With Netflix having recently launched in the UK, it looks like consumers are going to have to make a choice between the established Amazon-backed LoveFilm, and the newcomer Netflix. Which is the best? Let me break it down for you – and let me say that there is a clear winner here.
This review is UK-centric, and refers throughout to the UK launch of the Netflix service, as well as UK-only service LoveFilm.
I should say first that LoveFilm actually bears more resemblance to the American Netflix in that they can send you DVDs too. In fact, they even rent games by post, similar to the American GameFly service. LoveFilm do however offer a streaming-only account level, which is what I will be reviewing today, but it shouldn’t be considered as their core business model. Of course, if you are looking for a service that will send you DVDs, Blu-Rays and console games by post, then your only real option in the UK is still LoveFilm.
Netflix on the other hand is a purely streaming service in its UK incarnation.
Pricing: (Winner – LoveFilm – But Not By Much)
Quality: (Winner – Netflix)
Though it varies by movie, generally Netflix will stream in HD quality where available, whilst LoveFilm is stuck on standard definition. This might not be noticeable on an iPhone sized screen, but on a 50″ plasma it makes a big difference. Though I havent done extensive testing yet, it seems a lot of titles on Netflix have closed caption subtitles, very useful for those hard of hearing (or with foreign wives).
Clients: (Winner – Both, Leaning To NetFlix)
Both Netflix and LoveFilm offer streaming clients on the following devices:
iOS: Both are fairly similar functionally, the nature of iPad and iPhones generally leading to simplistic interfaces that get the job done. I found less streaming problems with Netflix though; and like all the Netflix clients, your most recently watched movies are presented first to let you easily pick up where you left off.
The LoveFilm client is decidedly clunkier, and always requires a full iPad restart for me to start without crashing.
Xbox 360: Both are well integrated with the new Metro style dashboard, though I lean slightly toward LoveFilm with its superior voice control (you can say the name of the movie rather than just “Play 3”)
Online: Not only does Netflix make a rather good attempt to suggest movies I might like, it also presents them in an easy to view, at-a-glance DVD cover gallery style. This is an interface to be proud of.
Unlike LoveFilm, which insists on listing multiple episodes of the same TV series, and makes no attempt to customise the experience. The covers are small, mountains of text/synopsis are unreadable, and it’s just not a fun experience.
PS3 and Wii clients: also available, but untested by me. Let us know in the comments if you have any opinions on these clients, please.
Movie Selection: (Winner – Netflix)
LoveFilm shows me there’s about 3,000 films in their streaming selection, but unfortunately Netflix refuses to give actual numbers, so this judgement is going to be made purely on anecdote.
I logged into both LoveFilm and Netflix to see if there’s anything I wanted to watch. I’m a big fan of comedies, but in the LoveFilm latest comedies selection I honestly found nothing I wanted to see, or hadn’t already watched (outside of LoveFilm). Netflix on the other hand – a full page of fantastic looking movies I’ve never seen!
It’s difficult to judge this long term though, as inevitably that will depend upon how much fresh content is added every week. From what I can see at the moment, there’s enough in Netflix to last me quite a while yet.
We have a winner. If cross-device movie streaming it what you’re after, I can’t give a more shining recommendation to Netflix. It’s a more polished affair, with higher quality streaming, a far better selection, customised (and actually good) recommendation engine, and simply a pleasure to use. The streaming service from LoveFilm has always felt like something tacked on, while their core business remains physical DVD and console game rentals. Netflix is a tiny bit more expensive, but it is – in this reviewer’s opinion – utterly worth it.
What’s your experience? Have you tried both? Let us know in the comments!