Thanks to Apple TV and Apple's Digital AV Adapter, we have the ability to stream HD-quality video from our iPad to our HDTV. And on the iPad 2 and iPad 3, the HDMI-out supports up to 1080p resolution, so it will look great on the big screen. The only question that remains is which paid streaming service is better, Netflix or Hulu Plus?
Netflix vs Hulu Plus
Netflix and Hulu Plus both offer streaming video for the same price: $7.99 a month, but both services are not created equal. Netflix offers subscription plans that offer movies rentals by mail as well as the streaming option and has a wider variety of movies, while Hulu Plus offers streaming access to television episodes in their current season, so if you missed an episode of Detroit 1-8-7, you can catch it on Hulu Plus.
So which service is better?
The Hulu Plus service has thousands of hours of television from current episodes of shows like Glee, House, Lie to Me and Modern Family to older shows like St. Elsewhere, The Commish and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. This makes it great for catching up on a popular series that you missed, or simply taking a stroll down memory lane by firing up an episode of The A-Team. And while it doesn't have the movie selection of Netflix, it does have a small collection, which Hulu is working to expand.
The iPad interface is very slick, making it easy to find your favorite shows and add them to your queue. It is also quite fast, especially when showing a huge list of television episodes. This is in stark contrast to the Netflix app, which recently streamlined the app by throwing a lot of the functionality in the trash.
Where they do get dinged is in the playback. While Netflix takes full advantage of the Digital AV Adapter, sending full screen video to your HDTV, you'll have to rely on the iPad's display to watch Hulu Plus. You won't even be able to watch on your HDTV via the iPad 2's display mirroring feature, which has been hijacked and disabled by Hulu Plus.
Another issue that some people will take with the Hulu Plus service is the inclusion of commercials in the playback. While Netflix streams full episodes and movies commercial-free, you'll still sit through a half-dozen commercials when enjoying an episode through Hulu Plus. This is the main reason why the app has such a low rating on the app store, but considering the vast amount of content and the limited number of commercials, it won't be a deal-breaker to most people.
But one thing Hulu Plus offers that is not available on Netflix are video clips, so even if they don't have the episode you want to watch, they may have a few small clips of it.
The company that knocked Blockbuster from its perch on top of the video rental world through its mail-order service hit the streaming world in full blast a couple of years ago and hasn't looked back. Netflix has large catalog of movies and television available through its Instant Access service, and when you combine this with their deal with Stars to stream Stars Play, there is always something new to watch.
The Netflix collection centers mainly around movies, with a huge selection available from recent blockbusters to classics like The Odd Couple and High Noon. But they also have a considerable amount of television in their Instant Access collection, and they have made it a priority to add more. But what they don't have access to are the current episodes running on television, which is where Hulu Plus has an advantage.
The Netflix app supports full-screen playback to your HDTV, but other than that feature, it pales in comparison to the Hulu Plus app. In many ways, it looks more like an app for the iPhone than the iPad, with only a limited number of features. It also performs poorly, even on the iPad, and no longer allows you to add to your disc-only queue.
Luckily, there is a way around the Netflix app. For those that prefer the old interface, or who want access to more features like the ability to add to your disc-only queue, you can simply browse to the Netflix website in the Safari browser. If you are in the Instant Access section and want to watch a movie or TV episode, simply touch the play button and it will boot up the Netflix app for playback. And when you are done, it'll boot back into Safari to pick up where you left off.
Of course, neither the app's interface or the website's interface is nearly as slick as Hulu Plus, but Netflix does win hands down in the playback category. It also has access to a large selection of movies, and for those who want to pay a little more, there is the option to receive DVDs or Blu-Ray discs by mail.
Netflix vs Hulu Plus: Who Wins?
For most people, the decision of going with Netflix or Hulu Plus is going to be a matter of choice. If you prefer watching television over movies, Hulu Plus is the clear winner. Not only does it have access to more television, it has access to current episodes.
But while viewing the most current episodes is a nice feature, most of us can do the same through the on-demand feature of our cable provider, or simply setting the series to record on our DVR. If you love movies, Netflix is an easy choice. Not only does it save you the drive to your nearest Red Box, but you also don't have to get out of your PJs to browse through their movie selection.
There is also the option of both. Combining Netflix with Hulu Plus will give you the best selection of movies, the largest collection of streaming television, and access to the most current episodes. It will also only set you back $15.98 a month, which is about the same cost as subscribing to HBO. Or, specific things you want to watch from each service, you could alternate, turning your Hulu Plus off for a few months in favor of Netflix, and then turning off Netflix while you switch to Hulu Plus.