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Disney Plus Review: Not Just for Kids

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The House of Mouse streams way more than Mickey. It’s a place where Jedi knights enchant viewers with their powers and where Marvel’s antiheroes cause chaos and save lives. It’s a classroom to learn about nature or the cosmos. It’s a haven for Disney princesses who don’t have to fit into any box. And it’s the only place to stream the latest Pixar films like Turning Red.

Like so many other Disney properties, from Rise of Skywalker to Encanto to WandaVision, its streaming service is a phenomenon. Disney Plus launched in November 2019, and by the end of 2021 the platform claimed nearly 130 million subscribers with plans to expand in more countries this year.

Its marquee original series, The Mandalorian, gave fans Baby Yoda theories, merchandise and memes. Its first Marvel Cinematic Universe-set series WandaVision quickly became one of the most popular shows worldwide. All this success has Netflix and other big names taking notice. And at $8 a month, it’s still one of the best values in streaming.

Like

  • Wide catalog of popular TV and movies from Disney, Marvel, Star Wars, Pixar and National Geographic
  • Low monthly price without ads
  • Easy-to-navigate interface, with 4K HDR available for some titles
  • Ability to choose content ratings

Don’t Like

  • Little customization of kids’ profiles
  • Long/unpredictable wait times for new, original TV series

The big question: Is it worth the money to you? If you’re a cord-cutter, especially one with children, then Disney Plus is likely a must-have. With only a few notable exceptions, Netflix is losing a host of Disney and Marvel content to the service, meaning if you or the little ones want to watch Daredevil or Liv and Maddie, for example, you’ll need a Disney Plus subscription. It’s the best streaming service for kids, but appeals to older viewers too.

Whether it allows you to ditch NetflixHulu or Amazon Prime Video depends on your budget and priorities. Disney Plus lacks the steady firehose of new, original TV found on Netflix, for example, but it still belongs in the top tier of streaming services. It has a massive catalog of popular TV shows and movies you can’t find anywhere else, a well-designed app and an affordable price without making you watch any ads. For those reasons it deserves CNET’s Editors’ Choice Award.

The content

Disney-plus-simpsons-dumbo

The Simpsons is one of the high-profile series you’ll find on Disney Plus, though fans aren’t happy with the aspect ratio.


Fox

In contrast to the meager selection of shows offered by Apple TV Plus at launch, Disney hit the ground running with 500 movies and 7,500 TV shows on its first day. The catalog continues to grow with additions such as Turning Red, Encanto, Hocus Pocus 2, Moon Knight and Agatha: House of Harkness and more. There’s a ton of Marvel, a bucketful of Star Wars, a boatload of Pixar and a healthy sprinkle of National Geographic (which is owned by Disney). Depending on the content and device there is support for both 4K HDR video and Dolby Atmos surround sound.

With so many movies and TV shows already online, it’s likely that if you can think of a Disney movie or TV show, it’s there. Even before you try searching, the interface serves up plenty of suggestions, including a great mix of nostalgia, princess movies, originals and superhero action.


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Some of Disney’s pre-1990s and beyond content may be forgotten in the annals of your mind, but the streamer’s interface will reacquaint you with movies from its past, such as Flight of the Navigator. While not everything is there — missing episodes of Andi Mack and Recess may disappoint young fans — the search interface works in a similar way to Netflix by suggesting similar content instead. There’s no lack of things to watch.

The interface

If you’ve used any streaming service at all, bar Disney’s own Hulu, then the interface of Disney Plus will be instantly familiar. The very top of the home screen is a web-like carousel with a selection of Disney’s biggest hits.

disney-plus-home-page

Ty Pendlebury/CNET

Underneath this, the brand’s most popular properties appear across the page as static icons: Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars and National Geographic. Hover over each and the icon will animate, and if you click on it a short animation will appear before the branded page appears. While the interface is designed to scale to low-powered devices like USB sticks we saw little difference between any of the dozen-or-so devices we tried.

On the branded pages as well as the home page, the rows of icons are titled according to genre and help to hone the content to your requirements. Disney told us that, like the Netflix engine, the Disney Plus interface will adapt to the types of content that you watch over time. 

At the left of the screen is a Netflix-like sidebar that lets you search for content or choose from your preselected profiles. 

The only real way to configure Disney Plus is through user profiles, and by default your Primary profile offers access to all of the content. It can’t be set to a kids profile, but you can turn autoplay off or on or alter the main language. In comparison, kids’ profiles work to surface content suitable to younger viewers and has a brighter, blue background. 

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Ty Pendlebury/CNET

The biggest problem I found with the interface is that some popular things might be hidden — you may not know The Muppets is there, for example. But this is an issue that larger services such as Netflix also suffer from. 

Read more: Disney Plus vs. Netflix vs. Apple TV Plus vs. HBO Max: Which Streaming Service is Right for You?

We tested Disney Plus on Roku, Apple TVFire TV, iOS, smart TV (LG and Samsung), Android TV and the web and they all worked in the expected fashion. Voice commands worked well on Apple TV, Fire TV and Roku in directing us to the show title or the Disney service in general. If your streamer supports 4K HDR then there is a healthy selection of titles like the recent Marvel movies and shows and newer Star Wars content like the Mandalorian, but others like the recent Muppets titles are only in HD. 

It is also worth noting that some of the content on Disney Plus may have changed since you last watched it elsewhere. For instance, The Simpsons is currently only available in widescreen, with no 4:3 option for older seasons that were not HD native. The Han-shot-first scene in the original Star Wars movie, A New Hope, has apparently been edited yet again. So as you can see in the video below, it’s not perfect.


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The cost

Disney Plus is one of the most affordable streaming services on the market. As a standalone option, it’s only $8 a month. But there are multiple ways to bundle it with Hulu and ESPN Plus to save even more money. 

Hulu Plus Live TV customers receive Disney Plus and ESPN at no extra charge, as long as you’re being billed by Hulu. New and existing Hulu subscribers who don’t have the live TV package can sign up for the Disney Bundle. It costs $14 monthly for the ad-supported version and $20 per month without ads. Currently, Hulu-billed members who don’t have Disney Plus can get it as an add-on for just $3 a month.

Compared to its competitors, Disney Plus is on the lower end of the price pole. With Netflix shooting up to $15.50 per month for its two-screen streaming plan and HBO Max charging $15, it comes down to your wallet and viewing palate.

Disney Plus vs. HBO Max, Netflix, Prime and Hulu

Disney Plus HBO Max Netflix Amazon Prime Video Hulu
Monthly price $8 $10 for basic with ads, $15 for ad-free Starts at $10 $9 (or included with $120/year Prime membership) Basic $7 with ads, ad-free Premium for $13 Live TV for $70
Ads No Yes No No Yes
Top titles The Mandalorian, Loki, Encanto, The Simpsons Game of Thrones, Friends, Euphoria, DC Comics series, Sesame Street Stranger Things, Squid Game, Better Call Saul, Money Heist Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Reacher, The Boys, The Wheel of Time Handmaid’s Tale, How I Met Your Father, The Bachelor, Bob’s Burgers
Mobile downloads Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
4K HDR available Yes No Yes (on Premium plan) Yes Yes
Number of streams: 4 3 1 (2 for Standard, 4 on Premium) 2 2 (Unlimited with Live TV $9.99 add-on)

Should you get it?

For Disney’s legions of Star Wars, Marvel and Pixar fans who want to enjoy those movies and their extra features, the service is easily worth the monthly fee. The same goes for parents who want their kids to enjoy Disney’s myriad family movies and TV shows. And ditto for anybody who wants to follow the latest adventures of Baby Yoda or Boba Fett

Are people going to quit other services in order to afford this one? Possibly. If it’s a choice between this or Apple TV Plus then get this. If it’s a choice between Disney and standalone Hulu and you have kids? Get this. If we were to rank the services by order of importance ours would be: 1. Netflix 2. Disney 3. Prime Video. Your priorities may be different. 

Original programs like The Mandalorian, Loki and The World According to Jeff Goldblum are fun, but it’s the programming spanning almost 100 years that will likely encourage users to renew their subscriptions each month. Disney Plus is fun, easy to use and relatively affordable. 



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Overwatch 2 Beta Begins Tomorrow: Start Time and What to Expect

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Overwatch 2 starts its second beta on Tuesday, June 28, for PC and console players. The beta begins at 2 p.m. ET/11 a.m. PT and runs through Monday, July 18. Sign-ups are still open for a chance to participate, and you can still get guaranteed access if you’re willing to spend some cash.  

The next beta will be our first look at Junker Queen, a new tank hero who first appeared in posters on the Junkertown map that was released in 2017. Fans have been hoping to play her ever since, and five years later, we’re finally getting the chance. The new beta also adds a new hybrid map, Paraiso. The developers have laid out their goals for the beta, which include testing server capacity and hero balance. 

Overwatch 2 is the sequel to Blizzard’s class-based shooter, featuring two teams of five players fighting over objectives. Overwatch devs announced in June that the game will be free to play and will launch in early access on Oct. 4. The first beta injected a frantic pace into the game, which was a welcome change from the slower, more grinding pacing that’s plagued Overwatch in recent years. The free-to-play PvP element will bring the game more in line with other competitive shooters, like Valorant and Apex Legends.

