What Is The Best Service For Purchasing Digital Movies In 2022?
So I will admit that I am a massive fan of physical media. In most cases, like LPs and CDs, the steaming versions are as good and, in many cases, better. I know, blasphemy! I will turn in my audiophile membership card to my editor today! But with 4K UHD and Blu-ray movies, discs are still king! They have better video and audio content – bar none. But with streaming being so convenient, what is the best service for purchasing digital movies in 2022? Let’s discuss.
Movie Codes Vs. Purchased Copies
So let’s face it, movies are expensive. Almost every UHD or BluRay I have bought in the last two years has come with a digital download. Here is the thing with download codes, you don’t always get to choose what service they are through.
So, I have a complete set of Star Wars 4K discs, which came with digital download codes. Same thing with my Star Trek movie set, download codes. But to my dismay, my Star Wars codes were all redeemed through Google Play, and the Star Trek movies download through Apple. Ugh! So you mean I need two services to see my films? Yup, and if you are in the US, add VUDU to the mix!
So this is where purchased digital copies of films come in. They allow you to choose what platform you use to save and view your movies. And chances are that if you buy a physical copy, you won’t purchase a streaming copy, and vice versa.
So enough chatter; let’s get into the services! Which is the best? Well…
Kaleidescape – The “Money Is No Object” Option
So I want to get this out there. Kaleidescape offers the best digital copy that you can get. Their digital copies are as good as the physical copy, and many will claim better. A 4K UHD disc typically holds between 50-100GB of data, with a 66GB movie being pretty typical. Not the Kaleidescape. Users have reported that the 4K downloads of the same 66GB disc were 103GB.
But, in any case, the 4K Kaleidescape copy is, at minimum, a 1:1 copy of the physical disc. So this means that you are not getting any compression artifacts in your video or audio stream. But don’t get out your wallet just yet. There are some drawbacks to the Kaleidescape ecosystem.
The Kaleidescape ain’t cheap, Hoss. Their website doesn’t list prices, but a quick search tells me that a 6TB Kaleidescape movie server is about $8k without a single movie! Movie price varies from $9.99 to $40 for a single film. And if you want to purchase seasons of your favorite TV shows, you can get those, with pricing in the $19-$50 per season range.
Oh, and if you purchased a copy of a 1080p movie previously and want to upgrade to 4k? Yep, you need to buy another copy of the film. But really, that’s not much different than those who had extensive DVD collections that have since upgraded to Blu-ray and now UHD. Being a movie collector isn’t a cheap hobby!
The Kaleidescape is hard-drive dependent. So, when you run out of storage space, you need to purchase a new hard drive to expand your collection. And you can’t just get an off-the-shelf drive. That’s right! You have to get it from Kaleidescape. Cha-Ching!
In contrast, my Plex Media Server cost me less than $600 for the computer (with a burner) and 16TB of storage. Sure, I have to do all the work in burning my movies. But I can choose the size and quality, and let’s be honest; I can buy a lot of films for the $6k+ I saved!
But, if money is no object, the Kaleidescape is the best service for purchasing digital movies in 2022.
Apple – The “Cost-Effective” Best Option
Ok, so I know that Apple is a love-or-hate proposition for many people. And cards on the table, I have been in the Apple Ecosystem since the iPhone 3GS. So a long time! But there are many reasons I recommend Apple, be it iTunes or Apple TV+, as the best service for purchasing digital movies.
Ok, so it’s a streaming service. So that means that you will not have to worry about how much storage is on your hard drive. Apple TV is a streaming-only service; you can’t download it to local storage. That might be a deal breaker for some, and if you have poor internet speeds (many do), it’s even more of a deal breaker. Plus, some people may stay away from Apple because they don’t give you the option to download YOUR purchased movie.
For me, convenience is king with my streaming services. I have gigabit fiber internet (humblebrag), so bandwidth is not an issue. But I get it if people shy away from Apple for the reasons above.
Because it’s Apple, and they have lots of money, you can be sure that you can find Apple TV+ on most devices. At last count, there is an app for my Shield and LG WebOS. And my daughter’s Google TV dongle and Roku TV interface have it. And, of course, it’s on Apple TV. A quick search confirms that there is almost universal adoption of the Apple platform.
On top of that, you will most likely get HDR and Dolby Vision support, and you will likely get Atmos support with the mainstream boxes. Sometimes it pays to be one of the biggest companies in the world!
Why recommend Apple as the best service for purchasing digital movies in 2022? Quality and free upgrades. That’s right. In my experience, Apple will always provide you with the best copy (audio and video) that your device will handle. Did I mention my Star Trek Blu-rays earlier? They are all 1080p copies with no spatial audio. But my digital copies in Apple all got upgraded to 4k HDR with Atmos at no additional cost to me.
So not only can I stream a copy of my movie. I get a superior copy with 4k HDR and Atmos. Win-win! And that price-to-performance ratio makes Apple the best service for purchasing digital movies in 2022.
And the prices are comparable to every other service. With movies priced from $4.99 to $24.99, it’s cheaper than the disc version, and when they come out with the 8K version, you will probably get that for free as well.
So here is where I am going to be not-so-helpful. I have not had great experiences with Google Play, Amazon, and other movie services. But again, your mileage may vary based on your streaming box and setup.
That said, I struggle with my Google Play movies on my Shield. I don’t get anything past 5.1; most times, I only get 2.1 and have to upmix. Atmos? I wish! But prices are reasonable and match everything out there. So if the app catches up to the title selection, it might become a contender.
Amazon Prime Movies fares better. I can get HDR and Atmos, and prices are comparable to everyone else. Like Apple, Amazon has a lot of money to throw at things, so I am not shocked that they would have better quality. However, to get the best from it, you need an Amazon Fire TV Cube 4k. This may make more sense if you are already in the Amazon ecosystem.
Same with VUDU. They have HDR, Dolby Vision, and Atmos, but it’s only with select streaming boxes. That’s a deal breaker right there.
As I said, owning movies can be expensive. There is no wonder that streaming services like Netflix are so popular. For many, we don’t have the space or desire to have a physical copy of every movie we want to watch, which makes purchasing a digital copy so tempting. You get the convenience of streaming, but you don’t have to worry about Netflix removing the movie from its catalog.
But I don’t want a streaming box that is “best” for each service. I want an app or service that is best for all! For that, I dub thee Apple, as the best service for purchasing digital movies in 2022. Yes, the Kaleidoscape is “the best” service if you want video and audio quality that matches a disc. But I don’t know many people that can afford $8k for just the hardware and then $20+ per movie!
What about you? What service do you use for your digital movie purchases? Tell us in the comments below.