zachleat’s Ugly Mug

Zach Leatherman

Online Movie Rental Review – Amazon Unbox

25 January 2008Read this in about 3 minutes.

Warning

This article is fairly old and probably contains information that is no longer relevant. Read with care!

Renting movies online. Steve Jobs was hilariously excited about his new Apple TV product and being able to rent movies online and stream them directly to your television. So, with all this movie-watching titillation, I decided to check out if the hubbub was actually worthy of my attention. Turns out, not so much.

Prior to deciding which movie rental service to use, I googled to find the main competitors. Apparently they are:

As of right now, I am not concerned with playing these movies on my television or any portable device. All I want to do is save myself a trip to the video store. Upon going to the CinemaNow and Movielink websites, they were both advertising the movie I wanted to rent on their home pages: Bourne Ultimatum. iTunes Movies didn’t even have the title — it would appear that they’re severely lacking in library quantity right now. But after a little bit more review reading, I finally found Amazon Unbox. Of course, I gravitated towards this service since I already had a consumer relationship with Amazon, and don’t want to spread my credit information all over the web. And it appeared that they had what I needed — the Bourne Ultimatum, the PC viewing experience, and an non-exorbitant price tag, at $3.99. More than ideal, but tonight I considered the trade off between not having to leave my house and letting Amazon use my bandwidth fair enough (although in a normal state, I would not consider $3.99 to be a fair price when the rental price is the same at the brick and mortar store, which should by all means include the cost of the building and the purchase of the actual DVD title I was carrying out of the store).

So, considering my past dealings with Amazon, I went with their service. They already had all my information and renting the DVD was almost too easy (I don’t like the one click purchasing). To my surprise and disappointment, however, I have yet to start watching my movie 35 minutes after renting it. That’s, in fact, why I am here writing this review. I’m killing time. I realized upon launching the client is that it requires a download time of 90 minutes at 240 KB/s (average)! What??? What year is this? That’s almost 1.2 GB of movie! This isn’t P2P, this is an actual product that I spent money on. CinemaNow, MovieLink, and iTunes movies all claim to have pseudo-instant-play, which allows you to start watching the movie immediately after purchase (with a little bit of buffering, of course). Even Netflix has pseudo-instant-play, with it’s online viewable library of pre-1990′s classics (and not much else – let me tell you; Netflix definitely wants you to rent their DVDs in the mail, their online library is pathetic).

So, if you’re sitting at home by yourself, with at least $4 on your credit card, a broadband internet connection at your fingertips, Windows XP or Vista on your computer browsing with Internet Explorer and the willingness to download and install a proprietary client, and you don’t mind giving away your dignity and any self respect you have going against the ideals of capitalism and the reward a good product should receive by creating usable and non-eye-gougable value for the consumer in the form of a good trade off between hard earned money and the warm friendly glow of an entertaining movie, I would say that renting movies online is a great way to spend an evening. However, if you’re capable of sensing the least amount of dripping sarcasm from a well intentioned but entirely too wordy sentence, you’d be like me and wish you’d saved your money, because I still have 30 minutes to wait until my damn movie starts.

Say hello on and GitHub.

Let my Feed sit idle in your RSS Reader.

Zach Leatherman is a Professional Front End Engineer. He loves building for the web and has been writing here since 2007.

He enjoys spending time with his beautiful wife Traci and their two Great Danes, Roxie and Ella. They also have a cat, a rabbit, goldfish, and usually one or more tarantulas. Read more »