Redbox Instant Review
Quality of Video Stream7
Content on Offer4
Value for Money6
There are always new kids on the block when it comes to streaming services these days, and although Redbox Instant has been around for a year now in beta, they’ve just recently begun taking on customers. Eye on-Demand is not going to sit by and ignore a good Netflix competitor, so how well does it all shape up?
If you look at the price first, Redbox Instant is actually cheaper than either Netflix, Hulu Plus or Amazon Instant Video, as long as you select only the streaming service which runs at US$6 per month. For US$8 per month, you also get 4 DVD credits each lunar cycle which maybe of interest within the US, but I’d hazard a guess less popular when outside.
One thing to keep in mind with Redbox Instant is that it only deals in movies. Unlike Netflix, Hulu or Amazon, there ain’t a TV show in site. This may be a deal breaker for many, and it certainly is a little unusual since this is such a highlight for the competition. On the other hand, concentrating on one market rather than trying to juggle too many balls may just end up being Redbox’s best move.
Even with only a movie library at hand, Redbox’s 4600 titles are considerably less than Netflix’s 9000 US films and since most of what is available on Redbox can also be found either on Netflix or Amazon, Redbox’s potential edge by concentrating purely on movies may not seem so conclusive. On the other hand it is early days yet, and Redbox’s range will only grow over time. After-all, when Amazon began their Video streaming service, they started out with one and a half thousand less titles than Redbox.
Redbox doesn’t win any awards for video quality either, with a maximum resolution of 720p, well below Netflix’s potential 1080p for SuperHD streams. That said, 720p HD is pretty good and Netflix is in the minority here with their highest streaming quality. In fact, most people could probably not tell the difference between a good 720p and 1080p stream unless the television is of quite a reasonable size. Redbox’s 720p comes in at around 3000kbps, which is slightly lower than the BBC’s and a good average. However, their SD streams can be as low as 600kbps, which is quite shocking really. This is something to keep in mind when using the rental option. If your plan is to save costs by renting in SD, it is worth mentioning that 600kbps will contain artifacts and pixelation, especially during fast action sequences.
Obviously Redbox instant is available via the web browser, but unless we can easily get this on to our televisions, there is not really much point to switch over from Netflix. After all, Netflix has a fabulous reputation when it comes to platform support. Despite Redbox’s relative young age, it’s growing number of supported devices is already reasonably good. Selected Samsung & LG Smart TVs, iOS devices, selected Android devices, newer Google TV models and as of recently, Roku. At the moment there is no Apple TV support (and no news if or when that will come), whilst a Sony PlayStation 3 this Autumn.
Redbox Instant won’t win any awards either for creative web design and layout. In fact, it is pretty much run of the mill, with a nod towards UK’s LoveFilm format, in this case mixing streaming and physical media along with their premium rent/purchase material and games. Any of you who have read my LoveFilm review will know that I wasn’t exactly endeared to that all-in-one format. Still, it is not like their website is cluttered or terribly designed. You can easily switch the view to only include movies available by subscription, or premium content for rent/purchase and either way the main categories can be drilled down to no less than 13 genres, 5 sub-categories and a bargain bin for rentals.
If you want to keep track of a film, you can easily add a movie to your bookmarks (by clicking the bookmark icon) which can then be accessed via the My Redbox menu. Here you will find a handy dashboard that lists the most recent bookmarks, watched or purchased films which can be expanded to either of the three for more details. There doesn’t appear to be a way to clear the watched films list, so if you don’t want other members of your family to know your viewing habits you are out of luck. However, bookmarks can easily be removed which at least is a welcome feature.
The watched list does identify which films have not been completed and Redbox will happily give you the option to resume where you left off, or start from the beginning.
Video quality is dynamically adjusted, so there is no way to manually set this. A small red HD icon will light up if you are watching in high definition, but that is about all the information you will find.
- Easy to navigate, search and find movies to watch.
- Trailers available on premium rent/purchase movies.
- Watched list and bookmarks available.
- Resume feature available.
- Not the most sofa-friendly environment.
(Accessing Redbox outside of the US requires a good SmartDNS or VPN service)
Redbox Instant has made its stand as a movie haven for both streaming and physical media, pushing its wares not only through broadband pipes, but also DVDs and Blu-Rays via their automated retail kiosks. When you take the full package into account, which includes games and optical discs, their packages become more attractive.
However, it does seem a little odd to still be pushing a dying market. Whatever figures say and large as they may yet be for physical media, that format is still on its way out. On the other hand, if an optical rental company is wanting to move into the digital online world, then adding a streaming service to the equation could also bee seen as a strategic move.
In any event, if movies are your only concern, and budget is paramount, then Redbox instant could be a good subscription service to consider, especially if their hardware side fits your bill to enable HD streaming on your main television. Adding Redbox as a movie additive to a Hulu Plus subscription could be an economic way to increase feature film access to an otherwise excellent television catch-up service. Certainly, if you are in a geographic position to take advantage of their physical Kiosks, Redbox’s US$8 per month subscription may actually be quite attractive.
On the other hand, if you can stretch your budget by an extra two dollars from Redbox’s base price, Netflix could prove to be the better alternative – at least for now, after-all this service is still officially in beta.
- HD quality streams (up to 3000kbps)
- Acceptable platform support.
- Cross-platform resume, bookmarks and watched-list.
- Good value for money.
- No Apple TV app.
- Limited AirPlay support (requires mirroring)
- Still awaiting Roku, PlayStation, Wii & Xbox support.
- Limited Film library compared to competition.
- No television shows.
- No offline downloads for subscription content.
- Hardware support: Apple® iPhone®, iPad® and iPod® Touch devices, Android™ phones and tablets, Internet-connected Samsung® TVs & Blu-ray Disc players, LG Smart TVs, Google™ TV devices, Xbox 360 gaming console, Roku.
(Due to issues when testing Redbox Instant via the iOS, Roku and Samsung Smart TV platforms, those reviews will appear at a later date)
03.07.2013: Review published: Score: 5.4 – Average.
06.08.2013: Updated to reflect Roku channel is also available.
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