Although we’ve had a look at the LoveFilm ‘Instant’ movie streaming service before, a lot has happened to the platform since then. Most of it good.
For starters, in May it finally and crucially introduced HD streaming. Also in recent times it finalised a raft of pretty major (and in some cases exclusive) content deals with the likes of Miramax, Universal and Twentieth Century Fox, Warner Bros., Sony Pictures, Disney, eOne and Studio Canal, underlining what was already a pretty clear content advantage over its biggest rival, Netflix.
See our Netflix Vs Lovefilm head to head
Then in July the latest subscription figures suggested that LoveFilm was winning the war with Netflix, with Lovefilm hitting a two million-plus user base (up 56 per cent in a year) by March versus 1.2 million users on Netflix.
What this all means, of course, is that the time is right to have another look at the new, improved LoveFilm Instant. And the Amazon-owned service gets off to a good start courtesy of its extremely wide availability.
Basically you can get it pretty much anywhere, be it a Mac or PC; iPad; the Xbox 360; the PS3; Smart TVs from Samsung, Sony and LG and many ‘Smart’ Blu-ray players. The Nintendo Wii is out in the cold at present, but its non-HD output doesn't make it the best movie partner anyway.
There are some inconsistencies across these platforms, though, such as that while full 1080 HD is available through PCs and Macs, you only get 720p through the Xbox, Blu-ray players and Samsung/LG Smart TVs. The most notable problem, though, is the curious lack of HD support on the PS3. This is a potentially serious shortcoming for people who mostly use the PS3 as their online portal.
LoveFilm has stated that the lack of HD on the PS3 is only a temporary glitch, but hasn’t yet put a date on when the issue will be fixed.
You also don’t get HD on the iPad, due to LoveFilm not currently having the rights to stream HD via Apple’s device. But this is as we would expect, and isn’t a major problem in our opinion given the relatively small size of the iPad’s screen.
Turning next to LoveFilm’s pricing, it initially looks very attractive indeed at just £4.99 a month. This is a quid a month less than Netflix’s service. However, while Netflix’s price lets you access all the content at its disposal, you do need to be aware that this £4.99 sum does not give you access to everything in LoveFilm’s lockers. For Lovefilm also features a (offline for "maintenance" at the time of writing) Box Office section into which it puts the newest releases.
Before anyone gets too annoyed by this, though, it’s only by carrying such a Box Office section that LoveFilm Instant can get hold of the latest releases, thanks to the separate release windows that exist for such content. Netflix doesn’t offer any of these latest ‘early window’ releases, hence it doesn’t have anything you need to pay extra for.
Strong content package
If you don’t like the idea of paying extra for anything, though, then you should be able to take serious comfort from the fact that the main Lovefilm package included for £4.99 now carries a massive 7,575 TV and film titles (3,948 TV episodes, and 3627 films). As you would expect from this, you can always find something interesting, good or both to watch without having to splash the cash on Box Office stuff.
We opted to test LoveFilm on an Xbox 360, an Apple Mac, and an iPad, in the hope that the new HD available on the first two of these platforms would truly transform the previously depressingly old-fashioned experience associated with watching LoveFilm Instant.