Netflix streaming video service reviewed

By: Gadjo Sevilla

November 7, 2010

By Gadjo Cardenas Sevilla

We recently signed up for the one month free Netflix.ca service in Canada which allows owners of Netflix enabled TV’s, Blu-Ray players, video game consoles (Xbox 360, Playstation3 and the Wii) as well as smartphones, tablets and other devices provided they have wired or wireless access to the Internet. Is the future of on-demand video finally here?

For the price of $8.00 a month, Netflix offers access to unlimited streaming of movies and TV shows and one account is good for all devices used. Netflix allows each user up to 6 devices per account.

Netflix is the perfect example of a cloud application. Everything streams from a server on the Internet so it knows what you watched and even where to resume when you access it again. We’ve been able to start a movie on an Apple iPad and continue it on our LCD TV (connected to a Playstation3). We tried this with different devices and it worked quite well.

Some devices, like smartphones and the iPad, allow you to use your 3G data connection (but don’t do that, it’ll burn through your data plan like you won’t believe). A wired or Wi-Fi connection is the way to go.

The on-demand nature of Netflix is its strongest feature. Whatever you choose to watch appears instantly, not unlike how YouTube plays back its videos. You can also scrub forward and backwards to move through video quickly. On the Playstation3, this comes up as chapter search with small thumbnails so you get an idea of where you are.

Movie and TV Show Selection

Netflix offers a variety of movies and TV shows, some new but the most are old. For people who like to engage in marathon viewings of TV shows since you have access to entire seasons. Emmy award winning drama Mad Men, for example, has all first three seasons available to watch on demand. I you were going to rent these as DVDs the cost would be substantial. Not much of the content is new, just this week Jennifer’s Body, a 2009 horror-thriller was the newest movie introduced into the “New Arrivals” section.

The good thing about the free month offer is Canadians can check out the service and see if it is something they would want to subscribe too long term. Be aware, however that you do need to put in credit card or PayPal information to avail of the freebie and once the month is over, Netflix will charge you for the succeeding month.

Netflix on PlayStation 3

PS3 users simply need to make sure their software is updated and that a live Internet connection is accessible. The Netflix application appears in the video section of the menu and once signed in you have probably one of the best ways to enjoy Netflix on an HDTV.

Quality is good for streaming video, some of the faster or more action-oriented scenes tend to fragment or pixelate but this is expected. Using the PlayStation controller as a remote, however, is far from ideal. The good thing about Netflix on consoles or on the new AppleTV, is that it uses a device that you already have and simply adds functionality.

Netflix on the iPad

We found the iPad to be one of the best ways to enjoy Netflix, since the iPad is portable, easily connects to wireless hotspots and has a decent sized screen. There were some hiccups with the new OS 4.2 Beta (if you are watching something and an email messages comes in, the volume gets low) but this seems to have been resolved. Simply download the Netflix app, sign in to your account and your good to go.

Netflix on smartphones

You can get Netflix on iPhone, Android and Windows Phone and these powerful smartphones with their high quality screens do a good job of playing back the content streaming through WiFi. Note however that Netflix can also be accessed by your data connection which could end up costing a lot. Netflix apps for smartphones are free

Conclusion

For $8.00 a month, the prospect of unlimited movies and TV shows is very tempting. Netflix has made it easy to hook-up and watch the content on so many devices. Yes, the movies aren’t all that new and Canadian content is lacking but you do find some gems.

Bandwidth is the other expense to consider as a two-hour movie  on a TV in standard definition is around 1.8GB and if you want it in HD it will easily be double-that. You can choose the content to come in standard definition and this should help you save on your bandwidth costs. Our experience however during the first month was that our Netflix use, combined with our general web use and download/uploading of files did put a substantial dent in our Internet plan.

We then realized we could downgrade the  Netflix content to standard definition but don’t know for sure how much difference this makes.

We are just happy to have video on demand option and we love how the service is implemented. We’re crossing our fingers that the content will get better and more popular shows and movies will appear soon.

WhatsYourTech, Canada? Is Netflix an enticing service that you’ll consider checking out?

Rating: 4 out of 5

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3 comments

  1. samielmasri81@hotmail.com'
    Sami

    Netflix is awesome… I subscribed as soon as it was offered, and have never regretted it since then.. for the price of 2 dvd rentals, you get unlimited streaming of online content… sure some of it might not be new, but even the old stuff is great to watch, since you were probably not old enough to understand, or it probably stopped airing even before you were born. Let’s just pray that these money hungry, greedy ass old Canadian ISP’s don’t milk us for everything… We don’t even use 25% of the bandwidth resources of the infastructure they have, yet they wanna milk every cent out of us…

  2. oj6145@mac.com'

    I want to stop my subscription to “Netflix” because I lost my Ipad. If I can use the subscription on my two computers, I will keep the subscription. Tell me what I have to do.

  3. gadjo@mac.com'
    Gadjo Sevilla
    Author

    You should be able to sign in to Netflix using the browser of your two computers and watch the content from there. Sorry to hear about your iPad. If you plan on replacing it, look into the free Find My iPad app that can track and locate your device, i believe it can even send messages or in the event that it can’t be found, you can wipe it remotely

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