As part of IGN’s State of Streaming event, we’re taking a fresh look at the major streaming services and what they offer subscribers in 2022. You can check out our initial thoughts on Amazon’s Prime Video service as of 2019, and see what’s changed (for better or worse) in this updated review.
As the streaming wars continue to unfold, Amazon’s Prime Video remains the quintessential “jack of all trades, master of none.” The service doesn’t rival Netflix for the sheer scope of original content. Nor does it boast the latest and greatest user interface or live TV functionality. But between its well-rounded library, its emphasis on optional Channels, and its competitive price, Prime Video is an easy choice for most cord-cutters.
Prime Video’s Movie and TV Library
Original, exclusive content is a must for any streaming service trying to carve a slice of the pie, and that’s only become more true in recent years as more services like HBO Max, Peacock, and Paramount+ have sprung up. The “Amazon Originals” library doesn’t have the width and depth to rival Netflix. Even HBO Max arguably makes a stronger case on the exclusive content front, though, given the current state of turmoil at Warner Bros. Discovery, it remains to be seen whether that will remain the case.
That being said, Amazon has always seemed to emphasize quality over quantity with Prime Video, and that approach definitely has its merits. The service boasts a diverse assortment of comedies (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Fleabag, Catastrophe), dramas (Bosch, The Underground Railroad), high-quality genre fare (The Expanse, The Wheel of Time), and two of the very best superhero shows around in The Boys and Invincible. That’s to say nothing of the big draw that is The Rings of Power, which may give Amazon the Game of Thrones competitor it’s been seeking.
And whereas Netflix has taken plenty of flak for continuously shedding licensed content in favor of its own properties, Prime Video still boasts a strong assortment of legacy content (including the entire Lord of the Rings/Hobbit and James Bond series). The service has taken a hit in recent years with the loss of classic HBO content like The Sopranos and The Wire and NBC sitcoms like Parks & Rec. In fact, the HBO exodus is probably the single biggest downgrade Prime Video has experienced in the years since our original review. But to be fair, that was bound to happen once HBO Max and Peacock became a reality.
One of the major advantages of Prime Video is that this already attractive library is further bolstered through optional add-on Channels and a la carte purchases. Like Apple TV+, users can buy pretty much any movie or show they want and add that content to their Prime Video library.
As for Channels, these add-ons help make Prime Video a more attractive alternative for aspiring cord-cutters. Paid channels like AMC+, Starz, and Paramount+ open up more exclusive content and eliminate the need for separate streaming services. Channels like MLB.tv help augment Prime Video’s growing but still spotty lineup of live sports content. There are also free, ad-supported Channels like Amazon’s own Freevee (the rebranded IMDb TV).
Prime Video’s User Interface
In our original review, we noted Prime Video has always struggled against its rivals where the user interface is concerned. While the service has seen some cosmetic upgrades in the three years since, the basic flaws still remain in effect.
The main sticking point with Prime Video’s interface is and always has been the clunky approach to browsing content. The main screens are always divided into rows of recommended content. Those recommendations are weighted heavily towards Prime Originals, and it’s not uncommon to see the same movies and shows pop up repeatedly as you scroll down the page. Depending on the device in question, it can also be difficult to distinguish between the movies and shows freely available on Prime Video and paid content. There’s always the option to search for specific movies and shows, but results can be fairly hit-or-miss depending on whether you’re searching for a specific movie or show versus a genre.
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On that note, the general user experience can vary quite a bit depending on whether you choose to stream from a Kindle Fire-branded device, a phone, or via PC. The former group definitely seems to receive the lion’s share of Amazon’s attention, with a more visually attractive interface and options like categories that aren’t available on other devices. On the opposite end of the spectrum, PC users are still stuck using a web browser in lieu of a dedicated app. Even that may be preferable to the Android app, with many users complaining about significant lag and other technical problems.
It is worth noting that Amazon recently began rolling out a new interface in July 2022. There are some noticeable improvements in this new version, particularly with the way it streamlines and moves the navigation bar, but for the most part, the update is a more cosmetic makeover than the full-fledged overhaul Prime Video needs.
Interface issues aside, actually watching movies on Prime Video tends to be a pleasant experience. The service has a healthy and steadily growing lineup of 4K and HDR content. Even better, that 4K content is available to everyone, rather than being locked behind pricier subscription tiers. There’s also a lot to be said for the X-ray function, which pulls up actor names, trivia, and other details from the IMDb database. And the ability to download videos to your device for offline viewing is another nice perk. The only catch is that these downloads are capped at 25 per account, so that could be an issue for anyone who plans on being off the grid for an extended period of time.
Prime Video’s Price
Prime Video may not have a Netflix-sized library or any killer features to truly set it apart from the crowd, but it does have the advantage in one key area – pricing. On its own, the service is among the better deals in the streaming arena these days. When taken as one piece of the larger puzzle that is Amazon Prime, it’s a downright steal.
It is possible to subscribe to Prime Video without having an Amazon Prime membership. Amazon currently charges $8.99 per month for Prime Video. That comes in a dollar below Netflix’s Basic plan, and it includes perks Netflix Basic doesn’t, like 4K streaming and the ability for two users to stream simultaneously. And while you may occasionally see quick teasers for Amazon Originals, there are no ads on Prime Video outside of the ad-supported Channels like Freevee.
But presumably, most Prime Video users are also Amazon Prime members. Amazon Prime has definitely crept up in price over the years, currently sitting at $14.99 per month or $139 per year. But for many users, that cost is well worth the convenience of free 2-day shipping alone, much less Prime Video and the various other perks that come included with Prime. From that perspective, Prime Video is easily one of the best deals in streaming.