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Eye on Demand | August 18, 2017

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Presto Review

Presto Review

Review Overview

Quality of Video Stream
4
User Interface
5
Content on Offer
6
Device Availability
2.5
Value for Money
5
4.5

Waiting For Netflix to Shake it up!

Australia’s on-demand landscape has taken an enormous leap recently, with Presto emerging as one of the main streaming services competing against Netflix. Going head–to-head against the global market leader is one big call, so how well does Presto stack up against their local and international rivals?

Presto is somewhat of a conundrum. In most cases it is referred to as an Australian competitor to Netflix. But at least on the surface, it much more closely resembles Sky UK’s Now TV – or at least when comparing the on-demand side. Now TV separates their Entertainment (TV) and Movie packages and is the online, contract-free answer to pay-TV company Sky UK.

In a similar vein, Presto is the online-only, contract-free subscription service run by the Australian pay-TV giant Foxtel, and they also split their packages into separate movie and television subscriptions. Both Sky and Foxtel even have additional, more expensive online services respectively called Sky Go and Foxtel Play.

All that said, Now TV is still a completely different beast. Presto lacks the comprehensive catch-up content that Now TV offers, along with all the other additional features such as live TV streams and sports.

So, despite first appearances, Presto is not a lot different to Netflix after-all, except more expensive, less platform support and lower quality video. In the UK, there are plenty of reasons to combine a Netflix and Now TV account, but are there any similar motivations to do so in Australia?

Quality SDVideo quality on Presto doesn’t offer any of the juicy 4K ultra high definition feeds that with the right equipment and bandwidth Netflix subscribers can enjoy. Nor does it offer the HD streams of their other main local rivals. In fact, in an age where 1080p is considered the standard, Presto will deliver nothing more than 480p standard definition – a little bit guile when you consider it is the most expensive of the four streaming pay services (Netflix, Quickflix, Stan and Presto). At best, we only saw SD streams averaging 1200kbps, but there is the possibility that geographic location played a part in this, although from what I can tell, this is not off the mark for what Australians seem be seeing as well.

Platform support would be described in my opinion as woefully inadequate. Presto only supports web browsers, iPad and Android mobile devices, with the only opportunity to watch on a proper TV being via Chromecast (with AirPlay and the iPhone not even supported yet).

Now, I don’t really know where the folks who run Presto like to watch their television, but I suspect in the evening it is most likely in front of a proper TV like most people. Although it certainly is understandable for a streaming service to start out with the basics and add new platforms once all the glitches are ironed out, Presto have had long enough to at least offer one set-top-box. But to have zero support for STB’s, consoles or Smart TVs in 12 months, shows either very little understanding of the industry or their customers needs, scant thought in the face of no competition, or simply the expected shenanigans often seen by old-school cable TV companies.

Presto turn their nose up at their customers even further by forcing a four-device limit with only one change per month. Their claim is that the content distributors demanded this, but that idea falls flat when we consider Netflix which has no such limits. To rub salt in the wound, Presto consider Chromecast an additional device, so this eats up two of their customer’s possible four.

Note: 2nd September: Presto have since made a few updates since this review was published, including HD streams and AirPlay support. We plan to update this review as soon as possible to reflect the current state of Presto.

 


  • Although I wasn’t overly blown away by Stan’s content library during its review, I was at least impressed by a few things it included such as the entire Bond collection, some high-level US exclusives like Better Call Saul, and a small, but interesting local library primarily filled with ABC (Australia) series.

    It took me a lot longer to warm up to Presto’s collection, which although is not exactly bad, it lacks a certain magic. One of the highlights would possibly be their HBO content, limited as it is. Around 13 or so HBO shows are available for streaming including at the time of this publication The Sopranos, Boardwalk Empire and True Blood.

    What could be an incredible library is at the moment at least, a lost opportunity. Presto is owned by Foxtel and Seven West Media, two television companies that technically have an enormous amount of content under their belt. Watching pay-TV Foxtel keep the bulk of theirs away from Presto subscribers is one thing, but since the Seven Network is free-to-air, we would have at least liked to see an extensive on-demand and catch-up library for all their own content.

    Although there is a limited amount of shows from Seven and Foxtel, it hardly is enough to justify their involvement in the project. The UK equivalent, Now TV for instance, which is owned by Sky, covers pretty much all of Sky’s current catch-up original content, as well a great deal of what they are currently broadcasting from external sources. Foxtel’s contribution included Wentworth, Satisfaction, Love My Way, Spirited and Tangle.

