December 16 2008

Netflix Streaming Review

netflix logoNetflix added the ability to stream movies some time ago, and after taking the plunge to try it out, I have to say I’m sold on the concept.

At first I was hesitant to give it a try because you could only do it on your computer, and I didn’t feel like going through the trials and tribulations of watching Internet videos on my TV.  Eventually a company named Roku brought a Netflix set top box to market, but, I also didn’t feel like plopping down $99 for a dedicated device.

Then, in November, Microsoft updated the Xbox 360 dashboard and added the option to stream Netflix to your TV without any more equipment then I already owned.  With the temptation being too great, I finally gave in and reactivated my Netflix account and decided to give it a shot.

For as little as $8.99 a month (we’ll ignore the $4.99 option as that only gives you 2 hours of video streaming a month), you get one DVD rented at a time, but you get unlimited video streaming to your Xbox.  Quite a bargain if you ask me since they have over 12,000 selections for you to choose from.  True, the movie selection is mainly older films, but for a film buff like myself, I’m thrilled.  They also offer help a very healthy selection of older TV shows, all which are available on DVD, but for three months of streaming, you can save your self buying a DVD set you may not even like, and you will save room in your house.  I finally can try out an older British comedy I have been dying to try for years called Yes, Minister without rolling the dice on an expensive boxed set and risking not even liking the show.

The only drawback to the system is you have to go to the Netflix site to add more videos to your queue.  You can only have 6 active selections show up in your Xbox dashboard at any time, but that is plenty for a night of video watching.

My biggest fear was that you were going to end up with heavily pixalated veiwing since it was streaming over the Internet and being blown up to the size of a TV screen, but I am pleased to say I was totally wrong about that.  Last night my father wanted to watch a movie since he is laid out on the couch recovering from knee surgery, and he chose The Illusionist from 2006.  What little I watched of the movie since I had work to do was just stunning in its quality.  It might not be true high def, but coming over an HDMI cable to our 42″ Toshiba Regza LCD, I noticed little to no “image noise”, no buffering except before the film started, and an overall better experience than a standard definition DVD played on a standard DVD player.

I would still like to see a broader slection of films to watch, and also the ability to add new things to your queue on the fly, but overall, if you have an Xbox 360 already, or feel up to getting a Roku device, this is well worth $8.99 a month.  Also, keep an eye out, but some Blu-ray DVD players are starting to add the ability to stream the videos also.

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