As part of IGN’s State of Streaming event, we’re taking a fresh look at the top streaming services and what’s in store for subscribers in 2022. You can check out our initial thoughts on them Amazon’s Prime Video service from 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 nothing.” The service doesn’t compete with Netflix for volume of original content. It also doesn’t have 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 pick for most cord cutters.
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Prime Video Movie & TV Library
Original, exclusive content is a must for any streaming service trying to get a piece of the pie, and that’s only come true in recent years as more services like HBO Max, Peacock, and Paramount+ have sprung up. The Amazon Originals library doesn’t have the breadth or depth to compete with Netflix. Even HBO Max is arguably more vocal about exclusive content, but given the current turmoil at Warner Bros. Discovery, it remains to be seen if that will continue.
That being said, Amazon always seemed to prioritize quality over quantity with Prime Video, and this approach definitely has its merits. The service offers a diverse selection of comedy (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Fleabag, Catastrophe), drama (Bosch, The Underground Railroad), quality genre fare (The Expanse, The Wheel of Time) and two of the very best superhero shows in The Boys and Invincible. Not to mention the big draw of The Rings of Power, which could give Amazon the Game of Thrones competitor it’s been looking for.
And while Netflix has faced a lot of criticism for ditching licensed content in favor of its own properties, Prime Video still offers a strong selection 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 biggest downgrade Prime Video has seen in the years since our original review. But to be fair, that had to happen once HBO Max and Peacock became a reality.
Prime Video’s library expands with optional add-on channels and a la carte purchases
One of the key benefits of Prime Video is that it further bolsters this already attractive library with optional add-on channels and a la carte purchases. As with 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. Payment channels such as AMC+, Starz and Paramount+ open up more exclusive content and make separate streaming services redundant. Channels like MLB.tv are helping to expand Prime Video’s growing but still patchy offering of live sports content. There are also free, ad-supported channels such as Amazon’s own Freevee (the rebranded IMDb TV).
The Prime Video user interface
In our original review, we found that Prime Video always struggles with its competitors when it comes to user interface. Although the service has seen some cosmetic improvements in the three years since, the fundamental flaws remain.
The biggest sticking point with Prime Video’s interface is, and always has been, its awkward approach to content browsing. The main screens are always divided into rows with recommended content. These recommendations are heavily biased toward Prime Originals, and it’s not uncommon for the same movies and shows to pop up repeatedly as you scroll down the page. Depending on your device, it can also be difficult to tell the free movies and shows on Prime Video apart from paid content. There’s always an option to search for specific movies and shows, but the results can be pretty random depending on whether you’re looking for a specific movie or show, or by genre.
Every main character in the premier episodes of Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power
With that in mind, the overall user experience can vary quite a bit depending on whether you’re streaming from a Kindle Fire-branded device, a phone, or via a PC. The former group definitely seems to be getting the lion’s share of Amazon’s attention, with a more visually appealing interface and options like categories not available on other devices. At the other end of the spectrum, PC users still need to use a web browser instead of a dedicated app. Even that might be preferable to the Android app as many users complain about significant lags and other technical issues.
Interface issues aside, watching movies on Prime Video is usually a pleasant experience.
It’s worth noting that Amazon recently started rolling out a new user interface in July 2022. There are some notable improvements in this new version, particularly in the tweaking and navigation bar relocation, but for the most part the update is more of a cosmetic makeover than the full-fledged overhaul that Prime Video needs.
Interface issues aside, watching movies on Prime Video is usually a pleasant experience. The service has a healthy and ever-growing range of 4K and HDR content. Even better, 4K content is available to everyone instead of being locked behind more expensive subscription tiers. There’s also a lot to be said for the X-ray function, which retrieves 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 limited to 25 per account, which might be a problem for anyone planning to go offline for an extended period of time.
Price of Prime Video
Prime Video might not have a Netflix-sized library or any killer features to really make it stand out from the crowd, but it does have the edge in one key area — pricing. Alone, the service is one of the better offerings in the streaming space these days. If you look at it as a piece of the larger puzzle that is Amazon Prime, it’s an outright 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’s a dollar below Netflix’s Basic plan and includes perks Netflix Basic doesn’t offer, like 4K streaming and the ability for two users to stream at the same time. And while you’ll occasionally see brief teasers for Amazon Originals, there’s no advertising on Prime Video outside of ad-supported channels like Freevee.
But probably most Prime Video users are also Amazon Prime members. Amazon Prime has definitely increased in price over the years and currently sits at $14.99 per month or $139 per year. But for many users, that cost alone is worth the convenience of free 2-day shipping, let alone Prime Video and the various other perks that come with Prime. From this perspective, Prime Video is by far one of the best streaming deals out there.