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Cord cutting has been made easier for years now by streaming services like Netflix and Hulu, which operate by collecting large libraries of content and charging monthly fees for subscriptions. But a new type of streaming service has begun to emerge more recently, one that supports itself primarily through ads rather than through subscription fees. These services tend to have much smaller content libraries than Netflix, Hulu, HBO, and the other streaming giants, but they’re growing fast, and they offer an exciting alternative to the paid subscription model. We’ve reviewed plenty of paid streaming services, so it’s about time that we got around to this Crackle review.

Crackle is the best-known of the free ad-supported streaming services. It has a more robust content library than competitors like Tubi TV, but it still lags behind the streaming giants. It's free, but is it worth your time? Here's our complete Crackle review.

Crackle Review: A Strong Free Option for Streamers

User Experience

We though the Crackle's user interface was pretty strong. On the web app, you can view all of their movies unsorted, or you can drill down by genre, length, or alphabetical order. Crackle's web app lacks some of the content discovery features that, for instance, Netflix's interface offers, but if you know exactly what you want, it's pretty easy to find what you're looking for.

Crackle screenshot

On Crackle's other platforms, they use rows of films in a way that's a bit more reminiscent of Netflix's interface. This was nicer for content discovery, but made it tougher to quickly find specific films. There's a “Watch Now” tab that surfaces featured content, and you can check out TV shows and movies on separate tabs, too.

Crackle screenshot

You'll get some additional functionality from Crackle if you create an account. You'll be able to create a watchlist (“Watch Later”), which is nice, as slogging through some of the lower-quality content to find the gems on Crackle probably isn't something you want to do every time you log on.

Content

Crackle screenshot

Crackle's content library clearly lags far behind Netflix, Hulu, and the rest of the big boys. Still, it has a fairly solid collection of films available for stream. Quality-wise, they have Tubi TV's collection beat easily. Wisely, Crackle has snapped up a couple of movies that are no longer available on Netflix.

Crackle's TV shows aren't quite as impressive, though they have some limited offerings from big-time shows like Seinfeld.

One exciting thing about Crackle's content library is that it's making an aggressive entry into the original programming wars. Crackle has a few original series on offer, including Jerry Seinfeld's well-known Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.

Like other free streaming services, Crackle fills the gaps in its catalog with lower-quality content. Generally, this content isn't quite as prevalent or as useless as it is with competitors like Tubi TV. That's nice, as it makes it less frustrating to get to the next high-quality film when you're surfing Crackle. The flip side of this is that the lack of filler makes it very obvious just how small Crackle's content library is.

Streaming Quality

If HD picture is important to you, you may be disappointed in Crackle. The picture quality topped out at just 480p for the films we tried. This is probably the biggest complaint we have in our Crackle review – even YouTube videos stream in HD, guys!

The good news is that the streaming was very smooth (though at 480p, why wouldn't it be?). Movies loaded quickly and streamed reliable on all of the devices we tried. We didn't find a huge difference in either picture quality or streaming consistency across the different platforms.

Platforms

In addition to their web app, Crackle is available on Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, and Android TV. You can get apps for all the current-gen and last-gen gaming consoles with, the lone exception of Nintendo's products. It also has an Android app and an iOS app, both with Chromecast support.

We tried Crackle on five platforms: a laptop (via the web app), an iPhone, an Android tablet, a Roku 4, and a Chromecast (casting from both iOS and Android). The streaming quality was pretty much the same across all of these platforms. The user experience was a little different on the web app, as we outlined up in the User Experience section.

How Much Does Crackle Cost?

Hooray, it's free! Crackle's main appeal is that you don't have to pay a dime for the subscription.

Of course, if you're not paying for the product, then you are the product. Crackle will run ads during your program. Ads run for a couple of minutes (you'll usually get four or five ads of 30 seconds or so each) and pop up about every 10-15 minutes. You'll only have to deal with one ad at the beginning when you start a new program.

Verdict

We're very optimistic about the potential of most free streaming services, but we're usually reluctant to say that they're worth exploring as they exist right now. Our findings in this Crackle review fall pretty much along these lines. Crackle is close to ready for mainstream consumption, but it really needs better picture quality before we recommend it for most users.

With that said, early adopters will find that Crackle is one of the better free streaming services out there right now. If you don't mind standard definition picture, we think you'll enjoy Crackle's small but solid content library.

13 thoughts on “Crackle Review: Our Take on the Best-Known Free Streaming Service

  1. Zachary Dunn says:

    You left out Android TV in the list of available platforms.

  2. Johnny says:

    Where the hell did you get this from? This service is not free…

  3. Chris says:

    The commercials come in nice and clear with elevated volume, as for the movies. Well the first 20 minutes runs great, then skip, skip, jump, lag time, clear commercial, movie skip lag, skip more lag, clear commercial, movie lag, skip… very annoying, I won’t ever use this service again.

  4. Bruce says:

    The interface is terrible on Fire TV… Every time you connect you get some review hyping one of their series and you can’t stop it… As you browse it keeps playing in the background.

  5. Ashley says:

    Seven commercials during ONE stop of a movie. Do this ten times during a movie and the movie will take three hours to watch. Bunch of BULL! I understand ads, but seven is absolutely laughable and ridiculous. I will definitely not be using this platform again.

  6. Concerned says:

    Half the time it won’t stream and when it does the picture and volume don’t match up or the picture is distorted and not very clear.
    The commercials do come in great with the volume that is elevated to lift you straight out of your chair. Not exactly what you would expect coming from Sony; a real disappointment!

  7. Keith says:

    Watched “Aliens” during a hotel stay. Crackle is a F**cking waste of time because of the long commercial breaks with repetitive commercials, HD for commercials but low for the program, and the fact that it lost my connection and place in the movie repeatedly. I finally gave up and watched antennae TV because of the BS service. Crackle sucks!

  8. Charles H. Rice IV says:

    Simply put Crackle should be renamed “uh-oh, something went wrong” because that’s what you’ll view far more often than any movie and if you’re lucky that’s what you’ll get first rather than the first 15 minutes or less of a movie that won’t restart no matter how many times you “retry”. This happens on my phone via service provider, various wifi including at home, direct on home p.c. and via my vizio tv that crackle was factory loaded on. Bottom line. Its not the best free streaming service So far Tubi is and thats saying something, something like crackle is horrible, frustrating and for a company like Sony disgraceful and they should be ashamed for attaching their name to it. I know I’m ashamed at giving them my time and believing they’d deliver a service that at least matches if not betters free streaming services that I’ve never heard of. Truly a shame as Sony owns the largest library of movies, good movies and with this experience I’d be hard pressed to even consider a sony service at a price no matter how cheap.

  9. Davo says:

    “Uh-oh, something went wrong.” Third time in tonight’s movie … so far. Add that to a ton of commercials and you’ve got quite the service here — quite a disgrace of a service. Sony, aren’t you ashamed to be associated with this mess? The movies are adequate — enough for killing time on a weeknight — but the technical implementation is still inferior to competitors. Tubi and Kanopy, to name two, far surpass it.

  10. Ken says:

    Is there any streaming platforms that have serveral faith based channels or multi channel

  11. Andrew says:

    Crackle is crap! 7 minutes of movie then 1.5 minutes of adds! You can’t even get into the movie. I get that it’s free, but how about 15 minutes of movie to 2 minutes of adds? Then at least you could start to get into the movie. CRAP.

  12. Tony Bland says:

    Crackle is complete trash and completely unusable. Your standards are too low.

  13. PrudentBuyer says:

    Way too many and too long commercials, right there with regular tv. Plenty of other, better options. Bye bye Crackle.

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