- 1 Definition of streaming
- 2 Streaming in 4K
- 3 Blu-Ray or streaming
- 4 The various streaming providers at a glance
- 5 Streaming devices
The ability to watch movies and series anytime, anywhere has truly revolutionized the way we watch. Netflix, Amazon Prime Video or Disney+, make it possible to watch a wide range of movies, series, documentaries, and other content at any hour, and at a pretty good price-performance ratio. However, it is no longer easy to keep track of the wide range of services, as there are always new ones and prices change more often than users would like. Therefore, we have summarized the best-known and most popular streaming services for you here and also recommend some rather unknown treasures.
Definition of streaming
Providers such as Netflix or Hulu introduced the streaming of series and movies around the world, which has become more and more established over the years and has now even spawned new words such as “binge-watching” (watching episode after episode of a series with no end in sight).
Such providers buy the rights to series and films and are allowed to broadcast them via their service. Since streaming services thing doesn’t work for free, obviously, users have to create an account and pay for the service monthly. In return, you can access the service from anywhere, whether from your cell phone, tablet, PC or TV. However, The exact details differ, just like the pricing models, which are not the same for every service.
The big advantage of streaming is that you have a huge digital media library at your disposal, which you can watch according to your own schedule without having to fill your living room shelf with DVDs or Blu-rays. The media libraries are also regularly expanded, even if this means that titles that have been available for a while are also sorted out again. In addition, you can watch all content in different languages and with subtitles, so you can even expand or improve your language skills.
In addition, the streaming services deliver excellent quality depending on the film or series, so that many titles from the media library are available in 4K resolution, also known as UHD. Of course, these require a 4K-capable TV or PC monitor, otherwise the 4 times higher resolution of 3840 x 2160 pixels cannot be displayed compared to Full HD. It also requires a stable Internet line and the corresponding app.
Streaming in 4K
A TV experience that seems very close to reality. That’s exactly the feeling 4K resolution delivers. UHD TV shows precise colors through more accurate color depths and contrast ranges, incredible sharpness and brilliance, and an optimized refresh rate.
Worth knowing: due to some disagreements in the development – as there was no uniform UHD standard for a long time – phases also developed due to technical reasons, which means that there were gradual improvements of, for example, resolution and color depth of the Ultra HD TVs. The first phase came onto the market in 2014, followed by phase 2 in 2017, which finally reached the third phase in 2020.
High-definition television, or HD for short, has been established on the television market for several years now. From HD to Full-HD, there is now already 4K, generally also called Ultra-HD, which results in the abbreviation UHDTV. Here, a resolution is 4 times as high as HD televisions is given. Instead of 2 million pixels, 4K TVs display up to 8 million pixels. In the first phase of UHD televisions are 3840 x 2160 pixels, which results in the resolution in 8.3 million pixels of this UHD format
Blu-Ray or streaming
With so many different streaming services, it’s easy to forget that there’s also Blu-ray to enjoy 4K content. But why should you still have a Blu-ray collection when you can have a wide range of movies, series and documentaries at the click of a button and everywhere?
DVD vs. Blu-ray
The DVD was a revolution in its time and for a long time the most played medium when it came to consuming movies and series. In 2007, the Blu-ray Disc was introduced and brought high-definition picture quality to the home TV. This sounded quite wonderful at the time, but at the time of its launch, no one had thought about the fact that in order to really enjoy the high quality of a Blu-ray, corresponding end devices were needed. You needed an HD TV and a Blu-ray player, which is why the start of the Blu-ray era was rather slow.
The Ultra HD Blu-ray
More than a decade later, Ultra HD Blu-ray followed to enjoy movies and series in Ultra HD at home. Instead of the aging Full HD resolution, content can be shown here in Ultra HD resolution, i.e. 3840 x 2160 pixels. No “real” 4K, but still. You can also enjoy Dolby Vision and HDR10, but you need a TV with at least one HDMI 2.0 port, since the large amount of data has to be transported.
The previously purchased Blu-ray player did not need to be replaced. However, various manufacturers announced over the last few years that the production of Blu-ray players would be discontinued, which seemed to make the disc in the blue packaging obsolete. Because without corresponding players, the production of Blu-rays would also be discontinued sooner or later.
The new PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series consoles once again come with an optical drive and are thus quite capable of continuing to play Blu-ray discs. But the question still remains: Is it still worth buying Blu-rays? At first it seems that the time of Blu-ray is completely over. However, there are advantages compared to streaming services, especially in terms of picture quality.
Blu-ray vs. streaming
Streaming makes watching movies and series easy. Install the app or open the browser, select the appropriate title and sit back. But many of us will know that it can happen, especially in the evening hours, that the resolution is throttled because the networks are overloaded. Streaming still depends mostly on the broadband connection, and if it’s overloaded, the latest blockbuster is no fun.
Broadband Internet for streaming
For smooth streaming, different internet speeds are required for different resolutions.
