Best streaming services for TV and movies Buying Guide: Welcome to What Hi-Fi?'s round-up of the best streaming services for TV and movies in 2021.
There's no denying we are completely spoilt for choice when it comes to TV shows and movies these days. There is more content than ever and it's all available to watch on-demand, whenever and wherever we want, thanks to the rise and rise of streaming video.
And it's an increasingly crowded market. Netflix may have piled on the subscribers in recent years but it is now up against very real opposition from Amazon Prime Video and Disney+.
The best streaming services offer TV and films in better-than-ever picture and audio quality – in 4K, HDR and Dolby Atmos – and deliver a huge choice of feature-length films, TV series, documentaries and more, bolstered by an increasing amount of original content developed to drive streaming subscriptions.
So which are the best streaming services for TV and movies? Read on for the pros and cons across all the services.
What is there left to say about Netflix? It still has the best original content around, including Bridgerton, Lupin, The Witcher, Tiger King, BoJack Horseman, Stranger Things, GLOW and more. It's a doddle to use, available on almost any device (including streaming sticks, smart TVs and games consoles) and it's now so ubiquitous that some TVs' remote controls even have a dedicated Netflix button.
You're not left wanting when it comes to picture quality, either. There's plenty to watch in 4K and HDR, and it supports 5.1 and Dolby Atmos surround sound audio. You can download shows and films to your mobile device to watch on the go, too.
Subscription plans start at £5.99 ($8.99, AU$10.99) per month for standard-definition streams, but it's worth paying £9.99 ($13.99, AU$15.99) for the HD streams. Access to 4K streams went up in 2021, and will now set you back £13.99 ($17.99, AU$19.99) per month. But we think that's still decent value.
Read the full: Netflix review
Amazon Prime Video is another great-value service you'll find built into a wide range of TVs and mobile devices. There's plenty of TV and cinematic treats to binge on, including over 100 seasons of TV shows in 4K (many are also available in HDR). Amazon's roster of 'original' content isn't quite as compelling at Netflix's, but there is still plenty of choice, including The Grand Tour, The Marvelous Mrs Maisel and Bosch.
Unlike Netflix, Amazon doesn't charge extra to access 4K content. The £5.99 ($8.99) per month option grants unlimited access to the Prime Video catalogue. Or shell out £7.99 ($12.99, AU$6.99) per month for Prime Video with full Amazon Prime Membership (ad-free music streaming, free one-day delivery, etc). Or you can pay £79 ($119, AU$59) for annual Prime membership with access to music, video, free delivery and more. (In Australia, you can't subscribe to just Prime Video without full Amazon Prime.)
Whether you want an hour's entertainment or a long-haul marathon, Prime Video will slake your thirst. That said, if you're not already part of the Amazon ecosystem, Netflix is the better all-rounder.
Read the full Amazon Prime Video review
It’s free (although you need a TV licence). It's the home of superb TV shows. There are no ads. And you can download programmes for offline watching. Put simply, BBC iPlayer is the UK's best catch-up TV service, and almost worth the licence fee on its own.
The content is superb – you'll always find something worth watching. Using it is about as simple as a streaming service gets, and it's available on an unparalleled number of platforms and devices (inclusivity being the watchword here).
Downsides? 4K HDR content is still thin on the ground, and more advanced audio formats like 5.1 and Dolby Atmos aren't currently supported. But this is a service for the masses, so unsurprisingly the Beeb hasn't prioritised cutting-edge AV formats. Shows also expire from the service, usually after 30 days (though some stick around longer). But you can download them to your device to watch for up to 30 days, which is handy if you're travelling abroad or somewhere with no wi-fi.
All in all, a top streaming service for UK-based folk. Outside the UK? You can always try a VPN.
Read the full review: BBC iPlayer
The House of Mouse has gatecrashed the streaming party, taking some of the shine (and content) off Netflix and Amazon Prime Video.
Not only does it have a vast back catalogue of classics (think Sleeping Beauty, Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, Dumbo etc) but also modern classics like stage show sensation Hamilton and smash hit Frozen II. Oh, and there are also offerings from Disney's subsidiaries Lucasfilm (i.e. Star Wars), Marvel, Pixar (the Toy Story franchise) and National Geographic.
- 12 of the best Disney Plus shows and movies
Quite a proposition. But what of the actual service itself? It's very good indeed. There's plenty of 4K HDR content to enjoy, and you can download it all to your device to enjoy on the go. Audio technologies 5.1 and Dolby Atmos are part of the package, and the service is a cinch to get to grips with. It supports a wide range of devices too, from web browsers and smartphones to tablets, streaming dongles and games consoles. All of which gives plenty to enjoy, and not just for the kids.
Read the full review: Disney Plus
Apple's offering doesn't hope to replace Netflix or Amazon Prime Video as your main streaming service, but rather is pitched as an add-on to either. The content is, typically for Apple, very glossy, slickly produced and mostly family-friendly. But seeing as it's all created by Apple (with no third-party offerings in sight), there's nowhere near enough of it to meet your watching needs as your only subscription.
Still, it's affordable, atypically for Apple. This is even more true if you buy a new Apple device, as you'll get 12 months' free access to the service. Thankfully it's available beyond just Apple devices, with some brands of streaming sticks (like Roku) and smart TVs (like Samsung) also supported.
Picture and sound quality is superb, and the big-name talent onboard (Steven Spielberg, Jennifer Aniston, Oprah...) is undoubtedly a draw. Apple has said it's going for quality over quantity, but still, we can't help but wish there was more to watch.
Read the full review: Apple TV Plus
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