Online streaming - the best (legal) sites

There are a whole load of online TV and film streaming services out there at the moment, all with their own content and selling points. Below we've reviewed the best of them. We've excluded Yahoo's video service, which is only really for the most diehard of Community fans, as well as others such as Hulu which hasn't really taken off in the UK. This pretty much leave the big three: Netflix, Amazon Prime Instant Video and Sky's Now TV.


netflix deals

Use-ability

Netflix is probably the easiest to use of all the online streaming services. Watch a video on one device and it'll know exactly where you are in the video when you watch it on another, moments later (say if you're watching TV in the lounge, but decide to carry on watching in the bathroom).

Will it work with my internet connection?

In terms of not dropping out when your internet is poor, Netflix seems to be the best available online service. It may buffer for longer every now and then (when housemates hog the internet) but this is rare, and less of an issue than with other services.

What you'll need

You can stream Netflix on a lot of devices, and up to two devices at the same time using only the one subscription.

In order to stream Netflix on your TV you'll need either a smart TV, a Chromecast (or similar device) a HDMI cable to connect your laptop to your TV, or a console with an internet connection hooked up to the TV.

The cheapest and easiest way is probably with a Chromecast. They cost £25 and are easy to use from any connected device.

Exclusive highlights

Breaking Bad, Arrested Development, House of Cards, Lillyhammer, Orange is the New Black, the Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Better Call Saul... the list is pretty much endless.

A big selling point is getting American series (such as Better Call Saul) the day after they air in America, as well as the extra content you can get by switching to watch American Netflix.

The Verdict:

Netflix is still the best available online video streaming service out there. It has the best content sourced from other channels, as well as the best original series out there.


amazon prime

Useability:

Amazon is similar to Netflix in how it's laid out, though it's still easier to find what you're looking for on Netflix.

What you'll need:

Amazon Prime Instant Video will work with all consoles, smart TVs and laptops, but disappointingly won't work with Google Chromecast. This means the cheapest way to stream is to buy yourself a HDMI cable and connect it from your laptop to your TV. The cheapest ones cost around £1.30 from Amazon.

Exclusive highlights:

Transparent (a great comedy drama starring Jeffrey Timbor), Mad Men, Bosch (a program disappointingly not about the german kitchenware manufacturers) and Community.

The Verdict:

Amazon Prime is surprisingly good. The new exclusive programs have made it much more appealing than before. Transparent is excellent, as well as Bosch. Their movie selection changes more often than Netflix, and has some great titles, but altogether it's just not quite as good as Netflix in terms of content, design or usability.


now tv streaming

Usability

Now TV comes with its own box which you hook up to your TV. It's easy to connect and you can watch over multiple devices at the same time.

However it's easier to control with other devices than the remote they provide, unless you enjoy time spent typing on a keyboard by using arrow keys on a tiny remote.

Will it work with my internet connection?

We found that with less speedy (or more cluttered) internet connections, Now TV tended to drop out more than Netflix and Amazon Instant Video. This might be a problem in larger student houses, or ones with poor internet connections. When it did drop out it was also more difficult to get back to where you were in your program, as often it would forget the position.

Exclusive highlights

Pretty much anything that's on Sky Movies. If you get a movie pass you can get the latest films shown on Sky. They're more up to date than the other services and cover a bigger range. If film is more important to your uni house than TV shows, Now TV is well worth considering. The movies are more often updated than the other services, so you'll see a wider range of films.

Useful tip

You can pause your NOW TV subscription whilst you aren't at uni.

The verdict

If you're a uni house that's into sports or films specifically, this might be the one to consider. You can subscribe to Sky Sports through Now TV, and the Sky Movies service has a great selection.

Other than that, we found it annoying to navigate and much more prone to dropping out with lesser internet connections. Probably not the best buy, unless you're a big fan of buffering.


Netflix is still king of the streaming services. Their mix of programs they've selected and original TV series they've created are, as yet, unrivalled. But both Amazon Instant Video and NOW TV are catching up, with Amazon Instant Video becoming a real contender to Netflix.

For a student house, unless you're really into sport, Netflix is probably the best available streaming service out there.

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