I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t jealous of my stateside friends and their ability to access a seemingly endless list of film and television on demand. Being late to the party is an affliction that we British Android lovers often have to suffer (where are you Google Music!), and it’s fair to say that it was met with a great deal of excitement when Netflix UK was announced at CES in January. As an early adopter of Spotify Premium, and a long time user of Picasa web albums, I have been enjoying the ability to access my music and photos over the web and had been longing for a worthy solution for movies.
Lovefilm (part of the Amazon group) launched their instant video streaming service late in 2011 and I jumped right on board for the free trial. Unfortunately I found the whole experience underwhelming – The native android app only allows you to order DVD’s by post, there’s no facility to view content on your phone or tablet. The Xbox app was clean and simple with a pleasant UI, but there was no HD content and the SD picture quality was average at best. These 2 points are deal-breakers for me and I decided to cancel the service after the free trial. I should point out that Lovefilm’s DVD/Blu-ray delivery service is excellent, they certainly get pass marks in this area, however the last time I purchased a DVD the iPhone was still waiting for 3G and MMS.
I’m currently 2 weeks into my 1 month free Netflix trial and the early signs are positive. In order to summarize my findings, I’ve broken my review into 4 key points:
Sign up was straight forward despite reading some negative reports about a Facebook partnership. Right from day one I was able to download native applications for my Galaxy Nexus, EeePad Transformer and Xbox. The UI is simple, straight forward and consistent across all platforms. As part of the sign-up process I was prompted to submit my preferred genres, my choices were immediately shown on all devices. I also found it a nice touch that should I close Netflix midway through a show, the position is stored and can be resumed at the same point on any of my devices. I was able to seamlessly begin a show on my Xbox downstairs and finish watching on my tablet. Perfect for those unscheduled, mid-movie comfort breaks?
There is plenty of HD content and the picture quality is great. It’s certainly not Bluray quality however the results on my 50” display were extremely satisfying. Picture quality on my phone and tablet is also excellent and I was pleasantly surprised to see that the app is already ICS compatible, complete with removed navigation buttons for a wonderful full screen picture. It should be noted that the quality achievable will be dictated by your internet speed, for best results a high speed fibre optic line is definitely recommended. If you’re streaming on your 3G connection, Netflix can dynamically downgrade or improve picture quality to keep the stream smooth. For those of you planning on watching all 3 seasons of Breaking Bad during your daily commute, you might want to make sure you’re on an all-you-can eat data plan as a 2 hour HD movie can take up to 4gb of data!
This is the one area where I still have concerns. There is certainly a huge library of TV shows and movies across varying genres, however new released and blockbuster titles are few and far between at the time of writing. There’s plenty of quality content and I’ve already discovered, some hidden gems I may otherwise have missed, but I would suggest that film buffs who like to keep up with the latest and greatest may need to look elsewhere. The Netflix UK Twitter team have been tweeting that there are plans in place to add stacks of new content throughout the year so here’s hoping they’re true to their word.
I was apprehensive as to what the pricing structure may be for Netflix UK. I was aware that the US service cost $9.99 so I was prepared for the rip-off Britain price to be at least £9.99, such is the norm more often than not. I was delighted and surprised to see the service priced at a very reasonable £5.99 for unlimited streaming. The deal allows you to install the software to an unlimited number of devices and also allows for watching two separate shows at the same time on different devices. The native apps are also free to download. There’s a free trial on offer for all new subscribers which is definitely worth a look for anyone with even a passing interest.
So is Netflix UK worth £5.99 per month? For me, yes it is. The pros outweigh the cons at this point. The cross platform service coupled with the excellent picture quality are too good to resist. The quantity and quality of content is definitely a concern and is an area that I hope to see steadily improve over time. Netflix seems to be committed to making a success of their UK venture, the sheer multitude of primetime TV and radio advertisements are testament to that. I’m confident that service will continue to improve. Would I recommend Netflix UK to everyone? Not necessarily. I’d recommend taking a look at the content through the website before deciding if the service is for you. That said, there’s nothing to lose by signing up for the free trial and trying it on for size.
So it looks like I’m £5.99 per month down for the time being, I’ll be sure to console myself by watching back-to-back episodes of Dexter in HD this weekend.
source: The Guardian