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Netflix vs Hulu Plus: Which Has Better Movie Streaming for the iPad

Netflix vs Hulu – the age old question of which has the better streaming service for the iPad. Well, let’s weigh the pros and cons across a number of categories and see who comes up a winner.


Video Quality

Netflix is taking strides in offering “Super HD” 1080p streams in addition to 3D streams for subscribers with 3D capable televisions. However, availability of a 1080p stream is dependent on the speed of the subscriber’s Internet connection as well as participation in the Open Connect platform at the ISP level.

Alternatively, Hulu Plus subscribers are limited to a maximum of 720p for streaming content. Regarding audio quality, Netflix offers Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 encoding on the majority of content in addition to 7.1 encoding on select content. By comparison, Hulu Plus is limited to stereo sound, despite many network television shows offering 5.1 surround sound during the original broadcast and the Blu-ray disc release.

Winner by a nose: “Netflix”

Volume of Content

Hulu Plus has tons of recent TV shows and a limited selection of older movies.  It’s  heavy on network shows from ABC, NBC, and Fox. The most recent episodes of these shows (and CBS) are already free online.  Hulu Plus does have access to some shows from cable networks, but it is limited.  If you keep up to date on your favorite shows, then a Hulu Plus subscription may be of limited value.

On the flip side, “Netflix” has thousands of shows, movies and specials to choose from.  While Netflix lost content from Starz a couple years ago, the company has aggressively continued to build out the library of television shows in addition to popular films from the past thirty years.

So, it’s easy to see that “Netflix,” being around longer and establishing itself better, really takes the cake here.

Winner: “Netflix”

Original Content

If you had asked me which company won the crown for original content at the end of 2012, I would have said Hulu Plus hands down. Battleground on Hulu Plus was a witty, entertaining political drama, Morgan Spurlock’s A Day In The Life was a solid documentary and even Kevin Smith’s Spoilers had some high points. The only content that Netflix rolled out during 2012 was Lilyhammer, a mildly entertaining drama about a mobster (Steve Van Zandt of The Sopranos) in the witness protection program.

However, the release of Kevin Spacey’s House of Cards has officially vaulted Netflix into first place and the upcoming fourth season of Arrested Development coming in May 2013 will likely solidify Netflix’s reign in the original content category for 2013. Netflix also has Eli Roth’s murder mystery Hemlock Grove and comedy series Orange is the New Black rolling out later in the year. While Hulu will likely continue to launch new shows this year, it’s really tough to beat the lineup that will be available to Netflix subscribers during 2013.

Winner: “Netflix”

Monthly Cost

In order to access the “Netflix” service, you need to be a subscriber. Fortunately, memberships start as low as $9 per month for a one-disc-at-a-time rental service, which also includes streaming services. Currently, we’re paying $12 for a second-tier Blu-Ray rental membership, complete with the ability to stream hundreds of movies and TV shows. That’s a small price to pay for what is essentially a pay TV service. And there are over 20,000 programs to choose from.

“Hulu Plus” may not have that expansive a library, but for ten bucks a month, you’ll certainly get your money’s worth. Full seasons of select shows from ABC, Fox and NBC are available, including “The Office,” “30 Rock,” “American Dad,” “Family Guy” and others. Select films are also available, although no new releases like “Netflix” offers (at least, not yet.) Older shows are also offered on “Hulu Plus,” including “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Ally McBeal.” Overall, no matter which you use, it won’t kill your wallet like, say, a subscription to cable would.

Winner: Tied

Ease of Use

Both “Hulu Plus” and “Netflix” provide touch-screen controls that make them fairly easy to use. Again, depending on your connection speed, sometimes particular segments take a little longer. Other than that, you can touch a scroll bar on the screen to find your favorite point in a film or show, such as skipping right to the final battle in “The Karate Kid Part II” (and skipping the mushy stuff) or going to your favorite sing-alongs in “Glee.” The interfaces are a cinch to scroll through, and it didn’t take long using either program to track down favorites. In this case, “24” on “Hulu Plus” and “Arrested Development” on “Netflix.”

Winner: Tie

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.