As part of IGN’s State of Streaming, we’re taking a fresh look at the major streaming services and what they have to offer subscribers in 2022. You can check out our basic thoughts Amazon’s Prime Video service As of 2019, 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 “jack of all trades, master of none.” The service doesn’t compete with Netflix for the sheer scope of original content. It doesn’t boast the latest and greatest user interface or live TV functionality. But between its well-rounded library, its emphasis on alternative channels, and its competitive pricing, Prime Video is an easy choice for many cord cutters.
Prime Video movie and TV library
Original, exclusive content is essential for any streaming service trying to cut a slice of the pie, and that’s even truer as more services like HBO Max, Peacock, and Paramount+ have sprung up in recent years. The “Amazon Originals” library lacks the breadth and depth to compete with Netflix. Even HBO Max makes a stronger case on the exclusive content front, though it remains to be seen whether that will stay that way, given the current state of disarray at Warner Bros. Discovery.
That being said, Amazon has always seemed to emphasize quality over quantity with Prime Video, and that approach definitely has its merits. The service features a variety of comedies (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Fleabag, Catastrophe), dramas (Bosch, The Underground Railroad), high-quality genre fare (The Expanse, The Wheel of Time) and the best of two. The superhero shows up in The Boys and Invincible. That’s to say nothing of the big draw of The Rings of Power, which could provide the Game of Thrones contender Amazon is looking for.
While Netflix has taken plenty of publicity for continuing to pour out licensed content on behalf of its own properties, Prime Video still boasts strong legacy content (including the entire Lord of the Rings/Hobbit and James Bond series). The service has taken a hit in recent years, losing classic HBO content like The Sopranos and The Wire and NBC sitcoms like Parks & Rec. In fact, HBO’s Exodus is probably the biggest Prime Video experience in years since our original review. But to be fair, that will happen once HBO Max and Peacock become a reality.
A major advantage of Prime Video is that this already impressive library is further strengthened through optional add-on channels and a la carte purchases. Like Apple TV+, users can buy 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 option for aspiring cord cutters. Pay channels like AMC+, Starz, and Paramount+ open up more exclusive content and eliminate the need for separate streaming services. Channels like MLB.tv are growing in Prime Video but still helping to increase live sports content. There are also free, ad-supported channels, such as Amazon’s own FreeVee (renamed IMDb TV).
The user interface of Prime Video
In our original review, we noted that Prime Video has always struggled against its rivals when it comes to user interface. While the service has seen some cosmetic improvements in three years, the core bugs still persist.
The main sticking point with the Prime Video interface is and always has been the clumsy approach to browsing content. Main screens are always divided into rows of recommended content. Those recommendations are heavily weighted toward Prime Originals, and it’s not uncommon to see the same movies and shows pop up over and over again as you scroll down the page. Depending on the device in question, it can also be difficult to differentiate between free movies and shows on Prime Video and paid content. There’s always the option to search for specific movies and shows, but the results can be somewhat skewed depending on whether you’re searching for a specific movie or show against a genre.
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On that note, the general user experience may differ slightly depending on whether you choose to stream from a Kindle Fire-branded device, phone, or PC. With a more visually appealing interface and options like categories not available on other devices, it seems the former group is definitely getting the lion’s attention on Amazon. At the opposite end of the spectrum, computer users still use a web browser instead of a dedicated application. Even that might be preferable to the Android app, with many users complaining about significant lag and other technical issues.
It is worth noting that Amazon recently started rolling out a new interface in July 2022. There are significant improvements in this new version, especially with how it streamlines and moves the navigation bar, but for the most part, the update is more. A cosmetic fix rather than a complete overhaul for Prime Video.
Interface issues aside, watching movies on Prime Video is actually 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, instead of being locked behind expensive subscription tiers. There’s also a lot to be said for the X-ray function, which extracts actor names, trivia and other details from the IMDb database. Another nice perk is the ability to download videos to your device for offline viewing. The only catch is that these downloads are limited to 25 per account, which could be a problem for anyone planning to be offline for long periods of time.
Prime Video Price
Prime Video may not have a Netflix-sized library or any killer features to really set it apart from the crowd, but it does have an advantage in one key area — pricing. On its own, the service is among the better deals in the streaming space these days. As one piece of the larger puzzle that is Amazon Prime, it’s an absolute steal.
It is possible to subscribe to Prime Video without an Amazon Prime membership. Amazon currently charges $8.99 per month for Prime Video. It comes in at a dollar below Netflix’s Basic plan, and it includes perks that Netflix Basic doesn’t have, like 4K streaming and the ability to stream for two users at once. You’ll occasionally see quick teasers for Amazon Originals, and Prime Video has no ads outside of ad-supported channels like Freevee.
But most Prime Video users are also Amazon Prime members. Amazon Prime has definitely gone up in price over the years, currently sitting at $14.99 per month or $139 per year. But for most users, that cost is worth it just for the convenience of free 2-day shipping, Prime Video, and various other perks included with Prime. From that perspective, Prime Video is easily one of the best deals in streaming.