Amazon Unbox Video Downloads review: Amazon Unbox Video Downloads

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Amazon Unbox Video Downloads

(Part #: SERVAMAZONUNBOX) Released: 8 Sep 2006
3.5 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

1.5 stars 1 user review

The Good Amazon Unbox offers an easy shopping interface and one-click buying process, as well as a decent selection of movies and television shows. You can purchase or rent movies, and the prices are comparable to those of other online video stores. Progressive downloading lets you watch your selection while it's still downloading. Unbox also has user-friendly support options, and the early problems involving going online without permission as well as uninstalling difficulties have been fixed. It works with TiVo Series 2 and Series 3 boxes.

The Bad Amazon Unbox has no Mac version, and purchased movies can't be burned to DVD for television playback. It works only with Windows-compatible PMC portables, the downloading is slower than with other services, and there's no subscription plan.

The Bottom Line Amazon Unbox has taken its knocks, but it's a strong choice if you own a Windows PMC, or if you don't mind watching movies on your monitor.

7.2 Overall
  • Installation and interface 7.0
  • Features 7.0
  • Performance 8.0
  • Service and support 7.0

Editors' note, October 22, 2008: Amazon Unbox is now Amazon Video On Demand. Many of the features are the same as immediately before the name change, but there have been several updates since the posting of this review. For more information, click here .

Amazon Unbox, the online retailer's video download store, could be the Apple iTunes Store's biggest competition so far. It has the benefit of the Amazon name and the site's many regular shoppers, it uses a site interface we're all familiar with, and it offers a good selection of movies and television shows for rental or purchase.

While the service got off to a rocky start and took plenty of knocks from the press, including

Apple's way around this problem was to create the Apple TV , which lets you wirelessly transfer shows to your television. Amazon's solution was to partner with TiVo, letting TiVo subscribers with Series 2 or Series 3 boxes download video directly to their televisions. CNET's Webware has a complete look at the TiVo experience, so this review will focus on the PC experience.

Amazon Unbox's attractive browser interface makes shopping for downloads as easy as shopping for anything else on the Amazon site.

Users can shop for Unbox titles directly on the Amazon site--look for the Unbox link high on the left side--but you'll need the Unbox downloader software to receive titles. Sorry Mac owners, but Amazon Unbox doesn't love you; the iTunes Store is still the only video-download site that works with Macs and iPods.

Unbox titles are divided into rentals and purchases. (There's no subscription plan, as with Vongo, and there's no streaming content except for previews.) Purchases are generally $1.99 for a TV show and run between $9.99 and $14.99 for a movie, while movie rentals are $3.99. We're not sure how many titles the store has because Amazon won't comment, but it looks comparable to the other stores. It carries most of the major film studios, with Disney as the glaring exception. It also offers an impressive selection of TV studios--seeing that it carries BBC content made our geek heart beat faster, but seeing that we could download Dr. Who episodes from several seasons, including the first, nearly made us faint.

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