By Gadjo Cardenas Sevilla
Netflix started out in the US as an innovative DVD video through mail rental service that later on evolved to include digital streaming (via computer) of TV shows and movies. Now in Canada, Netflix is giving users a variety of ways to access hundreds of streaming shows and movies.
We recently signed up for the one month free Netflix 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.
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, image the cost and inconvenience.
Japanime aficionados will also find there are a lot of popular shows available and we’ve also enjoyed watching a number of foreign films, documentaries and other genres of movies we wouldn’t have bothered with if it wasn’t so easy to try them out. 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 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
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/upload use did put a substantial dent in our Internet plan.
We then realized we could downgrade the 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.
Rating: 5 out of 5
We were notified by Rogers that we exceeded our bandwidth cap for the month and we are certain it is because of our Netflix usage. We watched about two seasons of Mad Men, one season of an anime titled Claymore and 4 episodes of Saturday Night Live (The best of). Seeing how this impacts our bandwidth budget, we wil likely discontinue our Netflix subscription for the time being.