Introduction and Design
Australia has always been late to the party with digital entertainment. iTunes took years to launch down here, we still don’t get Amazon Instant Prime and Netflix is only just getting around to setting up shop.
But in those gaps between major international tech companies expanding Down Under, there has been a number of local startups hellbent on plugging the gap. In the media streaming space, that startup was Quickflix.
Like Netflix in the US, Quickflix began its life as a postal DVD service, but with the rise of broadband penetration across the country, made the shift into digital streaming.
With some financial backing from HBO, things looked promising for Quickflix for a while. But as history has shown us, the service failed to capture the imaginations of Australians, with the company struggling financially, and HBO selling its stake in the company to Channel 9.
In fact, things have been so tough that Quickflix CEO Stephen Langsford asked customers to buy shares in the company last year.
But while financially things haven’t looked too great for the streaming service, the fact is that Quickflix still exists in the Australian market. With the arrival of Stan and Presto entertainment this year, and the impending launch of Netflix, things are going to get much more competitive.
So how does Quickflix stack up in the current market? We’ve spent some time up close and personal with the service to see if it’s worth the price of entry.
Setting up Quickflix
Getting yourself connected to a Quickflix account isn’t especially difficult. The biggest challenge you’ll face is deciding whether you want to exclusively stream video content for $9.99 a month, or if you want to sign up for the company’s mail-order DVD delivery service too.
If physical media is still your thing, there are a couple of pricing tiers: 1 DVD or Blu-ray rented at a time, with unlimited exchanges and streaming thrown in starts at $19.99 a month, while two discs at a time plus streaming boosts the cost to $29.99 a month. Three discs at a time with streaming is $36.99.
There’s also a disc-subscription offering without the streaming service thrown in, although if that’s what you’re after, we’re not sure why you’d be reading this review.
Unlike Stan and Presto, Quickflix only offers a two week trial period to get started on the service with, as opposed to the 30 day trial its rivals offer.
We set up our account via the web portal, and it was as easy as you would hope it to be, requiring some contact details and a valid credit card.
Once your account is activated, it’s a case of getting the service running on your device of choice. Perhaps this here is the biggest advantage Quickflix has in the Australian market – because it’s been around for a while, it’s managed to get itself onto lots of different devices.
Whether it’s a PC or Mac, a Smart TV from any number of manufacturers, a Sony or Microsoft games console like the PS4 or Xbox One, or a tablet or phone running iOS or Android, chances are you can get the Quickflix app running.
Each account can stream to six devices too, so that massive lineup of compatible hardware is pretty easy to line up.
The catch is that not all apps are made equal. PC and Mac users, for example, are required to download Silverlight to make the service work, and even when they do, they can still only stream in Standard Definition.
If you want to stream high definition, you’re going to need to access Quickflix via a Samsung, LG or Panasonic Smart TV, a relevant games console or a Samsung or Android tablet. Web access, iOS devices and Windows Phone are all SD only.
As a small consolation, Quickflix also offers Chromecast support, which does support HD streaming, so there’s a pretty simple workaround. Of course, you need to find content offered in HD, and that’s another story altogether.
Because Quickflix isn’t a pure subscription service – it also offers more recent TV and movie content for rent or purchase outright – navigating the collection can be a slightly confusing journey, depending on what platform you access the service from.
The web portal is fairly simple – there’s a drop down option for subscription TV and a separate one for subscription movies. If you browse all TV or movies, premium content is labelled with a small ‘Premium’ badge.
Accessing via the iOS app offers the same Premium badge, but it’s difficult to see on the smaller iPhone screen. There’s also no way to browse exclusively by subscription service, which seems somewhat ridiculous.
When you select the TV or Movie option, you are greeted by a long grid of content, with no rhyme or reason behind what you can watch as part of your package. There is a Genre drop down menu at the top of the page, but it’s unreliable at best – selecting Comedy within the TV shows menu, for example, fails to give any indication that Quickflix hosts all seasons of Larry David’s Curb Your Enthusiasm.
Things on the consoles are slightly clearer, with navigation directed through either TV Shows, Movies or Premium TV and Premium Movies.
Discovering content is nowhere near as intuitive as rival services like Netflix and Stan though. The recommendation engine shows at least as much premium content as subscription content, while browsing via category can easily miss a show you want to find.
On the upside, browsing via most devices is quick – there’s little delay when selecting sub-menus and scrolling through the available options.
Each title has a good amount of synopsis info as well, so you can choose what to watch with few issues.
But ultimately, compared to the newer streaming options on the market, Quickflix offers little incentive to choose it over Stan, or even Presto.
Quality, Content and Verdict
Quality and Experience
If you like your video streams in gorgeous high definition, Quicklfix has kinda sorta got you covered. Well, more exposed than covered, really. I guess we’re trying to say that HD is at least an option on Quickflix. Sometimes.
