the price is a flat £5.99 per month.

Netflix vs Amazon Prime Instant Video
Just want free next day delivery? Well you're stuck with the streaming service too

On the Xbox, users of Netflix or Amazon had to pay extra to use the apps as they were only available to paid-up Xbox Live Gold members. Microsoft has now dropped that requirement.

Netflix vs Amazon Prime Instant Video: devices

Both services are available for PC and Mac, Xbox 360 and Xbox One, PS3 and PS4, Nintendo Wii and Nintendo Wii U, iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad and the Kindle Fire family.

Netflix vs Amazon Prime Instant Video
Netflix apps are available on almost any device you can think of

In addition, Amazon Prime Instant Video is available on LG, Sony and Samsung Smart TVs, Sony's Network Media Player and Home Cinema System, and Blu-Ray players from LG, Samsung and Sony.

The previous lack of an Android phone app has been addressed, although it doesn't support Chromecast, and there's no Windows Phone app. As you'd expect, it works with Amazon's own Fire TV.

Netflix is available on Android (including Chromecast) and Windows Phone, compatible LG, Panasonic, Philips, Samsung and Sony Blu-Ray players and Smart TVs, Apple TV and set-top boxes from Philips, Roku, WD and Virgin Media, as well as LG home theatre equipment. It's also coming to YouView boxes.

Netflix vs Amazon Prime Instant Video
Amazon's apps are much nicer than the web interface, possibly because they look like Netflix

You'll find a full list of Netflix-capable devices here; the list for Amazon Instant Video is here.

Netflix vs Amazon Prime Instant Video: kids

Both services have extensive libraries of kids' TV shows and movies including Disney and Pixar hits. Amazon also has an impressive collection of cartoons.

Both services have parental controls that can prevent the little 'uns from streaming horror movies, and Netflix also enables you to create separate profiles for each user and make the kids' ones child-friendly.

Netflix vs Amazon Prime Instant Video
Netflix's user accounts are handy, especially for kids, but they aren't password protected

Those profiles aren't password-protected, however, so there's nothing to stop the little ones logging in as you and watching The Human Centipede 2.

Netflix vs Amazon Prime Instant Video: TV

Netflix has long had the edge over Amazon when it comes to TV: it snapped up the rights to stream Breaking Bad and it's commissioned critically acclaimed shows such as Orange Is The New Black and House of Cards.

Amazon is getting into the commissioning game too - its drama Transparent has attracted rave reviews - but its TV catalogue isn't as impressive as Netflix's. Netflix often has more recent series than Amazon, so for example Netflix has 8 seasons of the US Office while Amazon's streaming ends with season 5.

Netflix vs Amazon Prime Instant Video
We often found Amazon's TV shows to be older than Netflix's unless you go pay-per-view

That brings us to one of the things we really hate about Amazon's offering: Prime Instant Video sits alongside the non-Prime Instant Video service, which is video on demand and isn't included in your membership. It's very frustrating to see programmes in the listings without the blue Prime logo.

The aforementioned US Office is a good example: if you want to see series after season 5, you'll need to pay £1.89 an episode for SD or £2.49 for HD.

On balance, we think Netflix has the better selection of TV programmes - but that might be because we're more Breaking Bad than Vikings. We'd recommend searching both services for your favourites.

It's important to know that both services regularly prune their catalogues, usually because the deals with the content owners have expired. Don't assume that a title that's there today will still be there in a few months' time.