When we planned our first extended RV trip in 2015 we knew we would be traveling in a lot of places that didn’t have internet coverage, Red Box locations or the ability to pull in air TV. We do actually read (mostly on our iPads) and do talk to one another on occasion. But we needed some mindless distraction on those cold nights in Yellowstone. So we headed to the Wal-Mart store and loaded up on $5 DVDs. Actually, we were quite fortunate, getting a mix of timeless comedies, “Dave” and relatively new hits, “Hotel Budapest”.
Of course purchasing or renting a movie on iTunes is another option. But at $15 to purchase a movie, or $5.99 to rent one, this didn’t seem like a great deal.
Now that we have invested in the Verizon MiFi unit and tons of data, we have started watching movies over the internet while on the road. We certainly don’t watch a movie every day. But we typically watch two or three a month and still stay within our Verizon XXL Data Allowance.
But here is what we have learned. Though Netflix can brag it has the largest inventory of HD (high-definition) Movies, Amazon Prime may be a better choice when you are on the road simply because their library is not so heavily HD. One night we watched a 90 minute HD film on Netflix. I checked our data utilization on the MIFi unit before and after we watched and calculated that the movie utilized about 1.5GB of data. We watched a 90-minute movie on Amazon and found we used just under 0.8GB of data. About half as much. Or put another way, we can watch two non-HD movies for every one HD film. And I am not really sure you can recognize an appreciable difference in quality when you are watching a 12” screen.
(Note: Netflix settings will allow you to default to a non-HD version of a movie. Do this to reduce your data utilization when watching movies.)
Watching Movies: Amazon Prime vs Netflix
Of course, both services have their plusses and minuses. We keep Netflix in part because of “House of Cards”. And I’ll admit I binge watched “Transparency” on Amazon Prime. With Netflix, we pay $8 a month. With Amazon, you pay $99 a year (nearly the same amount) and get free shipping. Amazon also has the ability for some movies to download the movie and watch it later. [Editor’s note: On late 2016 Netflix added the ability to download movies, and watch later, to their latest release. If, like me, you keep your apps updated you should see this feature has been added.] So if you want to hang out at Starbucks or Panera for 20 minutes and download a movie, you could watch it later that day and NOT eat up your data allowance. Of course, Amazon also has the Fire Stick which enables you to project the computer image to your TV. Though the technology should work, I have been hesitant to try it on the road because of bandwidth requirements.
If you have tried it, please, let us know your experience.