Crackle usually takes a back seat to the more high-profile Netflix and Hulu, both of which also offer apps for Windows 8. This is somewhat surprising, given that Crackle (free) comes from no less of an entertainment juggernaut than Sony Pictures. That’s only the company that encompasses Columbia TriStar, Sony Pictures Classics, and Screen Gems, and distributes such recent blockbusters as Skyfall, The Amazing Spider-Man, and Men in Black 3. The company also owns rights to TV hits Seinfeld, King of Queens, Days of our Lives, and The Young and the Restless. So some pretty high-profile shows are at Crackle’s disposal.
I downloaded and installed Crackle from the Windows Store on a Surface Pro tablet with a dual-core 1.7GHz Core i5 processor and 4GB RAM. The app works on both Windows 8 PCs and Windows 8 RT ARM-based tablets. Prior to running the app, you need to Accept the big warning saying “VIEWER DISCRETION ADVISED” and that Crackle contains age-restricted material. Not being squeamish, I tapped the Continue button, and was ready to start Crackling.
When you launch the Crackle app the first time, you’ll see a very standard, clear Windows 8 interface, almost resembling the Windows Store itself. A Featured section shows a large image from new or top content—this rotated between promos for Seinfeld, David Arquette, and the Crackle original series, Cleaners, along with a few other well-known movies from recent years. Below the main image are smaller thumbnails for the featured shows, which you can tap right into. I also liked that you could swipe through the featured suggestions, so you don’t have to wait for something interesting to reappear in sequence. Swipe right and you’ll see sections for Movies, Shows, Recommended Watchlists, My Watchlist, and History.
Crackle’s description page in the Windows store states that the app gets “20 new movies and TV episodes added monthly.” Tapping on Movies let me sort by most recent or alphabetically, but I could also browse by most popular or within seven genres. This is pretty limited; there was no Drama, or Foreign categories. And the selection in general is lacking in the latest hits of either large or small screen—there’s no Breaking Bad, Modern Family, or the Hangover Part III. If you find a really big movie in the catalog, it’s very likely a few years old.
I tapped on Cleaners, to check out some Crackle original content. Each show’s page, along with a large DVD box image, shows the genre, description, and cast for the production. One thing I missed here was viewer reviews; there is a star rating, but it’s not clear what these are based on. And to add to the mystery, it turned out that every title had a rating of four stars! Another missing descriptive piece is the year of release—something you find on just about any other movie site. Aside from Cleaners, another standout (standup?) content choice is Jerry Seinfeld’s new Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee series.
I could play any of the shows episodes in any order. Though there’s no explicit “play ‘em all” option, as you get in Netflix and Hulu, Crackle did actually start playing episode 2 of Cleaners when 1 was done. I was impressed that I could start watching the show without having to set up a Crackle account.
The production values for Cleaners were high, as you might expect from Sony Pictures. (And the show featured zinger-filled dialog: “I know you’re conflicted…that proves that muscle in your chest beats every few minutes.”) I did see an advertisement 12 minutes into the show—better than standard TV. Tapping on the screen during an ad opens a window for its site, which makes sense but is slightly annoying.
The picture quality was tack sharp on my Surface’s HD screen, as was the full-bodied stereo sound quality. The resolution did occasionally dip, likely as an adjustment for occasional bandwidth drops. Tapping on the screen brings up simple, clear controls: A scrubber with time markers, a big pause/play button, and fast forward and reverse buttons.
Crackle on Windows 8: A Winning Combination for Your Viewing Pleasure?
The most important thing by far with any entertainment service is whether or not it offers programming you want to watch. Crackle does include some well-known content like Seinfeld and Men in Black, and includes good picture quality and interface. And don’t forget that it’s completely free, though ad-supported. But Crackle for Windows 8 doesn’t offer the hottest in-demand programming you’ll find on other services such as Hulu and Netflix, nor does it give you the decision-making tools found in those services’ apps.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc