Download the latest flicks from your couch
The Australian iTunes Store has recently been updated to include a variety of movie downloads, a service previously only available in the US, the UK and Canada. Available as rentals and purchases, these movies are offered at sensible prices and at surprisingly reasonable quality levels. Overall the system works well — especially if you’re using an Apple TV.
- Great picture quality, HD options offered, incredibly simple to use
- Might strain download limits, rentals only last two days once played, Apple TV needed for HD options
If you've got a large enough download limit and enough disposable income, Apple's iTunes Movies service provides the option to rent and purchase movies in standard or high definition. It's easy to use and has only minor drawbacks.
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There’s a decent selection of movies on offer — around 700 according to Apple, although this will constantly swell with new additions. Titles are released with rough parity to DVD releases, with the teen comedy Juno available on the iTunes Store only a week after the film’s DVD release.
Videos can be rented at prices ranging from $3.99 for older titles to $5.99 for newer releases. Movies are also available for outright purchase, with prices starting from $9.99 and ranging up to $24.99 for new titles.
Although rental copies can be downloaded up to 30 days after payment, there is a catch — once the movie has started playing for the first time, it’s only valid for the next 48 hours. We can foresee this being an issue if you’ve got a slow Internet connection and accidentally start streaming the file as the download begins. This is a far-fetched scenario, however, and one that’s unlikely to affect most users.
File sizes for standard-definition movies at 640x480 pixel resolution — the typical format available on a PC or Mac — range from around 1 to 1.5 gigabytes. On an ADSL2+ connection these downloaded at fantastic speeds, with three feature-length films completing within half an hour. It’s important to take note of the fact that this service will chew through your download limit if you’re not careful — Australian ISPs are notoriously stingy.
Another upside to the integrated purchasing and viewing platform is that once the movie has been purchased and starts downloading, it’s unnecessary to wait for the complete movie to download. This effectively meant we were able to purchase a movie and, after a few minutes’ wait, watch it through completely while downloading proceeded in the background.
Apple TV owners are in luck: when browsing via one of these media streamers — conceivably from the comfort of your couch — the option is available to download movies in 720p high definition for a mere $1 extra. There are around 100 of these movies available on the service. Unfortunately, you can't download HD content if you aren't using an Apple TV.
The jump to HD content obviously means download sizes are larger, but there’s an appreciable jump in quality as well, making the service fantastic for users who want high-definition content but lack a Blu-ray player.
Overall, picture quality is surprisingly good. There are no compression artefacts visible, which is usually our main gripe with downloadable video content.
Especially when you’re using an Apple TV, the system works well. Download speeds are fast — assuming you’ve got a decent Internet connection and a large enough download limit — and the picture and sound quality are great. Apple’s latest foray is a great option if you’re happy to pay the price for conveniently delivered content.
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