    TV Popular

    Presto’s movie library is another disappointment, especially for the price being charged here. Foxtel sits in Australia’s 1st pay-TV window, which means movies should arrive on the cable channel between the cinema showing and Blu-Ray release. Netflix is predominantly placed in the 2nd pay-TV window, and the pricing reflects this as well. Although Netflix offers some exclusive new-release films, most movies are older than what Foxtel could provide.

    What we have ended up with Presto’s movie library is good, possibly better than Netflix or Stan in many ways, but far from what they could have offered.

    The live movies channels which were there at Presto’s launch are now long gone. In this particular case, I am not terribly disappointed. Live TV works great for normal television and sport, watching the latest episode as it airs, or especially a sporting event has its live merits. But movies are something we tend to sit down to at a more convenient time, and on-demand works far better here.

    If pure numbers are something that is important to you, all up Presto currently offer more movies than Stan.

    Movies Popular

    (The above posters are only an example of movies and TV shows that were available at Presto at the time of publication. This in no way represents their entire library, or content that will always be available)

  • www.presto.com.au

    Browsing Presto can be a drawn-out process due to the large number of categories and genres, but for some, this could also be fun. Categories come with long-winded names such as Awesome Rewards For Well Behaved Kids, or Overblown Action, It Must Be The ‘90s. Of course, if you prefer standard Genres, this is also possible by clicking on the options at the top of the screen. Here you can also find the rather useful Recently Added list from the Movie tab, and the Watchlist.

    Speaking of the Watchlist, I found its episode management implementation rather confusing. If you want to keep track of which shows you are currently following, the automatic inclusion in the Watched section of the Watchlist may not really be enough. Manually adding to the Watchlist improves things, but there is still no clear indication which episodes have been completed or only watched partially through.

    The closest I could get to a proper Netflix-style of quality episode management, was if I manually searched for a series, then viewed the episode lists. In this view, a clear timeline indicated which shows were completed or where I stood within them. Unfortunately, it bore very little respect to reality. Of four episodes that were watched on one series I was testing, only one episode was indicated as such, and even then wrongly highlighted as incomplete. This also confirms my suspicion that there are major issues with syncing between different devices.

    In this respect, cross-platform support seems a little unreliable, with an episode I watched on the iPad not shown as viewed on the web browser and vice versa. Problems weren’t only related to cross-platform syncing, as even the Resume function refused to work reliably. After completing an episode from a show that I resumed, the time-bar was not updated, even after refreshing the page. It looks like a pencil and paper are required here.

    Bugs aside, video playback was relatively stable at SD streams. My own tests averaged 1220kbps* which is a very basic standard definition delivery that at full-screen lacked sharpness and demonstrated the odd bit of pixelation. Whilst the likes of Netflix are reaching 4K streams and Stan or Quickflix with HD, it is certainly a shame to see very average standard definition here.

    Presto Web bitrate 1220kbps

    Platform Pros:

    • At least there is a time-bar hidden somewhere.

    Platform Cons:

    • Low quality SD streams.
    • Confusing and bug-ridden episode management.
    • Resume doesn’t always work.
    • Cross-Platform info won’t always sync.
    • No control over streaming quality.
    • No way to search for content by network.

    (Accessing Presto outside of Australia requires a good VPN service, with geographic location playing an important part on how good the streaming quality will be)

    Movies BUTTON On-Demand - BUTTON Time Bar BUTTON SD BUTTON Recently Watched BUTTON Resume BUTTON

     

     

     

     

     

    IPVanish VPN DNS

     

     

     

     

     

    * Video quality results are averaged from multiple tests and may be affected by geographic location as well as available bandwidth. Geographic location plays a big part when accessing video content via VPN. A closer proximity to Australia will result in better quality streams.

  • Best 2Although in our opinion the iPad app is the best way to watch and enjoy Presto, it is far from a bed of roses. For a start, for a totally impossible to understand reason, Presto is only available on the iPad. There is no iPhone or iPod Touch support at all. Presto is already hard enough to watch and enjoy as it is, with a platform base amongst the smallest of any streaming service not only in Australia, but the developed world as well. Presto’s reluctance to allow their customers the ability to actually use it, may in fact be related to attempts in protecting their old-school cable TV business. The theory being, make life miserable for Presto customers, and it could drive more Foxtel sales. This may have worked before any serious on-demand competition was standing up against Presto, but now that Stan is live and Netflix around the corner, Presto really should wake up and get their act together.

