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Aug 2016

Video Streaming

Streaming is a way of watching films and TV via the internet. Although traditionally done on a PC or laptop, you can watch on your normal TV, games console, smartphone or tablet. As long as your broadband is fast enough, why buy the latest Blu-rays or box-sets when you can have them streamed to you instantly. But with so many streaming services available, which should you choose?

Netflix offers more than 3,000 movies and TV shows, with several series, such as House of Cards, being exclusive to Netflix itself. Film-wise, it is mainly back catalogue stuff. If you have a 4K TV, Netflix has a selection of TV shows and movies to watch in this resolution. The Basic Plan (watch on 1 screen, Standard Definition) costs £5.99 a month; £7.49 for the Standard Plan (watch on 2 screens, full HD) and £8.99 for the Premium plan (watch on 4 screens, Ultra High Definition). The first month is free.

Amazon Prime Instant Video is part of a brilliant package – Amazon Prime. For a £79/year subscription you get the full Amazon Prime Instant Video service (members can watch thousands of movies and TV shows at no additional cost), music-streaming, free delivery on on-line purchases, unlimited cloud-based photo storage and a load of books on the Kindle store too. Subscription to Amazon Prime Instant Video alone (a more limited selection of content) costs £5.99 per month. If you don’t want to subscribe at all, it is still possible to rent and buy content - you just pay per film. Prices vary - from £3.49 (SD) and £4.49 (HD) for rental and £9.99 (SD) and £13.99 (HD) to purchase. Amazon, like Netflix, has exclusives, such as the new Jeremy Clarkson car TV show (coming soon).

Now TV is a service offered by Sky for those without a satellite dish or who want something more flexible than a conventional TV package. If it's movies you're after, you certainly can't get much better for the price as it offers 800+ films and up to 16 new ones each month. The picture quality, however, is not good. There are various pricing structures to choose from depending on which package best suits your needs.

Google Play is an Android app that allows you rent movies to stream or download via a web page, Android phone or Android tablet. The app is free and movie rentals start at £1.49. Renting a film is simple: you log in to your Google account which has either credit or a credit card attached, then you just click on Rent and the movie is yours. You have 30 days after making a purchase to watch rented movies. Once you start watching you have 48 hours to finish watching the film although you can watch the film multiple times throughout that period.

Why PC Gaming is the best

I’ve been playing video games since the early 1980’s and I’ve had almost every console that Sony, Nintendo or anyone else has ever made. However, for me, nothing can beat gaming on a PC. Here are some of my reasons why:
  • Cost
A fairly decent PC that’s comparable in quality to the latest consoles will set you back about £500. OK, so that’s about £150 more than the latest PlayStation however not only are most PC games about £20 - £30 cheaper to buy on release than PlayStation or Xbox games, you can also get big savings throughout the year in sales from Steam, EA or G2A. In addition, the online site “humble bundle” regularly offers great deals on PC games and there’s an abundance of free-to-play games, from first person shooters such as Team Fortress 2, Flight Simulators like War Thunder and the biggest ones such as League of Legends.
  • Backward Compatibility
PCs are completely backwards compatible with older games, and with sites like GOG you can always have another crack at a vintage game, something that the latest generation of consoles from Sony & Microsoft can’t offer.
  • Upgradability
PCs are infinitely upgradable meaning that games can look amazing graphically. The latest generation of consoles struggles with displaying a full HD picture in lots of games, something PC’s have been doing for years. A relatively standard desktop from the Windows 7 era can play most games purely with the addition of a graphics card for about £100.
  • Social Gaming
Compared to console sales, there are 27 million daily players of League of Legends and about 7.5 million playing at any given moment, and best of all, it’s free to play! Another big boy in PC gaming is World of Warcraft, which has been running for 10 years now and boasts 10.3 million subscribers.
  • Virtual Reality
The biggest thing to hit PC gaming in 20 years landed this spring and it’s called Virtual Reality. Two companies, Oculus (owned by Facebook) and HTC, have released devices which look like a cross between a ski mask and a mobile phone. The Oculus Rift and HTC Vive are both in fact ridiculously clever pieces of kit that, once strapped to your face, can fool your brain into thinking that you’re actually active within a game, ie from flying a spaceship to diving underwater with blue whales. They track your head movements too so that when you lean to the left or turn right, it does too. They are both amazing and pretty realistic.