Essentially, if you want HD streaming, you need to access the service via a smart TV or games console. You can have a high-end PC with a 4K monitor, but you’ll only be able to watch Quickflix subscription programming in SD, because that’s all they allow.
Got a shiny new iPad Air 2 with Retina Display? SD only for you.
HD is an option for games consoles like the PS4 and Smart TVs, but it’s only offered on a title-by-title basis. Where Stan offers HD as an option on almost anything, Quickflix’s HD offering is few and far between.
There’s no easy way to tell what’s offered in HD either. Browsing through the collection on the PS4 required manually opening each title to see if there was an HD option. It took five attempts before we found an HD movie (UltraViolet, for those playing at home).
Perhaps most critical is that movies on offer in HD on rival platforms like Stan are only in SD on Quickflix. The original Robocop, for example, has an HD option on Stan, but is stuck to SD on the big screen through Quickflix.
While the HD quality of the film on Stan doesn’t rival the HD quality of more recent films, the fact is that when you’re streaming an SD movie to a 65-inch 4K TV like we did while testing Quickflix, it looks pretty crappy.
Disappointingly, the problems with Quickflix don’t end there. While testing using the PS4 app, we struggled to actually stream anything at all.
Admittedly our test connection is far from the best, but it’s a connection that hasn’t struggled beaming Netflix through a VPN, or iTunes streaming on an Apple TV. But trying to watch a movie on Quickflix left it motionless.
The user interface on the PS4 is also questionable. Not only are controls mapped to different buttons than pretty much every other service, but once you activate the playback, there’s no response until the show starts to play.
So if you press play, you may have to wait a couple of minutes with the menu telling you to press play up on the screen, leaving you unsure about whether you actually pressed the button, or whether the command got through.
The iOS playback was significantly faster, as was the web playback, so it could just be the way that the PS4 accesses the video files, but suffice to say we got no satisfaction from trying to access the service through the games console.
Of course, platform is only part of the appeal when it comes to a media streaming service. More important is the lineup of content on offer – that is, after all, what you pay for.
While the lineup is a constantly changing and evolving beast, during our testing timeframe Quickflix had 485 movies and 413 TV seasons on offer through its subscription service, not including premium content.
The movie lineup generally consists of older films, and there are plenty of classics available. The Back to the Future trilogy, Batman Begins, and the Tobey Maguire Spider-Man films are all available, for instance.
But outside of documentaries and little-known Australian features, the most recent Hollywood film hails from 2008 (We Own the Night, starring Marky Mark and Joaquin Phoenix, for those playing at home).
Compare this to Presto (which is currently offering the likes of Captain America 2 and Chef from 2014) and there’s little in the lineup that really makes Quickflix an essential service.
On the TV front, Quickflix does offer older HBO series as part of the package. While Presto also offers shows like The Sopranos, Quickflix does have Curb Your Enthusiasm all to its own at the moment. Whether that’s enough of a selling point is up to you.
It’s worth noting that more recent HBO shows like The Newsroom are available on Presto, but are a premium series on Quickflix.
While there are definitely programs that Quickflix offers its competitors don’t, overall the lineup seems lacking compared to Presto and Stan. And with Netflix launching with a wide range of (excellent) original content, it’s hard to see Quickflix ever catch up to its competitors.
Australians have long been clamouring for affordable, easy movie streaming services in Australia, and they are finally getting their wish en masse. The streaming market is getting super competitive, and despite its history as the longest running Australian streaming service, Quickflix is frankly struggling to keep up.
With the impending arrival of Netflix, things are only going to get harder for Quickflix. On almost every level Quickflix is out-performed by its competitors, which makes it incredibly hard to recommend.
Having been around for a while, Quickflix does have the jump on Presto and Stan in terms of supported devices. Being able to plug in your PS4 or Smart TV and know you don’t need to use a Chromecast or Airplay to watch content on a big TV is a hugely understated advantage.
Of course, when Netflix launches, it’s safe to assume that the geo-restrictions for its console and Smart TV apps will be lifted too, negating Quickflix’s advantage.
Fundamentally, Quickflix’s biggest challenge is content. The stuff it offers is older, lower quality and just not as interesting as the content being served by Presto, Stan and Netflix.
But it’s also a quality issue. The ability to stream HD should be universal across all apps, not just some devices, especially given the high-res screens we’re seeing on tablets and PCs these days.
The arrival of Stan and Presto changed the game, and so far, Quickflix just hasn’t been able to keep up. Given Netflix’s arrival is imminent, it’s hard to see any circumstance where the original Aussie streaming service manages to survive.
For the asking price of $10 a month, you are much better placed pointing your money at Stan or even paying a bit more for Presto. The content is better, the service is robust and there’s a longer trial period to enjoy.
Honestly, Quickflix is just impossible to recommend.
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