Newest Review: ... me off, I just realised with this company a little extra vigilance was required. ===Point and Click=== So the process of selecting ti... more
Member Name: Mildew82
Advantages: Cheap, good choice of packages, efficient, good and stable online streaming
Disadvantages: DVDs occasionally damaged, sneakily trying to get you to upgrade, box set discs only 1 at a time
Love films? Hate piracy? Arrrr me hearties, shiver me timbers. Then naturally, as upstanding citizens, we should all go to the cinema to satisfy our movie needs instead of watching illicitly pirated copies of the latest films. Oh yeah, apart from that small fact that it now costs a bomb, probably on average about £10, to have that pleasure of sitting in an uncomfortable seat getting a numb bum watching all the action unfurl on a big screen, not to mention the extortionate prices for refreshments or often being forced to pay extra to watch it all in 3D which just makes you feel slightly ill with a forbidding sense of being fleeced. So what's the solution? How about a company that for a monthly fee will allow you instant online streaming to your computer / TV via a games console or DVDs / games sent straight to your house?
==Lovefilm.com or Netflix?==
The two biggest choices at the moment are Lovefilm.com and Netflix. As it stands, for me Lovefilm.com is currently hands down the one to go with namely because they hold the largest selection of online films, DVDs, Blue-ray DVDs and video games in Britain at 70,000 and growing and Netflix pales in comparison. Sure, the company have had their problems in the past being slated by customers for their aggressive and outright lying door-to-door salesmen with misleading claims about the free trial and how to avoid paying when it ends and claims that the company used shipping delays and other tactics to employ a throttling tactic to lessen the number of "unlimited" DVDs a customer could get each month, but I've never noticed these issues so their troubled past seems to be fully behind them especially as they are now a subsidiary of Amazon.com.
==So, what packages does Lovefilm.com have to offer?==
You have nothing to lose in the beginning as you have the option to dabble with a 30 day trial (though you do have to hand over payment details so if you want to cancel you will need to make a conscious effort to do it in time to avoid being stung with unwanted payments), and to sign up you simply need to provide your address and payment details and choose from any of the available below packages. Then if you wish to continue after the trial ends you simply carry on selecting your titles and the monthly payments will kick in.
1. Starter Kit - offers 2 discs a month via post for £4.89 or £5.89 including games.
2. Instant Streaming - offers only access to the 5,500 titles available for online streaming and no access to the pay-per view titles for £4.99.
3. By Post - offers a maximum of only 3 titles a month sent by post, 1 disc at a time for £5.99.
4. Have it all - offers unlimited Instant Streaming and DVDs/Blue-rays by post with the rate-card of £7.99 for 1-disc at a time, £9.99 for 2-discs at a time and £13.27 for 3-discs at a time.
5. Have it all plus games - the same as "Have it all" but also allowing access to the video game library with a rate-card of £11.22 for 2 discs at a time and £14.99 for 3-discs at a time.
Since I'm not a big gamer I opted for the "Have it all" package at two discs a time for the miserly sum of £9.99 a month, although to change your package midstream simply go to your Account and click "change package" - easy peasy lemon squeezy. Basically, the way I saw it with my chosen package was by the time I'd watched my second film it was already cheaper than going to the cinema and I wouldn't even need to move from my armchair, especially since I'd trained the cat to collect the post, open the envelope and stick the disc in the DVD player for me. There is also the option to pre-pay for discounts - 3 months gives you a 5% saving, 6 months a 10% saving and 1 year a 15% saving, which I decided to go for after my free trial ended which works out at £101.90 at the moment. One sneaky thing that happened was during my 1 year pre-paid period the cads "on a special offer" told me that for no extra cost I'd be now receiving three discs at a time instead of two. Happy days. When my 1 year was up and I defaulted back to monthly payments as I hadn't pre-paid straight away I suddenly discovered that they'd upgraded my account to the next level up without me realising so I'd been paying £13.27 instead of £9.99. $!#@. I quickly changed back to my original package but discovered it was in the small print so there was nothing I could do about it. Double $!#@. Still, it wasn't enough to put me off, I just realised with this company a little extra vigilance was required.
===Point and Click===
So the process of selecting titles is very simple, simply go to lovefilm.com and sign in to your account and then just browse through their collection. You can use their search engine to find a specific title, actor or director; hunt through their collection divided by genre, cast, directors, format, language, production year, certificate, charts and Lovefilm.com's very own hot picks or select from "Collections" e.g. Warner Films, Easy Watching, Based on a true story etc. As well as films and games you can pick TV shows and box sets, and I am currently watching "The Killing I" and the only downside to box sets is they will only release on disc at a time so you will have to wait several days in between receiving discs which is bad for something as addictive as "The Killing" but is a hell of a lot cheaper than buying it yourself. There is also a nice section on the website with movie reviews, interviews, and feature articles for movie buffs which may help you decide what films to pick. Once you've selected your chosen title, simply click on it to see a fairly comprehensive description of the film/game along with trailers and peer reviews /ratings and then you have the option to click "Rent By Post" which will add it to your Rental List or if the title isn't yet available you can select "Reserve By Post" which will add it to a queue and automatically move it to your rental list when it does become available.
What online company wouldn't be complete without a phone app? Well the iPhone App is also very easy to use and is in some ways easier than the website. Here you have a search tab, a Film and TV genre search, a Games search and then you can look at your rental list. Much like the website clicking on the title brings up the description and a trailer if available, plus peer reviews and ratings. With the click of an "Add" button the title can be instantly added to your rental list. But, the dangers of doing this via a phone is with the swipe of a finger you can inadvertently select films without even realising, which is what I suspect happened when I had an inexplicable influx of Julia Stiles films that I certainly hadn't selected but must have come up on a recommendations display. I watched them anyway...kinda wish I hadn't.
===Get your priorities straight===
You also have the option to change the priority of your title if you build yourself up a massive list to ensure the speedy arrival of titles you really want to see rather than receiving yout titles randomly which is as simple as hopping in to your rental list, spotting your title in the list which is by default set to Normal and switching the priority. There should by Low, Normal and High priorities but they company have recently admitted to a small balls-up in the removal of the low priority due to consumer feedback which they should be re-implementing again soon but currently only Normal and High are available.
===Play the waiting game===
Then all you have to do is sit back and wait for your DVDs / games to arrive. The discs arrive through the post in a fairly padded cardboard envelope with each disc inside a protective sleeve, and this envelope also doubles as a return envelope via freepost so it is as simple as resealing the envelope once you've finished with the discs and sending them back (you need only send one back if you want) at your earliest convenience. Also, you don't need to reuse their envelope as their return address is freepost so any envelope will do, or you can request replacement envelopes if something tragic happens to your current one like your dog eating it. A nice element is there is no restriction on how long you keep a disc at home, as long as you are still a customer you can keep it ad infinitum. The disc turnaround in my experience has always been excellent, once I post my disc(s) back, practically without fail, two days later (or as the Royal Mail schedule will allow over weekends) my next batch arrives so I really have no complaints with their service in this respect.
Here is where my first complaint arises, often, but to be honest with the number of greasy fingers handling each disc it's not all that surprising, the quality and playability of each disc is not always top notch. You could be fully engrossed in Twilight or a Justin Bieber concert when suddenly the disc freezes, starts to jump or blows up your DVD player. Usually, the discs are just dirty and a quick clean will remedy the situation, but sometimes they are badly scratched, in which case you have to send the disc back ticking a box on the envelope to indicate the poor condition along with going to your account and specifying that the disc was buggered so they know to remove it from their collection, and will send you a replacement ASAP. This has only happened to me once in many years of use so isn't too bad and the replacement was speedy so I wasn't too miffed. Also, if you yourself destroy the disc, say in an unfortunate smelting accident, and need to pay, stupidly sent the wrong disc back, have not received your next batch in a timely fashion, received the wrong disc or a whole other assortment of problems arise you can also inform Lovefilm.com via your account in a radio button list, who will then hopefully endeavour to quickly resolve the issue.
===Islands in the stream===
So, if you chose instant streaming as part of your package you can avoid all this damaged disc and waiting malarkey and get straight to watching your films whenever the whim takes you. Obviously, the downside is that there are only about 5,500 currently available selections compared to the full availability via post, but if you don't have anything specific in mind this is ideal for watching a spontaneous film. You can easily watch via your computer online (as long as you have a sensible internet connection) by selecting your title and pressing play on the viewing box which will set the film running almost instantly. Your only options are to adjust the volume, make the film pop out or watch full screen and also there is a time bar which allows you to skip forward through the film if you want, which is often met with a few seconds of buffering, but nothing too disruptive. The streaming is very smooth, but often the quality of picture can drop a little and become quite pixelated so you certainly won't be getting the same quality as say a Blue-ray DVD in high definition.
Alternatively, you can stream any of these 5,500 films through your games console and other devices (including the Kindle Fire HD, iPad, Xbox 360, Playstation 3, Nintendo Wii, and any TV, Blue-ray player, Home cinema systems or Set top box with internet capability) to watch your films in a more convenient environment than a rubbish laptop, for example. I've tried this on my Wii (I assume all other devices are just aqs simple) which was incredibly easy to set up, you simply go to the Wii shop, download the Lovefilm software for 0 points, then open up Lovefilm on your Wii, sign in, and then you can select films in much the same way as the website or phone App. Again there is very little delay, with only a hint of buffering when skipping and the picture quality is very watchable, if again not quite the quality you'd expect from a DVD or Blue-ray disc.
I'm very happy with Lovefilm.com, despite their slightly dodgy ways when it comes to trying to entice you to upgrade your package, and I find their service to be efficient, even if the quality of the DVDs is occasionally questionable, and the service to be very economical (as long as you yourself make it worth your while by actually renting a good number of films / games each month) when compared to how much you would spend visiting the cinema or purchasing the DVDs / games yourself. Searching for films and games is easy via both the website or phone app, and only occasionally will a film you're after be unavailable which is a testament to how big their collection is. So, if you're a regular film watcher and tired of all the money you have to spend on the cinema then Lovefilm.com is a great alternative that makes for a cheap and convenient way to watch your movies by barely having to lift a finger with more diversity than movie channels. At the very least, why not give the free trial a go - you've got nothing to lose.
Summary: A cheap, hassle free way to rent or stream films, TV shows and games