    The good thing is, if you have an iPad, you can grab a free app. Once the app loads, finding content isn’t terribly hard, even if the app’s list lacks a few important genres. Playback is an easy affair, with few additional features to distract viewers on the video screen.

    There are elements of episode management, but it’s not as clear and comprehensive as other services such as Netflix or Stan. For instance, instead of a time-bar to clearly identify which episodes are watched or where they were left off, a tiny “0 min left” label is shown on completed episodes with the number of minutes higher for those that are unfinished.

    Playback is average at best, with very little control on the video screen for adjusting the content. FFW/REW have no thumbnails, nor any 15 or 30 second quick-jumps making it rather difficult to find specific points in the show’s timeline.

    Video quality is also nothing to write home about either, with the standard definition streams looking decidable average in our eyes. Even the lowest setting on the BBC with 800kbps streams looked better than Presto with a 1210kbps* average in our tests. Don’t get me wrong, video quality certainly wasn’t bad, but I would call it soft.

    Presto iPad bitrate 1210kbps

    If you want to stream that across to your big-screen TV like Netflix, Quickflix or Stan will allow, don’t get too excited. Presto still do not offer AirPlay support. This does leave me rather speechless, especially considering it is the most expensive of the four. Fortunately, there is Chromecast. Still, once the stream is casting, the tested average bitrate dropped to a ridiculous 380kbps*!

    I was also a little disappointed with the clutter on the iPad screen while chromecasting. The child safety PIN remained visible in perpetual suspension in which I can only hope was yet another bug, and overall the screen appeared to be flooded with unrelated information to what was actually playing on the TV.

    Platform Pros:

    • Easy to use.
    • Chromecast support.
    • Resume
    • Cross-platform support works better than via web.

    Platform Cons:

    • No AirPlay.
    • Only SD.
    • No control over streaming quality.
    • Poor FFW/REW implementation, without thumbnails.
    • No offline downloads.

    (Accessing Presto outside of Australia requires a good VPN service, with geographic location playing an important part on how good the streaming quality will be)

    Movies BUTTON On-Demand - BUTTON Watchlist BUTTON SD BUTTON Resume BUTTON Recently Watched BUTTON Chromecast BUTTON Cross Platform BUTTON

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    IPVanish VPN DNS

     

     

     

     

    * Video quality results are averaged from multiple tests and may be affected by geographic location as well as available bandwidth. Geographic location plays a big part when accessing video content via VPN. A closer proximity to Australia will result in better quality streams.

     

  • As a perfect example of how restrictive Presto’s platform support really is, the Android app could not install on my Samsung tablet, despite tablets being the only Android devices Presto has support for. For this reason, we can not yet test Presto over Android.

    Normally, we would have a poster here suggesting an Android review will be on its way as soon as possible. But considering Presto have been around for a year already, we aren’t holding our breath.

    NoAndroid

  • In theory, the tiny and affordable Chromecast stick offers a fantastic way to get video content onto your main television screen. In practice, it can be a little fiddly and has a tendency to hiccup every now and again, and confuse viewers in between.

    That said, some companies just get Chromecast right, with Netflix, as is so often the case, being one of them. Presto’s Chromecast support wasn’t quite so flawless.

    The main problem we experienced was video quality. Whilst Presto via a web browser or iPad came through at a an average standard definition bitrate that hovered around 1200kbps, chromecasting averaged a shocking 380kbps*.

    Presto Chromecast bitrate 380kbps

    You can see from the test graph below how the bitrate rose immediately once switching from the Chromecast device back to the iPad. Both platforms were connected to the same WiFi base-station located less than 2meters away in plain sight. The Chromecast stick itself had no problems streaming 1080p Netflix content exceeding 6000kbps, but clearly Presto’s Chromecast stream has major issues determining what bitrate it should be using.

    Presto Chromecast vs iPad

    Outside of video quality issues, Chromecast works by using a mobile device such as an iOS or Android phone to control the stream. Effectively, you use the standard Presto app to find what you want to play, but once you initiate it, the Chromecast takes over and pulls the stream directly to play back on the TV.

