iTunes movies: over-priced, over-hyped and over here?

In fairness to Apple, something obviously has to give when you're talking HD downloads. Remember that HD movies are typically served up on 25GB Blu-ray discs and we're not yet at the stage in this country where Full HD downloads are an option.

At least Apple is trying - none of the other services we're looking at here offer HD downloads in any form.


LoveFilm is chiefly famous for its postal service, where you pay a regular monthly subscription in return for the regular thud of some rental DVDs landing on your doormat.

The rental options are pretty good too, with prices ranging from £3 (for 1 DVD at at time, maximum of two titles per month) to £15 (3 DVDs at a time, unlimited titles) per month.

Of course, the more movies you watch, the better value the service becomes as there are no additional rental charges. Plus with 65,000 new and back catalogue titles on offer, it knocks iTunes fledging service for six when it comes to choice.

The downside is that LoveFilm's DVD rental service forces you to wait. You can't watch that must-see movie until it arrives in the post - sometimes you may even have to wait much longer than that.

That's because the high demand for popular movies can lead you to not getting your first choice first time around. And tha can be extremely frustrating in this instant gratification age.

You could always buy the movie you really want, of course. LoveFilm will sell us a DVD boxed copy of our chosen flick American Gangster for just £17.93. Perhaps it's just as well then that LoveFilm also has its own movie download service.

You have a choice of over 2,200 titles (nearly four times that of iTunes), with prices ranging from £2.49 to £12.99 to buy; or 79p to £2.99 to rent - the latter being significantly cheaper than iTunes.

LoveFilm also has a smattering of free movie downloads, although the titles tend to be either ancient, or very obscure (The Cat With Hands, anyone?).

To get hold of movie downloads from LoveFilm, you have to install its Download Manager, which is currently only open to PC users running Windows XP (SP2) or Windows 2000.

LoveFilm says it's working on Windows Vista compatibility, but has no plans to support Mac or iPod users.

That's because LoveFilm uses Windows Media 10 for PC downloads and PlaysForSure for portables, forcing out iPod owners - although it complains that it can't offer iPod-compatible downloads either because Apple won't licence FairPlay. Ho-hum.

LoveFilm currently has no high-def movies available to download. However, you can get your choice of over 475 Blu-ray disc and 239 HD DVD titles delivered by post, once you've signed up for one of its monthly rental plans.

Tiscali Movies Now

ISP Tiscali has been offering its own movie downloads for about a year now, with both rentals and buy-to-own titles up for grabs.

It currently has over 500 titles listed on its site ranging from oldies like High Plains Drifter (1973) to recent box office smashes such as Atonement and American Gangster.

Rental prices start at a reasonable 99p for older titles and rise to £3.49 for the Super High Quality (SHQ) version - which is practically identical to DVD and iTunes versions of the movie.

Buy-to-own costs range from £6.99 for back catalogue titles up to a huge £19.99 for new releases. That makes it significantly dearer than iTunes.

American Gangster is priced at £13.99 (£3.99 more than the iTunes equivalent), although you do at least get two versions of the movie - one for playback on your PC, the other for watching on a portable video player.

iTunes, of course, gives you just one version of the movie, but it's been designed to work on both your Mac or PC and on your iPod too.