Netflix vs Lovefilm

Who comes out on top in the battle of the streaming video services?

America’s streaming sweetheart is on a quest to take over UK screens, from the television to the tablet, but can Netflix do enough to dislodge the Amazon-owned Lovefilm?

Netflix vs Lovefilm – Features

Netflix seems cheap at £5.99 a month, until you realise that these days Lovefilm Instant offers a streaming-only subscription for a mere £4.99 a month. Still, Netflix syncs across an unlimited number of devices, while each Lovefilm Instant account is limited to three devices.

Winner: Netflix

Netflix vs Lovefilm – Catalogue

Netflix's catalogue certainly doesn’t feel as substantial as Lovefilm’s. It’s disappointingly out of date, too, with only a couple of titles in the ‘Recently Added’ section having been released in the last six months. The wide selection of both British and American TV shows is nice, though.

And while it may not have as much content as Lovefilm, Netflix's recommendation engine is great at guiding you to the things you'll want to watch, serving up mind-bogglingly precise suggestions. "BAFTA Award-Winning Cerebral Films," anyone?

However, Lovefilm’s movie library is substantially larger than Netflix’s, with a higher concentration of up-to-date quality content. And that’s before you even consider the 70,000 extra titles that are available as discs through the post (for a higher subscription charge).

Winner: Lovefilm

Netflix vs Lovefilm – Quality

A good portion of Netflix's catalogue is available in HD as well as standard-def, plus you get 5.1 Dolby Digital Plus sound. It streams very smoothly, too, thanks to automatic scaling.

There’s no denying that Lovefilm’s exclusive diet of standard-def is disappointing, but its videos look surprisingly decent – similar to DVD, with nice colours and only a little bit of obvious pixelation, albeit without surround sound.

Winner: Netflix

Netflix vs Lovefilm – On the big screen

Most of Samsung’s new TVs have Netflix built-in, but there are plenty of other ways to add it to your lounge setup, including Apple TV, LG Blu-ray players and systems, Roku media streamers and any of the current-gen games consoles.

Sony, LG and Samsung all build Lovefilm into the vast majority of their web-connected TVs and home cinema devices.

Both Xbox and PS3 are kitted out for Lovefilm, too, with the Xbox getting a smartly laid-out, Kinect-enabled interface. Lovefilm's PS3 app is the poor relation, proving slow and troublesome in comparison – and you can't use the PS3 Blu-ray remote control with it, unlike Netflix's offering. Wii and Apple TV owners are out of luck, too.

Winner: it's a draw

Netflix vs Lovefilm – On the small(er) screen

As well as PCs and Macs, Netflix is available on all manner of portable devices, from the iPad and iPhone to their Android and Windows-running brethren. The iPad app is a particularly nicely thought-out affair, but Android fares well, too.

Lovefilm Instant can obviously be streamed on PCs and Macs through their web browser, and the iPad app is a pleasure to use and a pleasure to watch. It is, however, a big shame that no other portables are supported, even other iOS devices, especially given how much of a head start it’s had over Netflix.

Winner: Netflix

Netflix vs Lovefilm – Verdict

A glance through our results would suggest that Netflix is the overall winner – it certainly has the superior tech and UI backing up its product. Lovefilm only wins out in terms of its catalogue – but it's a vitally important category.

Bluntly, if you're choosing a video streaming service the most important thing is what's available to watch on it. For the time being, there's no contest on that score, with Lovefilm way ahead of its rival. That might change in the coming months as both providers ink new content deals, though – so keep checking back for updates.

Overall winner: Lovefilm

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