iTunes

iTunes Review: Online Video & DVD Rentals

 
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Rating:
Bottom Line:
One of the best selection of TV shows and movies, but pay-per-video pricing makes it expensive
Full Review:
If you are looking for that obscure movie or TV episode that doesn't seem to be available on any other site, it's a good idea to check the iTunes store for it. While they have a huge collection of movies and TV shows, you have to pay per video, which can get expensive, especially since some of the videos are only available for sale, not rent. iTunes is great for renting or buying that one video you are looking for, but not so much for large quantities of viewing.




Pricing

Each movie or TV show episode is individually priced, although you can buy whole seasons of TV shows. The pricing seems to be based on demand, as the most recent episode of Mad Men is $5.99, but the episode before is only $2.99. The most common price for TV episodes seems to be $2.99.

Movies, on the other hand, have a much wider range, especially since you can either rent or buy movies. There is also a more expensive option for HD movies. For example, the most recent Sherlock Holmes movie is $3.99 to rent, but $14.99 to buy. The HD version is $4.99 to rent or $19.99 to buy. These prices widely vary depending on the movie.

There are also "free" sections of TV and movie categories in iTunes that list all of the free movies or TV episodes that are available.


Selection



This is where iTunes shines. Apple has a good relationship with many of the major networks and movie studios and gets new releases of movies and shows faster than most other video services. If you are looking for the most recent episode of Grey's Anatomy, they have it. If you are looking for the latest DVD release, they have that.

If you like old movies, they have everything from Citizen Kane to Casablanca. They have shows and movies from the most obscure networks and studios, including the Fine Living Network, the DIY Network, FuelTV and DC Comics. Do they have every movie or TV show ever made? No, but they definitely have more of a selection than we've ever seen from an online video service.

The iTunes interface also makes the shopping experience easy. If you know what you are looking for, there is a search function that does a great job of pinpointing what you are looking for, as well as anything that might be related to it. If you are just browsing, they break their videos down into genres, videos that were just added, videos based on what network or studio they are from, as well as a slew of other categories. Needless to say, finding a video on iTunes is an easy task.


Video Quality

iTunes has two options for each video, either standard quality or high definition. Both options work fine, although the HD version is obviously better quality. For the most part, the picture is always crystal clear, but the odd thing about iTunes is that on some videos the audio and the video can fall out of sync. If you pause the video and then play it, the problem is solved, but the video can fall out of sync a number of times while you are watching, which can make for a very annoying user experience. This is especially odd since all iTunes videos are downloaded, which means that Internet speed, which usually causes syncing issues, should have no effect on the video.


Viewing Options



Another downside of iTunes is the limited viewing options that it presents because you must download the videos to your computer and iTunes videos are protected. First, you can obviously view the movies from any of the computers that you have iTunes installed on. The only issue is that you can only have iTunes enabled on five devices, so if you have more than five devices or don't have your iTunes-enabled devices with you, you won't be able to access the video. On the plus side, as opposed to other video download sites, iTunes allows you to start watching your purchase or rental before the video is completely downloaded.

Unlike other video services, there are also a limited number of third-party devices that will play iTunes video. Apple TV is of course the main device, since both iTunes and Apple TV are owned by Apple, but some Internet-ready TVs also include iTunes, so you can play videos directly through those TVs.


Customer Service

For being a part of one of the biggest tech companies in the world, iTunes has limited customer service options. In order to even get to any options, you need to wind through a maze of options on their support page, which is attune to the automated phone directories many customer service numbers employ. Once you drill down to a part of the support site that is close to your question, you either have the option of reading an article about your issue or emailing Apple customer service. There is no customer service phone number, although the email option is fairly quick. All in all, not the best customer service options we've ever experienced.


Conclusion

If you are looking for a specific movie or TV episode or want to rent a very recent release, iTunes is a great option for you. Since it poses problems with viewing options and some video quality issues, as well as a pay-per-video pricing structure, iTunes is better used as a supplement to a cable subscription or other video streaming service.

Sign up for iTunes | Compare to Other Online Video & DVD Rentals


 
Service Details:

Free Trial:None
Monthly Price:Pay-per-video; pricing depends on the video
Selection:Best selection of TV shows and movies
Video Quality:Standard quality and High Definition
Viewing Options:Only downloads; viewing through computer, Internet-ready TVs, AppleTV
Customer Service:Email and help section

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