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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Amazon Prime now includes free streaming on 5,000 videos



As a gadget person I order a lot of things online, and I find to be a great place to shop with a wide variety of products and aggressive pricing. A few years ago I started using Amazon Prime, a $79-a-year service that includes 2-day shipping on many of Amazon's products and $3.99-per-item overnight shipping when you need it. Since I order a lot of items online, Amazon Prime has saved me a ton of money and at holiday time alone it pays for itself.


Today Amazon sweetened the deal by adding unlimited video streaming of 5,000 movies and TV shows on their Amazon Instant Video service for Prime members at no extra cost. The videos can be watched on a Mac, PC, Roku, TiVo, Logitech Revue or on any of the nearly 200 Internet connected TVs and Blu-ray players on the market. screen_shot_2011-02-22_at_2.30.59_pm.pngThe videos are not current releases so the available content seems similar to the libraries available on some of the other popular streaming services. In a quick perusal I found some great classic there, like "Best In Show," "Amadeus," "Fawlty Towers" and "Soylent Green."

Trying an episode of Fawlty Towers just now, the player gave me a choice to play the video in the browser window, as a small pop-out window or in full-screen mode. Video playback was quick and smooth although at full screen it was a bit pixelated. That was to be expected since Fawlty Towers is an old, analog show. A test with a more current video, the movie "Hairspray," produced much better results at full-screen.


Watching videos on our Vizio Internet-connected TV required me to first register the TV with Amazon Instant Video using a web browser. The Amazon widget on the TV generated a registration code. After logging in to my Amazon account and entering the code, I had to provide a payment method and billing address for the TV. This is used only if you make one-click purchases of streaming content that aren't included in the Amazon Prime library. After completing registration for our TV, a $5 credit was deposited in my Amazon account, intended to entice me to rent a movie, I'm sure.


With the TV registered I instantly was able to access the videos in the Amazon Prime library. I already had started Hairspray on my Mac so I  selected it on the TV to see if it would pick up where I left off. Sure enough, when it loaded I was given an option to start from the beginning or continue from where I stopped. The video took a long time to load, and since I'm on a fast Verizon FIOS connection that was surprising. Once it was rolling, however, it was fine and the quality was outstanding.

At $79 a year for unlimited two-day shipping and now, free access to a library of 5,000 videos, Amazon Prime is a bargain. If you don't think you'll spend more than $79 on shipping charges in a year, however, there are better options. If you want to give the shipping and video service a try, they have a free one-month trial.

[Last modified: Tuesday, February 22, 2011 4:44pm]


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