    The Smart Phone or iPad can be switched off, used for other purposes, or even leave the network entirely, and the stream will continue.

    At the moment, using a Chromecast stick is the only practical way to get Presto’s content onto a proper television, which is why its current failure to deliver reliably is especially annoying.

    For more details on chromecasting, check out our review on the HDMI stick here.

    Chromecast Pros:

    • Potentially great cheap way to watch the content on the main TV.
    • Mobile devices can be used for other things.

    Chromecast Cons:

    • Terribly unreliable video quality.
    • Lacking a dedicated UI.
    • Can be confusing at times.

    IPVanish VPN DNS

     

     

     

     

    * Video quality results are averaged from multiple tests and may be affected by geographic location as well as available bandwidth. Geographic location plays a big part when accessing video content via VPN. A closer proximity to Australia will result in better quality streams.

  • Presto clearly originates from the stables of an old-school cable TV operator. They overcharge, provide as little as possible and don’t even have a one month free trial as standard, which is commonplace these days. (although they do offer free trials on special occasions).

    Everything they do, they seem to do less than they should. While Netflix offers 4K streams, Stan with 1080p HD and Quickflix with 720p HD, Presto only offer 480p standard definition.

    While Netflix is available on pretty much any device you can throw at it, Quickflix on a reasonable number of devices, and Stan still rather disappointing at this stage, Presto somehow have managed to be on even fewer, with no mobile phone support nor even AirPlay.

    Netflix offers a wide range of ways to pay for the service, including gift cards, even here Presto seems to almost not want customers by restricting to credit card payment only – and Australian credit cards only for that matter, leaving out a large number of potential subscribers.

    Netflix has no restriction on the number of devices that can be registered, meaning customers can easily switch from an iPhone to a Smart TV at will. Presto only allows a maximum of four devices, with one change per month.

    Television content is also relatively poor, especially when taken into account Presto is run by Foxtel and Seven who have both kept the bulk of their normal content away from the service.

    And after all of this, Presto is the most expensive of the four, ahead of Stan, Netflix and Quickflix in dollar consumption (based on Netflix’s expected price-point when it arrives).

    To be honest, Presto have had around a year to get many of these issues sorted. The fact they’ve done nothing, hints at the hypothesizes that their most important concern was not for their Presto customers, but protection of their old-school Foxtel profits.

    Now that they have a few competitors out there, and the future is not Foxtel, but on-demand, they may have very well missed the starting gun, despite being at the line a long time before Stan and Netflix.

    So, is there any real reason to subscribe to Presto? If the behemoth behind Presto can get their act together, improve platform support, video quality, throw out their draconian platform limits and payment methods, improve their content library and bring back the live streams, perhaps the $15 Entertainment package may be worth the money and the effort.

    Presto falls far short of the mark in its opening debut here at Eye on-Demand. However, we do our best to update our reviews as the service evolves. With such a competitive world that Australia’s on-demand market has suddenly become, we imagine (hope) Presto will work hard over the following months to improve their service.

    Pros:

    • Easy to use.
    • Chromecast support.
    • Huge (untapped) potential.

    Cons:

    • Very poor platform support.
    • SD quality streams only.
    • Chromecast unreliable.
    • No mobile phone support.
    • Poor payment options.
    • Content library could be larger.
    • No user profiles.
    • Expensive.
    • No 1st Pay-TV window content.
    • No live streams (Considering this is a Foxtel/Seven service).
    • No closed captioning.
    • No offline downloads.
    • Maximum of four devices with only one change per month.
    • Forced parent-lock (should be activated by choice).
    • Web version riddled with bugs.
    • Cross-platform support doesn’t always work.
    • Australian credit cards only.
    • No gift vouchers.
    • Trial period is not standard.
    • Plenty of bugs.

    Movies BUTTON On-Demand - BUTTON Watchlist BUTTON Time Bar BUTTON SD BUTTON Recently Watched BUTTON Cross Platform BUTTON Chromecast BUTTON

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Log:

    18.03.2015: Review published. Score 4.5 – Waiting For Netflix to Shake it up!

     

     

    * Video quality results are averaged from multiple tests and may be affected by geographic location as well as available bandwidth. Geographic location plays a big part when accessing video content via VPN. A closer proximity to Australia will result in better quality streams.

     

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