SD: (480p-576p) at least 3 mbit/s
HD: (720p-1080p) at least 5 mbit/s
4K / Ultra HD: (2160p) at least 25 mbit/s
The problem does not arise when watching a Blu-ray. Although the overall costs are significantly higher, since a Blu-ray player and the Blu-ray itself have to be purchased in addition to a TV that is now 4K-capable, the picture quality is permanently excellent afterwards – no matter what time of day it is. If you then want to expand the sound and maybe even buy a surround system or a soundbar, the whole thing still becomes quite expensive. However, this is also the only way to experience real cinema at home, which cannot be achieved with streaming services in terms of quality.
A direct comparison
- Best quality available
- No loading times when looking
- Extensive film catalog
- Compatibility with Dolby Vision and HDR10
- Content for children
- Technical periphery necessary
- Blu-ray players are no longer produced
- May break
- Simple user interfaces
- Operation on several devices
- Not only TV, but also smartphone and laptop
- Wide selection of movies and series
- Content for children
- Depending on internet speed and hosting servers
- Continuous subscription required for consumption
The various streaming providers at a glance
In order to shed some light on the multitude of different streaming services, we have compiled the best-known and largest ones for you here.
|Prime Video||$8.99/£7.99||$119.00/£79.00||Student benefits||To offer|
Netflix – number 1 place to go
Probably the best-known streaming service is the American provider Netflix, which has been founded in 1997. The video-on-demand service was one of the first to offer the possibility of enjoying 4K content from the comfort of your home at the push of a button. At the latest since Netflix’s own format “House of Cards,” almost all new productions are now shot in 4K right away.
In order to enjoy Netflix in a relaxed way, a few things should be taken into account so that the viewing experience can be optimized to the maximum. If Netflix is used through a source external to the TV, such as the Apple TV 4K or a game console, you should make sure that your TV has an HDMI 2.0 (or up) connection and that it is compatible with HDCP 2.2.
- A stable, constant and high Internet connection with a data volume of 25 megabits per second or higher is recommended to experience UHD content. However, this should hardly be a problem since most of the major network providers have this anyway.
- Numerous series and movies can be watched in UHD format.
- Netflix originals like “Stranger Things”, “House of Cards”, “The Crown” and many more.
- Access to what appears to be the highest amount of 4K content
Current prices US/UK
- The basic Netflix subscription costs $8.99/£5.99 per month and allows you to watch content in SD quality on just one device.
- The standard subscription costs $13.99/£9.99 and already offers HD quality on two devices at the same time.
- If you want to enjoy your movies and series in UHD quality, you have to book the Premium subscription for $17.99/£13.99 per month. This also allows you to use the service on four different devices at the same time.
- The trial month, which allows you to see if you like Netflix’s media library, was unfortunately abolished in August 2020. However, Netflix remains a streaming service without additional costs for special content.
Prime Video – The Media Library from Amazon
Prime Video from Amazon is also one of the best-known streaming services, which provides a huge media library. While a subscription to Amazon prime used to be simply for fast delivery, you can now enjoy different services at once when subscribing.
- Again, an internet connection of at least 25 Mbit/s is recommended to access the UHD content in full format
- A large number of blockbusters and many in-house productions
- Those who do not want to commit to Amazon permanently can simply rent or buy movies
- Award-winning series like “The Man in the High Castle,” “Jack Ryan,” “The Boys,” “Good Omens” and many more.
Current prices US/UK
- An annual subscription to Amazon Prime membership currently costs $119.00/£79.00, which corresponds to a monthly fee of $9.90/£6.60. This results in a contract with a term of 12 months.
- However, you can also book Prime Video individually. It then costs $8.99/£7.99 per month, but the subscription can be canceled monthly.
- In addition, you can also buy or rent individual movies, series and even individual episodes of a series. You can also add additional channels that offer a very special selection of exclusive series, movies, documentaries and sports events.
Streaming advantages for students and trainees
- Students benefit especially from their academic status at Amazon. They can test Prime Video, the eBook service Prime Reading, as well as the premium shipping for a whole 6 months for free.
- After that, this free membership turns into a normal Prime membership, but at a price of only $59.00/£49.00 per year.
- You can also subscribe monthly for just $6.49/£3.99. The advantages of a monthly subscription is that you can cancel it every month and are not bind to a longer contract for up to two years.
Disney+ – Marvel, Star Wars and Pixar
Disney‘s in-house streaming service Disney+ saw the light of day in 2019 and has gained an incredible number of users in a very short time. This is because Disney classics, as well as the Star Wars or Marvel franchises, are now exclusively available on Disney+ and have been removed from the other streaming services. This streaming service focuses largely on family-friendly content, although there are also documentaries from National Geographic and other series that are not just aimed at children.
- Family-friendly program with countless Disney and Pixar films, as well as all other licenses that Disney has bought up in recent years.
