Just in case Netflix, Hulu Plus, Vudu and Video Unlimited aren't enough outlets to satisfy your craving for on-demand video, a new partner has been added to the PlayStation 3 TV/Video Services menu. Amazon Instant Video and its growing library of content is now available on PS3.
For now, PlayStation 3 is the only game console to host Amazon's video service. Movies are available for either rental or purchase, and a selection of more than 17,000 free streaming videos are available to Amazon Prime members. Amazon Prime membership runs $79 a year, and a 30 day free trial is available right from the PS3 app.
Rentals of newly released films are priced the same as Walmart's Vudu service -- a 48 hour standard definition rental runs $3.99 while high-def (if available) comes in at a dollar more. Unlike Vudu, which offers users a choice between 720P and 1080P high-def rentals (and, naturally, charges more for the higher resolution), all Amazon Instant HD content is 720P. Still, at $4.99 for an HD rental, Amazon Instant is a buck cheaper than Sony's Video Unlimited -- and the same resolution.
Where Amazon Instant really sets itself apart is in the pricing of movies to own. A quick comparison of The Muppets (which, if you haven't yet, you really must watch) shows both Sony and Vudu selling the HD version of the film for $19.99, while Amazon is offering it for just $14.99. Across the board, Amazon Instant prices for movies you want to keep appear to significantly undercut the competition -- $12.99 for The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo vs. $17.99 on Video Unlimited and $19.99 on Vudu.
As for the free streaming videos available to Amazon Prime members, there doesn't appear to be much here that isn't already available on Netflix or Hulu Plus. That said, unlike Hulu Plus, programs on Amazon Instant are all commercial-free -- even programs, like 30 Rock, that premier on both services the day after broadcast. For the $79 a year fee, Amazon Prime users also get free two-day shipping on nearly everything, and access to books from the Kindle Lending Library.
The only real downside, for now, is access. Netflix and Hulu Plus have been successful, in part, because they are ubiquitous, allowing users to access content from mobile phones, tablets, computer, game systems and more -- on the go, at home, pretty much anywhere. Amazon Instant is restricted to PS3, Kindle Fire, and set-top boxes like Roku, along with a number of Blu-Ray players and web-enabled TVs. That said, just because PS3 is the first game system to support the service doesn't mean it will be the last. If support for still more devices is in the works, Amazon Instant Video could -- quite literally -- give the competition a run for its money.
The Amazon Instant Video app is available right now from the TV/Video Services menu on the PS3's XMB.
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