How to sign up for the Overwatch 2 beta

Anyone can sign up for Overwatch 2’s second beta, but it’s not technically an open beta. The game will add people gradually as it ramps up server capacity, and the first big wave of beta access will happen on July 5, according to the beta FAQ page. Even if you were in the previous beta, you’ll need to sign up again. 

Here’s how to sign up:

1. Go to the Overwatch 2 beta site.
2. In the top right corner, log in to your Blizzard Account.
3. At the bottom of the Overwatch 2 beta page, choose your platform (and region for PlayStation players).
4. Then hit Request Beta Access.

If you want guaranteed beta access on June 28, you can purchase the Watchpoint Pack ($40). In addition to beta access on day one, you’ll also get two legendary character skins, a unique player icon and enough digital currency to buy the first two battle passes.

How do I download the Overwatch 2 beta?

Blizzard hasn’t released details on downloading the second beta, but it should follow the same process as the first beta. Here’s how that worked:

1. Log in to your Battle.net account and navigate to Overwatch on the game launcher.

2. In the bottom left, click the Game Version drop-down.

3. Select Overwatch 2 Tech Beta to install.

4. When the download is complete, hit the blue Play button to start.

Junker Queen spinning her axe

Junker Queen’s ultimate ability helps her close distance and end fights quickly.


Blizzard

Junker Queen abilities

The new beta finally gives fans a chance to play as Junker Queen, a hero we’ve all been excited about and/or thirsting over since she was first teased on the Junkertown map. Here’s what we know about Junker Queen’s abilities, from the Overwatch Twitter account:

New Hybrid Map: Paraiso

The beta also adds Paraiso, a new hybrid map that explores Lucio’s home, including the DJ’s Clube Sinestesia. As with all hybrid maps, players will start by attacking or defending a control point, and if the attackers succeed, players will spend the rest of the map attacking or defending a payload. 

An underground club with light-up floor

Clube Sinestesia is where support hero Lucio found fame as a DJ.


Blizzard

For more Overwatch 2 news, check out everything we learned from the Overwatch 2 reveal event.



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Icebergify: How To Create an Iceberg of Your Most Listened to Spotify Artists

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Been on social media today? Seen those bizarre musical Icebergs floating around in your feed? You’re not alone. Screenshots like this have been doing the rounds today, particularly on Twitter. 

It’s all created via the magic of a website called Icebergify.

Using the data from your Spotify listening habits, Icebergify creates an Iceberg of your most listened to artists ranked by popularity. At the tip of the iceberg? Your favourite “mainstream” artists. Your Taylor Swifts, your Beyonces, your Drakes, etc. The further down you go, the more obscure it becomes. It looks a little like this…

If you want to see your own iceberg, you can head to the website directly. Be warned: it does require your Spotify log-in. 

The Icebergify website was developed by Akshay Raj, a freshman studying Computer & Data Science at Rice University. He says he has no plans to monetize the site or use the data collected — which is limited to your username, Spotify account ID and the top 50 tracks and artists listened to over the past few years. 

How does it work? It’s fairly simple. Icebergify takes your most listened to artists and sorts them according to popularity rankings. Streams, shares, saves, likes, and followers are all taken into account. This is why Beyonce might be at the top of your iceberg, but lesser known artists are at the bottom, beneath the ocean. Also worth noting: It seems like Icebergify is being flooded due to its surprising popularity. Head back later if it doesn’t immediately work.





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Apple’s First Mixed-Reality Headset May Sport New M2 Processor

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Apple’s first mixed-reality headset could come with the company’s flagship M2 processor, just one of the “deluge” of new products the company is expected to unveil in the next year, Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman reported Sunday.

The M2, unveiled in June, features redesigned central processing units and a significant memory increase, which would provide a significant boost to the much-rumored headset over the previous M1 chip.

The much-rumored headset incorporating both virtual and augmented reality environments is expected to provide a boon to the gaming industry. Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said earlier week that the headset — expected to be announced in January 2023 — would be the most complicated product Apple has designed yet.

Apple CEO Tim Cook has been vocal about his excitement about AR. Earlier this week, he explained that the tech industry is still in the “very early innings” of this technology’s possibilities.

“I couldn’t be more excited about the opportunities we’ve seen in this space, and sort of stay tuned and you’ll see what we have to offer,” Cook told China Daily.

Other products Gurman expects to debut in the next 12 months include four iPhone 14 models, three Apple Watch variations, several Macs with M2 and M3 chips, iPads, updated AirPods Pro earbuds, a fresh HomePod, and an upgraded Apple TV. 

Apple didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Read moreApple AR, VR Headset Rumors: WWDC, Release Rumors, M1 Chip and More



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