Mid-Week Poll: Best Way to Watch Movies on a Portable Device

While the home theater purists out there will balk at the notion of ever watching a movie on a phone or tablet, the fact of the matter is that portable viewing is a rapidly growing market. The home video studios have attempted to respond to this demand by bundling Digital Copies or UltraViolet codes with your DVD and Blu-ray purchases. But what’s really the best method to get a movie onto your portable device? Do you prefer to download or stream?

This week’s poll was inspired by an interesting reader email that we received in response to one of our Blu-ray reviews:

The “bad egg” you forgot to mention is that there is no digital copy for those of us that use iTunes instead of the ROTTEN CRAPPY service known as Ultraviolet. I used to buy DVDs every week and this Ultraviolet crap has RUINED my rights and experience. It is such a scam. I should be able to watch my “digital copy” how I choose, when I’VE PAID FOR IT. Not forced to watch it from some WiFi cloud………!!! PLEASE STAND UP FOR US OUT HERE over this issue….

I can’t say that I’m invested enough in this issue to get quite that upset over it, but I can certainly see the benefits of a Digital Copy over UltraViolet, at least when it comes to portable viewing. I’d much rather have a copy of the movie that can be downloaded onto my phone, than be forced to rely on streaming from the cloud. I tend to watch movies on my phone during my daily commute. There’s no WiFi on my subway, and 4G is terribly unreliable when the train is underground. Streaming is a non-starter in that situation. People traveling by plane are likely to have the same issue.

Unfortunately, I loathe using iTunes, and I find the expiration dates on most Digital Copies to be infuriating. I’ve pretty much given up on the Digital Copies bundled with my Blu-ray purchases. I’m much more likely to just rip a movie from my old DVD collection, which mostly goes unwatched in my home theater otherwise. (The Library of Congress can go screw itself if it wants to call me a criminal for doing that.)

How do you do it? You can vote for multiple options in the poll if you’d like.

What's the Best Way to Watch Movies on a Portable Device?

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Oh, and before some smart alec finds it necessary to link to David Lynch’s famous rant about watching movies on a phone, I defy any of you to watch his ‘Inland Empire’ on a screen larger than four inches. The damn thing is unwatchable at any size beyond that.


  1. Alex

    Definitely ripping, particularly since I finally started ripping Blu-rays. The SD Digital Copies are painful on a Retina-display iPad, but a 720p rip of a Blu-ray (gotta save some space, memory ain’t cheap) looks perfectly fine on the train in the morning.

  2. Annonymous

    This depends. Ultraviolet is handy because it links up with my Vudu account, but sadly, most studios do not bother to give you access to the HD version in Ultraviolet.

    I have unlimeted 4G on my phone, but Vudu doesn’t work on there, and there are times of day that the network gets bogged down. I use it mainly for watching episodes of tv shows on Netflix.

    As for my tablet, I normally hit the torrent sites. If the disc includes a DVD copy, I may rip it myself, but ripping Blu-Rays is space-intensive and time-intensive. I normally use my tablet at work on Sundays when nothing is going on and I am pretty much babysitting – keeping the chairs warm. There is no 3G or 4G service on the tablet (and even if it did, the only companies that get service in my area is Verizon and MetroPCS – not sure why), and the wifi is extreamely restricted. It takes about 20 minutes to download a DVD rip, about an hour to download a 720p rip (unless its a tv show, then cut that time in half or a quarter – a 25 minute show can download in about 5 minutes). A DVD takes about 30 minutes to an hour to rip, then about another hour or two to convert it. The only software I know for ripping Blu-Rays cost $50 after the 30 day trial, takes like 1-2 hours to rip the disc, then like 2-10 hours (depending on several variables) to convert.

    So yeah, I end up downloading copies of movies I own from torrent sites just because its the easiest way to get a file onto my tablet. Somehow I seriously doubt that the studios will ever put a 720p unencrypted mp4 file on a disc. What I would go with is an Android app that would just connect to the Internet once after I install it to authorize the device, then I could just copy over an encrypted file from the disc that would play on my tablet without needing me to reconnect – because the device has already been authorized. I don’t want, and cannot have, something that would require me to connect to the internet every time I go to open up a file.

    • Alex

      So, then, do you refuse to watch movies on airplanes? Those little screens in the back of the seat in front of you aren’t all that much bigger than a phone (and are much poorer quality, usually)?

      I totally understand if you say you exclusively read books on airplanes. I’m just curious. “Never” is such a strong word.

      • Annonymous

        They show movies in Airplanes? j/k Most of the planes I fly don’t have screens. With the exception of my flight to Europe, no flight has ever been over two hours in length.

  3. Drew

    I’m with Shannon. I also have to give the David Lynch answer. I can’t even fathom the idea of watching a movie on a F@&%#%G phone or a F@&%#%G tablet. It will NEVER happen!

  4. Dan

    Ultraviolet does not HAVE to be streamed via the cloud.

    Ultraviolet, synchs up with the flixter app, There, you can either choose to stream via the cloud or download a copy within the app. So you do not need a 3g 4g or wyfy connection to watch the movie.

    I know this because every-time I crap at work I bring a little watching material.

    I get sick of people saying that you have to stream it, this is imply not true. Do the research.

