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

Best movie streaming services compared feature-by-feature

Netflix

Tired of replacing your media collection every four years? 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.

While you could easily pick a service simply based on the exclusive TV shows you want to watch - House of Cards is only available on Netflix, for example, but Amazon has Emmy-award winning Transparent - there are a few other categories that are worth taking into account.

Netflix vs Amazon Prime Instant Video: price

The standard Netflix service costs £7.49/$9.99 per month for two screens in HD or £8.99/$11.99 if you want up to four screens in Ultra-HD (where available); there's a third option for £5.99/$7.99, but it only gets you one screen at standard resolution.

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 ($99 in the US) 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

So who's the winner? The cost comes out roughly to the same thing if you're only using an HD TV or monitor. If you have a 4K screen, Amazon Prime Instant Video is slightly more cost-effective, as it doesn't upcharge you for accessing higher-resolution content, and free two-day shipping isn't a bad perk either.

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, however there's still 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.

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

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

Both services are offered on most devices, meaning you shouldn't have a problem binge-watching wherever you go. Netflix is usually a bit faster coming to new devices, however, and because it doesn't have a media streaming device of its own, it's available on both the Apple TV and Amazon Fire TV platforms.

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, including both the award-winning Avatar: The Last Airbender and its sequel, The Legend of Korra.

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. Amazon recently rolled out its version of child protection called Free Time that allows you to set stringent time restrictions that can either limit your kids to so many hours of streaming per day or only allow them to watch content during specific time periods like, say, 6pm to 8pm.

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

Personally, the kids area of the Netflix store feels slightly livelier than Amazon's kids section, but both are frequently updated with shows from Nickelodeon and Disney, as well as new, original content like the Kung Fu Panda spin-off or How To Train Your Dragon TV show.

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, Bosch is pretty good and Mad Dogs, a recasting of the 2011 UK TV show, really adds depth to the selection - but its TV catalog isn't quite as impressive as Netflix's.

Netflix is a little faster on the draw when picking up new series than Amazon is. 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 programs in the listings without the blue Prime logo.

It's pretty easy to confuse the two and most times you'll only recognize the difference when you confusingly see a screen asking for money. On Netflix everything is available at any point - there's no premium section or hidden fees tucked into it.

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

It's important to know that both services regularly prune their catalogs, 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.