Netflix is an established video on demand service enjoyed by US film fans for the last 10 years. Available in the UK since January, it offers a decent choice of films and TV programmes, allows you to access your Netflix account across multiple devices and nominally learns your viewing preferences, making it easier to get to the content you actually want to watch. *Available to PCs, Macs, Smart TVs, Xbox 360, Nintendo Wii, PS3, iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Android and Windows tablets and phones, Apple TV and Google TV. In total, more than 700 devices that stream from Netflix are available.
Recommendations from peers are also possible: Netflix optionally reports on what you’re watching on Facebook and also tells you what’s currently popular with users of the social media site. You can rate what you’ve viewed and even see what your Facebook friends have just watched. See also Netflix for iPad review.
Netflix offers the broadest range of viewing platforms here. As well as PC viewing, you can pull up the latest episode of Skins or Dexter on an iPad, iPhone, Android tablet, PS3 or Apple TV. Once the app has verified your account is active, it offers to resume a show you’ve been watching, regardless of the platform.
You’ll probably want to start with the no-ties 30-day trial. Netflix costs £4.99 thereafter, for unlimited monthly use. Enter your bank card details discreetly - the three-digit security code from the rear of your card stays onscreen for an awfully long time.
Genre and general preferences are then requested via a brief questionnaire. Indicate how likely or unlikely you are to watch horror, wacky, family friendly, suspect and action thrillers.
Netflix is simplicity itself to use. Three side-scrolling rows of titles are shown onscreen at any one time. Importantly, there were no annoying ads that insisted on pre-rolling before the feature film or programme we’d chosen started playing. Netflix spends a couple of seconds buffering, but after that playback continues uninterrupted as long as you have a decent web connection. It’s also incredibly easy to skip through scenes, again without noticeable buffer or quality loss. In part, this is down to the incredible ease of use of the iPad.
The video playback quality is not always the best – on our iPad 2, we saw plenty of artefacts, particularly in the background of scenes. Video quality isn’t stated, but Netflix says the available streaming bandwidth will largely dictate this. On an iPad, Netflix films can be viewed in either letterbox widescreen format or in fullscreen mode.
We aren’t sold on the Facebook tie-in. Presumably it’s to aid the viral spread of the service by piquing FB users’ interest that their friends are watching something they’ve not tried. There’s a ‘don’t share on Facebook ‘option at the top right of the playback screen, but the sharing by default trend is not something we’re that comfortable with.
The library is far more comprehensive than that of the YouTube video on demand and download service, for example, with several hundred feature films and almost as many TV series and documentaries to choose from. We found it a real benefit that we could dive straight in to a film and start watching it, with no decisions to be made about whether to rent or buy it outright. Most video on demand services cost charge between £1.99 and £5.99 to rent a title and up to £9.99 to buy them.