    • William Henley

      Maybe it would be handy if, when you go to the Ultraviolet site, they actually would tell you what all supports Ultraviolet. It would also be nice if I didn’t have to create logins with the studios to redeem an Ultraviolet code.

      Are you refering to the “flixster” app? That’s weird, I have that app installed, I didn’t know it could do that. I am going to play with it now.

    • William Henley

      NICE, got it working! What surprised me is that it pulled down my entire Vudu collection, all the discs that I took to WalMart and did the disc to Vudu thing, as well as my Ultraviolet movies. I just pulled up Dune.

      Thanks for the tip. I had no idea, and I have had this app for two years!

      • Dan

        Your welcome! When it first came out all you could do is stream the movie, but they added the download function a couple months later. And because it pulls the VUDU movies in as well, I don’t mind the ultraviolet code.

        I get so pissed when I read the Amazon reviews and people rate it one star because of the UV code and complain that its not a real digital copy because you have to stream it. So forgive me if I come acrossed like a jack ass.

        • William Henley

          Well, I just came up with an annoyance this weekend when I tried to install Flixster on my tablet – it won’t run on a rooted device. My tablet came rooted from the manufactoror, and there is no way to “un”root it. So I guess that means that I am stuck watching Ultraviolet on my phone.

  5. Drew

    Alex, I don’t refuse to watch movies on airplanes, but I don’t really invest much attention to them, either. Whenever I travel for work, I either read, or sleep during the flight.

    I have NEVER, and I will NEVER watch a movie on a phone or tablet. I agree that it’s a strong word, and that’s why I used it. The idea is borderline offensive to me. It’s just not how films were intended to ever be watched.

    • Alex

      I totally get what you’re saying. I’m more just curious as to the reasoning (not meaning to be offensive in any way). Is it the screen size that’s the problem? The audio? The fact that you may not be seated comfortably in a more focused environment (i.e. you’re on the go, not sitting down to watch the film at hand)?

      The reason I ask is because until I was about 7, we had a 10″ black and white TV. It’s actually the way that I saw the first two Indiana Jones movies and all three Star Wars movies. When I reflect on it, that 10″ screen wasn’t much larger than an iPad screen is today, and was certainly poorer quality, and yet my love for those movies has permeated my entire life.

      I agree that ideally films are meant to be seen on the big screen in a darkened theater with an animated and receptive crowd. We may be coming closer that standard at home, but realistically we’ve been living with compromises to the ideal for majority of most of our lives. And honestly, if it’s a great movie, I’m okay with that.

  6. Nick McMahan

    the only issue i have with flixster is that it takes forever to update my collection, like if i want to watch something digitally and i redeem the code i can pretty much guarantee myself that i’m not watching it that day

  7. Drew

    Alex, while I agree that most people have been making sacrifices, to watch our favorite films, for many years, I would argue that we should all stop doing that now. Especially a community like the one that frequents HDD.

    I guess I was spoiled, growing up. The smallest television that we ever had was 32″. However, this discussion has less to do with quality, than it does with principle. I’m not trying to convince you that the quality of our televisions was better than that which we see on our phones, currently. I simply believe that film is not an artistic medium that was ever meant to be viewed on something like a phone.

    When we grew up watching many beloved films on our parents old television sets, at least w e were viewing them on a display that represented the best possible way to watch them at home, at that particular point in history. Which is how I believe they should be watched at home now.

    For my favorite films, and films that I believe to require the absolute best audio quality available, I will only watch them in my primary HT, on my projector, with my 11.1 setup. Out of convenience, lesser films, or films that might not require the best possible audio quality, are watched in my secondary HT. The only other way that I watch movies is either on the LED-LCD in my great room, my bedroom, or on the television or HT of a friend or family member.

    • Alex

      While I agree that there are certainly ideal conditions in which to watch a movie (and sounds like your setup is way close to that ideal than mine), saying it’s the only way that a film should be enjoyed, and that we should reject all other means is a bit like saying the only true way to enjoy “The Lord of the Rings” is in hardback, oversewn binding, leather cover, sitting in an overstuffed highback chair with light no greater than 700 lumens, and a cup of Giradelli’s Hot Cocoa at precisely 165-degrees Fahrenheit.

      I know it’s not a perfect analogy, but I’m simply saying that the story doesn’t change depending on the delivery. It’s still a classic. In a perfect world, yes we’d see precisely what the filmmaker intended in the way he intended it, but that doesn’t preclude us from enjoying, even devouring the film in a different, less “perfect” environment.

  8. Drew


    By the way, your analogy is worse than you acknowledge. And I never said that it is the only way that film should be enjoyed and all other ways should be rejected. I simply said that film is not an artistic medium that was ever intended to be viewed on a phone. I never said anything about how people may or may not enjoy their viewing, or told anybody to reject anything. I merely said that, personally, I could never view a film on a phone. I’m practically offended by the thought of it. However, to each, their own.

  9. dk61

    I find that having movies on iPad and connecting it to the hotel TV via HDMI is very useful for my travels.

  10. merlich

    I frequently stream TV shows to my iPad via Netflix or Amazon Prime on my home WiFi. For feature films I prefer a much larger HD screen and a good surround sound system.

  11. MrAngles

    Ripping my own discs is the only way to go for portable use. I can use them on any device I want and make them any size I want. Ultraviolet is nice though because it’s 1080p and you can share it, but it’s pretty useless for portable viewing.