Prime Video is Amazon's answer to Netflix and Hulu, delivering a sizeable mix of original, exclusive, and licensed content, ranging from 4K HDR blockbusters to British murder mysteries, via mobile devices, smart TVs, streaming boxes, and in your web browser. The company ups the ante by throwing the whole thing into your Amazon Prime subscription, which is currently $100 a year or $13 a month, or you can subscribe separately to Prime Video for $9 a month. With the company dropping $250 million just for the rights to a Lord of the Rings television show, it's definitely serious about Prime Video's future. But how seriously should you take it? Let's find out.
Product pages are well designed: It's not the sexiest consideration, but you'll be spending a lot of time here. When you tap on a movie or TV show, Amazon presents you with a lot of info, but it's sensibly arranged to avoid overwhelming you with minutiae. Some basics are right up front: an IMDb rating (Amazon purchased the company in 1998), MPAA rating if applicable, a customer score with the number of votes, and buttons to watch or resume, download for offline viewing, or add and remove from your watch list. If this is a TV show, then you'll see the list of that season's episodes, tabs for the other seasons, then a Customers Also Watched section you can swipe through.
Below that, the actual customer reviews are presented in the style of an Amazon product page. Then below that, you'll see portraits of the principal cast members and the director, all of which you can tap on to get biographical info, other movies they've been in, and even trivia and quotes pulled from IMDb.
The only useful bit that's missing is arguably the TV parental guidelines like TV-PG, TV-14, and TV-MA. Those would be a nice addition for parents (though Amazon Prime does have an entire section just for kids, which we'll talk about in a minute).
Good tools for managing downloads and streams: In the Settings section, you can tap on Streaming & Downloading to find three different levels of streaming or download quality to choose from, with an estimation of how many gigabytes per hour each one will consume. There's also the option to default to the highest quality when you're on Wi-Fi.
You can also tell Prime Video to *only* stream on Wi-Fi, or warn you when you're about to use mobile data. When you've downloaded something, you can pop over to the Downloads section, which you can sort alphabetically or by recency. And there's a toggle at the top to switch between TV shows and movies.
The only notable limitation is that you can't have the same piece of downloaded content on two different devices at the same time, because those distribution rights can get expensive. However, the app will track where you are in a downloaded video and let you continue in stream form on another device.
Integration with Movies Anywhere: Movies Anywhere is a collaboration between Amazon, Apple, Google Play, and Vudu where the digital copy redemption codes you get from those inserts in Blu-ray slipcases can go into one app that's available on a wide variety of devices that you probably already own. Your iPhone, iPad, Android phone, smart TV, and game console should all have an app you can download to stream these digital copies.
In the case of Prime Video, Amazon goes one step further and puts your Movies Anywhere collection right into its own app, in the Library section. Tapping one of these movies will provide a product page with a lot of informative details and buttons you can tap on. Here, you can stream to your device, download the film for offline viewing, add it to your watchlist, or play the trailer.
Overall, the Library section is a very good package, if you have a few digital codes to redeem. Unfortunately, you can't buy movies from within the app -- that requires going over to the Amazon Shopping app.
A whole section dedicated to kid-friendly content: The far-right tab houses content deemed appropriate for the little ones, divided into multiple age ranges to cater to their levels of maturity. Does your kid like trains? Animals? Stop-motion claymation? Today's your lucky day, because Prime Video has browsable categories for all three. But we'd give the highest marks to its Top TV for Kids & Family category. It has some legitimately great stuff, from classics like Reading Rainbow to recent winners such as Gortimer Gibbons.
Cost-effective: If you already use Amazon Prime, then Prime Video is a no-brainer. It will cost you nothing extra. The optional separate $9 a month for the video streaming service is still pretty economical, coming in several dollars a month less for 4K TV users than Netflix, which wants $14. Commercial-free Hulu (mostly free, anyway) will run you $12 a month, but it's not as directly comparable because it can pull in much more recent content.
Navigating to the good stuff remains problematic: App stores, retail store websites, and Amazon itself allows you to sort products by popularity. This doesn't guarantee quality, but it tends to maintain a threshold of viability and is a generally reliable entry point into what a streaming service has to offer. Unfortunately, Amazon seems to want to go in a different direction.
Looking at the Home tab, Prime Video has a Popular Movie section -- after you've scrolled down past Recommended TV, Recommended Movies (with no indicator as to why these are being recommended), Original Series, Prime Video Channels, and "Lifestyle Shorts." If you want to see popular TV, you have to keep scrolling past Gaming Shorts, Because You Watched [insert title], Comedy Shorts, Recently Added Movies, Originals Coming Soon, Recommended Mystery & Thrillers TV, and Top Rated Movies.
If you go over to the Originals tab, the Coming Soon section is right at the top, so Amazon is prioritizing the stuff that you can't actually watch yet. Below that, you have Original Series and Original Movies, with no sorting that we can detect or apply. Below that, the Coming Soon section puzzlingly appears a second time, followed by Original Kids Series. There are no recommendation sections on this tab, or genre navigation.
Overall, navigating Amazon's video streaming is actually a lot better than it used to be, but there are still some adjustments we'd make.
If you're in the mood for casual browsing, Netflix arguably offers a more intuitive experience, but Prime Video has the advantage in total cost and kid-friendly content.