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Presto review

Needs a bit more magic

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Our Verdict

With the arrival of Stan and Netflix breathing down its throat, Presto really needs to improve to compete.

For

  • Good range of films
  • TV content on offer
  • Solid user interface

Against

  • Limited hardware support
  • Only streams in standard definition
  • No Airplay support

Update: With the arrival of Television programming to the Presto lineup (albeit for an additional fee), plus the arrival of Stan and the imminent launch of Netflix, we've reassessed the VOD platform and updated our review.

The launch of Foxtel's Presto platform last year was widely regarded as a pre-emptive strike against an inevitable Netflix launch in Australia.

Now, months later, we now know for a fact that the US streaming giant is launching in Australia. But it will also be competing with rival local service Stan for Australian streaming eyeballs.

While services like ABC iview and SBS On Demand have offered Australia a solid way to catch up on free to air TV, complete video-on-demand services have historically been somewhat lacking.

Presto review

This mean the market has very quickly exploded from next to nothing to a positive smorgasbord of platforms to stream from. But how does Presto compare?

Working to compliment Foxtel Go and Foxtel Play, Presto initially offered users access to Foxtel's massive movie library, with streams available from all of the service's movie channels.

However, the live movie channel streams have since disappeared, and the service has since refocused on video on demand content.

Foxtel Presto review

Perhaps more exciting is the recent addition of television programming to the lineup. Requiring an additional monthly fee, Foxtel has leveraged its partnerships with HBO and Showtime to offer a wide selection of TV shows, from individual episodes to entire seasons, through the Presto Entertainment portal.

The catch is that this TV content isn't automatically included in the price. While Foxtel halved the monthly subscription for Presto movies last year from $20 a month to $10 a month, users who want to watch TV and movies will need to pay $15 a month for a bundled offering, Or $10 a month for just TV.

This price premium is a definite disadvantage against newcomer Stan, which charges just $10 a month for arguably a better lineup of content, with the added advantage of offering HD streams.

We're still waiting for Netflix to confirm its local pricing structure, but rumours indicate it will start at the $10 price point as well, making the $15 Presto price tag slightly harder to swallow.

Presto review

Signing up

Foxtel is a company built on getting people to subscribe through a relatively painless process, so it's a surprise to find that the act of getting started on Presto is somewhat drawn out.

In order to begin watching movies via the internet on Presto, you have to first create an account via your browser - just your standard first name, last name, email and phone number form, with some T&C agreements and date of birth confirmations thrown in for good measure.

But instead of handing over your credit card number at the same time, in order to start watching straight away, you have to wait for the activation email, activate your account, and then hand over the 16 digits before you can start streaming.

Presto review

It seems to be an unnecessary two-step process. You do get the ability to add shows to your watch list in that hazy purgatory between being a member and a subscriber, but that does seem like small consolation.

Of course, it's also only a minor annoyance, so we'll stop complaining and move on to the good stuff.

The technology

Make no mistake, Presto is an intuitive, simple service to use.

Initially available via a web browser on a PC or Mac, or via an iPad app, Presto has added support for a selection of Android tablets since launch.

Officially, the app supports 7-inch Android tablet devices and above running Android Versions 4.0.3 - 4.4, but we found it didn't work with some Android devices like the Xperia Z2 tablet.

Presto review

That list of supported Android tablets is even shorter when it comes to TV show playback. For that, you'll need either a Nexus 7, or one of a handful of Samsung Galaxy tablets.

Given the massive range of Android tablets on the market, this limitation could be a severe frustration for users, especially given the list doesn't even include some of the most recent tablets on the market, like the Nexus 9.

Also disappointing is that even after months of being available for iPad, there's still no iPhone or Android phone app to watch the service on the go on a smaller screen.

Presto has promised this is coming soon, but in the meantime you're locked to a browser or tablet screen. Or a TV via Chromecast, but more on that later.

Presto review

The experience

From the web browser side of things, once you've signed into your account, you can access the entire suite of on demand movies and TV shows within a few mouse clicks.

The top of the page is made up of your navigation and search bar, allowing you to begin browsing by movies, TV shows or using the search function.

There's also a quick link to the Community forums for advice and help using the service (something we had to check a few times during our review, which was a little disheartening.

Presto review

Just below the bar is a massive carousel filling up the bulk of your screen and pointing you to the most recent featured content.

If you scroll down, you'll see a series of collections, which seems to change every so often. Expect to see things like "New to Presto", "Star packed Adren-a-thon", "Animation fixation for kids on vacation" and other themes along those lines.

For a combined subscription, the list of featured content seems to be split between both movies and TV fairly evenly, with between four and six titles on display.

Presto review

Hover over any film or TV cover, and you'll see a more detailed synopsis pop up, along with a classification and general film information like runtime and release year, plus a rating from Presto users.

From this window you can select to watch a movie straight away or add it to your watch list for later viewing.

The iPad app has a similar user experience. Down the left hand panel is a nav bar that offers shortcuts to search, discover and watch list, plus settings and community options.

Foxtel Presto review

There are more options on the screen in the iPad versions, making browsing a bit easier. In lieu of a pop up, the movie information slides out on the right hand side of the screen, offering the same synopsis, review and classification rankings.

You also get more detailed Rotten Tomatoes ratings, and suggested titles to extend your browsing adventures.