We are beginning a new series of features on Apps for connected TVs, Blu-ray players and stand-alone media players. If you own a smart phone or tablet, then you are already familiar with apps (applications) that supply content to your device.
For connected TVs, that content is often streaming video or music and many of the providers like YouTube and Pandora have become household names - at least to the under 35 crowd.
Perhaps the most popular streaming movie app in the United States is Netflix.
And because of its stature, we are inaugurating our Apps series with a look at Netflix, the company that entered our national psyche with their iconic red envelopes that delivered DVDs to our mailbox.
Our Star Ratings
My rating is based solely on the audio and video quality of the streaming content. Our facility has a fiber network connection with downstream speeds over 10Mbps, (well above Netflix's recommended speed). The quality that you experience may differ depending on your network's speed and the Netflix device to which you are streaming.
Netflix streams a majority of their titles at 480p resolution, which is no better than SD DVD quality. Even their HD stream is only 720p, still below Blu-ray resolution. And Netflix still does not deliver 5.1 audio on many of their titles. If you are watching movies on a smartphone or 10" tablet, this quality is fine. On a large screen HDTV, there's definitely room for improvement.
This category is a bit tricky to rate because the devices that stream Netflix often supply different features on their menus. Some offer search capabilities and suggestions, others just list your Queue. With that said, Netflix has done a very good job of organizing their catalog and presenting it to the user. Of course, I would prefer if they could license more titles for streaming.
Ease of Use: 4.5
Again, how I feel about Ease of Use depends on which device interface I am using. I like the ones that offer me more than my Queue. But the Netflix website is friendly and setting up devices is a quick and easy process.
The $7.99 plan for unlimited streaming is a good value, but the selection of newer releases is limited. And though the over 10,000 movies and TV shows (estimated number) that are available to stream may seem like a lifetime's worth of viewing, Netflix has over 100,000 DVDs in their mail order library. The real value comes when you step up to a combination DVD + Unlimited Streaming plan, which opens up that huge catalog of DVD titles.
Star Ratings Description
Ratings are relative to when the review was written. Apps for TVs are in their infancy. I think that we will see major developments in the next year and therefore it is important to place these ratings in the time and context when they were given.