- These include Marvel movies and series, the Star Wars franchise, as well as The Simpsons, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Indiana Jones.
- In addition, there are many exclusive titles that were produced especially for Disney+: “The Mandalorian“, “WandaVision”, “Loki”, or “Falcon and the Winter Soldier.”
- Content playable in UHD and in the best audio quality your playback medium supports. Some titles are also offered in Dolby Vision.
Current prices US/UK
- An annual subscription to Disney+ costs $69.99/£59.99, which corresponds to $5.83/£4.99 a month. You can also profit from different bundle deals that include Hulu or ESPN+.
- A monthly subscription costs $6.99/£5.99 per month.
- Unfortunately, Disney+ no longer offers a trial month either, and students don’t get any discounts either.
- You can benefit from a subscription to Verizon (USA) or O2 (UK) though, which can provide you with a six month free trial.
Hulu – NBC, FOX and ABC
Hulu is an American video-on-demand service that is only accessible with an American IP address. Founded in 2008, the service includes various movies and series from well-known American broadcasters such as NBC, FOX and ABC.
- Hulu is expected to be completely acquired by Disney+ by 2024; the beginning of the acquisition took place in the summer of 2020 with the launch of the Star International service.
- Movies and series from popular U.S. broadcasters, as well as anime, sporting events, and in-house productions like The Handmaid’s Tale.
- A basic subscription costs $5.99 a month and includes the standard media library of movies, TV series and originals. However, this subscription model includes advertising, which is not the case with many other streaming services.
- Hulu + Live TV is another variant that includes TV channels, allowing you to watch news, sporting events, and other programming live. The live subscription costs $54.99 per month.
- Both subscription models can be made ad-free for $6.00 more.
HBO Max – Game of Thrones to go
While HBO is a pay-TV channel, an exclusive streaming service, HBO Max, was launched in 2020. The media library consists mainly of content from WarnerMedia brands such as CNN, The CW or DC Entertainment. In addition, you can find various HBO originals that no longer run on the original channel.
- Various films from Warner Bros. Pictures, Universal Pictures and 20th Century Fox.
- Series from HBO such as Game of Thrones can be watched on HBO Max after they are no longer available on live TV.
- Other streaming services from HBO include HBO Now and HBO Go.
- A monthly subscription costs $14.99, which is slightly more expensive on average than other streaming services.
- For the same money, you can also get a subscription to the HBO Now service, which has significantly more content to offer.
- However, HBO Max offers a trial week compared to many other services.
Crunchyroll – A dream for otakus
For all anime fans, there is the streaming service Crunchyroll, which features a massive library of anime. The special thing: New episodes are made available on Crunchyroll at the same time it airs in Japan, so there are no long waiting times.
- Crunchyroll offers both classics and brand new anime straight from Japan.
- Popular series like “Attack on Titan”, “Death Note”, “Hunter X Hunter” and many more.
- Simulcast: new episodes are broadcast in parallel with live television, eliminating wait times.
- Crunchyroll offers a free membership, but it comes with ads and is far from offering all the anime that the service includes. Also, episodes do not air alongside live television (no simulcast).
- True otakus can purchase a Super Fan package for $14.99, which provides the complete Crunchyroll package ad-free, including the VRV service, which includes many more channels such as Hidive, Boomerang and RoosterTeeth.
YouTube – More than cat videos
Even YouTube has jumped on the streaming service bandwagon and has over 13,000 movies and around 2,000 series to offer. However, many users of the online platform, where every user can upload their own videos, are unaware of this streaming-possibility because the option is very hidden. It can only be found further down in the side menu under Movies & Series.
However, YouTube does not offer a subscription system, but each film and series must be paid for individually. Also, a lot of content is only available in the original sound, although the quality of the titles is definitely worth watching, since a lot of content is available in UHD and 5.1 surround sound.
Every streaming provider has its own app and these can now be played on most devices. The most popular apps are already preinstalled on current TVs, and on other devices, such as game consoles, most apps can be downloaded from the respective store. On smartphones and tablets, you can also easily find the apps in the Appstore or on Google Play.
Fire TV Stick
An alternative for the home theater is the Amazon Fire TV Stick, which you can simply connect to the TV and enjoy many streaming services directly. The streaming stick is also available in two variants, because the normal stick only provides a Full HD picture, which is sufficient in many situations, especially when watching on small screens. For streaming in 4K, you have to buy the corresponding Fire TV Stick 4K Ultra HD. Meanwhile, there is also the Fire TV Stick Lite, which brings Full HD content into your living room at a reasonable price.
Especially with somewhat older TVs, it makes sense to stream via an external device. Game consoles, such as the Xbox One, are a good choice, since they allow watching Netflix, Prime Video or Disney+ without any problems. It is often easier to control the device with a controller than with a normal remote control, and you also have an enormous game library at your disposal at the push of a button.
The prices of the streaming services are non-binding, without guarantee and can change at short notice. However, we try to keep you always up to date.
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