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The Streaming Experience: Comparing Netflix on Consoles

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Posted by: Robert Workman

Netflix is an ideal service when it comes to suiting all your movie-watching needs. Not only can you rent DVD’s and Blu-Ray’s (with thousands to choose from), but you can also stream movies and TV shows through the Instant Queue option. There are hundreds of programs to choose from, all of which broadcast within mere seconds on your machine of choice.

Netflix was reserved for accessible DVD or Blu-Ray players, but over the last year or so, game systems have become providers of the service. It started with the Xbox 360, and soon after, it became available for PlayStation 3, Nintendo Wii, and the Apple iPad. But which one is the best to use? In this article, we break down the pros and cons of each of the Netflix services, giving them an overall grade and letting you know which is the best way to go. Let’s start with the machine that got the service to begin with…

Xbox 360

For a game system that’s had the Netflix service the longest, the Xbox 360 seems like the best bet – and to be honest, it is. While the menu is more limited than the general Netflix Instant Queue page (you have to sort through categories in order to find what you want, rather than scrolling down and seeing your choices on the same screen), the service is second-to-none. Connecting through the code doesn’t take that long at all; there’s no need to use a supplementary disc that could wear down over time; and you can sort and rate movies and shows accordingly, depending on what you’ve viewed.

It would be nice to have more recommendations available, but the quality of the service is splendid. Movies and shows stream with very few visual errors, and look great – especially if you’re using an HDMI cable for your hook-up. We tested the service with multiple movies and found hardly any faults at all. Best of all, it’s free, and only takes minutes to set up on your system. Talk about convenience.

Overall grade: B+

PlayStation 3

Initially, when Sony introduced the Netflix service to its PlayStation 3 console, a disc was required to get the program to run. This bummed out a few initial users, forced to wait a few days for their discs to arrive in order to activate their account. (The quality of the movies was questionable when it first started up, too – many folks indicated it wasn’t in high definition as promised.)

Since that time, Sony’s alleviated the problem by adding Netflix as an option in the PlayStation Network, so you no longer need a disc. It’s also improved the quality of the service, so that shows and movies look better than they first did when the service launched last year. What’s more, the menu option is easier to use than on the Xbox 360, with more display options and new recommendations a mere button click away. Rating takes a little longer than expected, and some of your choices take a little while to load up onto the screen (box art takes a bit to load up on occasion), but overall it’s a notable improvement. Not quite up to par with the Xbox 360’s streaming set-up, but still not bad.

Overall grade: B

Nintendo Wii

The Wii is the only game system out now that continues to require the use of a disc. That doesn’t make it a crippling failure by any means, but you still might want to take note and take care of your disc, or you’ll need to order a replacement from the Netflix folks. The service itself isn’t bad, as you can scan and sort through your current favorites and newly available programs with ease. Using your Wii remote, you can make selections quickly, and then enjoy the show in a few seconds’ time.

However, the Wii version is the weakest for one primary reason – a lack of high definition. Now, the streaming itself isn’t that bad, coming through in a solid 480p display. Still, if your TV is optimized for high definition (like most are these days), you’re going to notice some differences. Fortunately, this version makes up for it with an easily accessible viewing bar, which you can use to scan to your favorite scenes very quickly, using the Wii remote. It certainly beats not having the option at all. But, yeah, for some movies (notably Shutter Island and the old-school Mortal Kombat), HD would’ve been swell.

Overall grade: B-

Apple iPad

The iPad is probably the best way to view your Netflix Instant Queue movies. Not only is it more convenient to fire up your tablet device instead of a game system, but it’s more accessible than using a controller to navigate. You simply touch the options on the screen and you’re on your way to watching some great movies and shows. The iPad version utilizes the same menu options as the web page, so you can sort through favorites almost instantly, add to your Instant Queue and make choices with very little hassle – and few mis-clicks, too.

What’s more, there are different viewing options, as you can watch movies in either Landscape or Portrait mode. This is handy if you need to use a stand or if you’re limited on space. The audio’s somewhat limited without hooking up the iPad to some surround sound speaker set-up (some players by Bose and other manufacturers are supported) but there’s no question the download quality is excellent. If you’ve got the iPad app, you’ve got the best version of Netflix literally at your fingertips.

RATING: A-

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