DISCLAIMER: This is a hands on review of Disney Plus, based on the experience of our team in the Netherlands, where the service has launched two months prior to its global release for a free, public beta. It is not a final judgement of the Disney Plus platform, and will be updated when it launches globally on November 12. This review has been translated into English from Dutch, with minor edits.
Disney Plus took a lot of us by surprise when releasing the new streaming service two months early – and for free, too.
It's not all celebrations, though, as only the Netherlands has access to the free preview build of Disney Plus so far – and we don't expect other countries (US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand) to get the service until the official release on November 12.
What we do know, is that Disney Plus enters an increasingly crowded market for TV streaming services. Netflix has found its way into a huge number of households – even if those numbers are starting to stagnate – and we're having to wait and see whether Disney Plus can carve a place for itself.
Besides Netflix, there's also Amazon Prime, HBO and Hulu, and each service has its own unique content. Disney, however, also has a unique offering in having the rights to stream the whole catalogue of Marvel movies, Star Wars, and even National Geographic alongside Disney and Pixar titles.
Those are some big titles to showcase, but are they enough to make Disney Plus worth the price? We decided to find out for ourselves in this hands on Disney Plus review.
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Disney Plus release date and price
Disney Plus will officially be released on November 12 in the US and Canada, and November in Australia and New Zealand. There's no Disney Plus UK launch date so far.
The Netherlands has been chosen as a test country where users can already enjoy the streaming service for free until the official launch on November 12. You could try using a VPN, but our testing suggests Disney has sufficient protections around its platform to prevent this working.
The Netherlands get their first two months for free, but we don't know if a similar free trial will be available in other countries. Other services, like Netflix and Amazon Prime, do have a similar offer that gives you a free trial – for one month, rather than two – so we're expecting a similar offering here.
After the trial, though, you'll be paying $6.99/m in the US, AU$8.99 in Australia and Canada, NZ$9.99 in New Zealand, and €6.99 in the Netherlands. No UK pricing has yet been announced, though based on US pricing, we expect it to cost around £6 per month.
We know US customers will have the option of a joint Hulu / ESPN+ / Disney Plus bundle for a mere $12.99 per month – the same price as Netflix's Standard subscription – and Disney is clearly gunning for those wanting a good deal.
Disney Plus app: which devices support it?
Right from the start Disney Plus is available on multiple devices and operating systems.
Chrome, Firefox and even Microsoft Edge have no problem running the service, while you can get the smartphone app from the Google Play Store and the Apple App Store. Console folks aren't missing out either with both the PS4 and Xbox One supporting the app. However, it doesn't look like the app will be on Nintendo Switch at launch, despite murmurs of support coming eventually.
And what about TVs? The webOS platform for LG TVs also has the Disney app already, while Android TVs (Nvidia Shield TV, Sony TVs, Hisense TVs) will be able to run Disney Plus too. Google Chromecast, Roku streaming devices, and Apple TV also support the app.
The Disney Plus website mentions that one account can be used on a maximum of ten devices. During our tests we managed to use one account on multiple platforms to watch a different movie on each account at the same time. One account can be used to make seven different profiles and you can watch four different streams simultaneously.
Design and user interface
If you're worried about the Disney Plus platform being too child-oriented, don't be: even the design is quite sober, with a dark gray background and white font for text. It's really nice to look at, especially late at night.
The logos of Disney's five big brands can be found in a dynamic banner that provides various recommendations. Just like Netflix, Disney Plus provides lists like "Hit movies", "Recommended for you" and "Renewed classics". If it ain't broke, don't fix it.
The browser version lets you scroll through different titles in different categories with your mouse. We found a small bug that caused Disney Plus to load a title when we were trying to scroll past it, but small issues like that are can be expected in a pre-launch build: we'll be updating this review at launch to see whether Disney has fixed it.
The search button opens a new menu with different headers like "Disney through the years", "Disney Nature" and "The Muppets". The headers "Movies" and "Shows" also give you the option to sort content by highlighted content, genre, or in alphabetical order.
A Disney Plus subscription doesn't just give you some classic children's movies either. The House of Mickey is an enormous company that has managed to acquire brands like Marvel, Pixar, Lucasfilm and National Geographic under the Disney banner – literally showcased in the main banner on the Disney Plus homepage.
The library of Disney movies goes as far back as the 1930s, with classics like Robin Hood or Cinderella as well as more recent alternatives. It's also clear that Disney tried really hard to offer these old movies in the best possible quality.
Besides the old classics, you'll also find new movies on Disney Plus. We quickly went through the library and spotted Avengers Infinity War, Rogue One, Black Panther and the original Avengers. Brand new content like the Aladdin and Lion King re-make aren't available quite yet.
It's not clear whether Disney will put their newest titles on Disney Plus immediately. One thing's pretty clear: you won't be able to see a movie on Disney Plus while it's still running in movie theaters.
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Quality and viewing experience
Unlike Netflix, Disney Plus offers 4K and HDR support to all viewers, without charging extra. That's a nice bonus, meaning you can see your favorite shows and movies in the best possible quality – if you have a 4K TV, that is. This also makes Disney Plus a lot cheaper than the competition, since Netflix only offers 4K support in its most expensive subscription.
We had no complaints about the streaming quality: if your internet speed is high enough, you'll get the best possible resolution with ease. However, it would've been nice to manually adjust the resolution (as you can on Crunchyroll, the anime streaming service).
The Disney Plus app let's you indicate whether you're using mobile data to stream or not. If you do, you'll have the option to stream in lower quality so your precious data doesn't instantly disappear. You'll also get the option to download movies so you can watch them on the go without wasting data. In this case you do get different download resolutions to choose from: Standard, Average and High. A precise resolution isn't shown here either.
Disney Plus is another big name to enter the streaming market with exclusive content. Unlike competitor Amazon Prime, it showcases old material that we all know and love alongside newer blockbusters.
Our first encounter with Disney Plus is a positive one. The design is sleek and tidy, the content library is substantial for what you're paying – if considerably smaller than Netflix's 8,000 titles – and the list of supported platforms is amazing. You can also watch four titles at a time, which is a feature you won't easily find at this price.
However, Disney Plus isn't perfect quite yet. There are some minor bugs, and we'd have liked the option to manually choose the resolution of a movie/show while watching. Luckily you can download content for offline viewing, so you can watch your favorite movie on the go without being connected to the internet.
The content on Disney Plus will be the deciding factor that makes or breaks the service. At the moment we can't seem to find recent blockbusters like Aladdin, The Lion King or Avengers: Endgame. If Disney waits too long to put their titles on there, Disney Plus will be left feeling more like an archive of movies past than a platform for current, hit content – but all signs point to that changing in the months after launch.
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