Netflix Instant View: Instant Visual Crack?

I’ve been a member of Netflix for 5 years now, and I’ve found it very much a sufficient way to “feed the need” so to speak. The DVD turn around isn’t so bad, and I’ve zipped through series and movies quickly without forking out the $$$. So, yeah, I’m pretty satisfied. :

netflix01For those who are unfamiliar with Netflix, let me give you a quick rundown: Netflix is an online DVD rental service (with Instant View service described below). You can get anywhere from 2 DVDs a month to 8 out at a time unlimited from $4.99 to $47.99. The selection is basically if it’s on DVD, odds are Netflix has got it (they boast 100,000+ DVDs). And yes, blu-ray is included in the mix.

Why is that better than Blockbuster Online? It really depends on the one renting. If all you are interested in is Hollywood Blockbuster movies, then Blockbuster is probably the one for you and will satisfy you just fine. My tastes, however, include independents, foreign, and of course, anime and animation. If you’ve taken a good look at the “shelf” that Blockbuster has dedicated to its foreign section, you could see why one would search elsewhere.

What is the turn around on DVDs? For me it works like this: I get a DVD on Monday, watch it that night, send it back Tuesday, they receive it and ship a new one Wednesday, I get my new one Thursday.

I also like being able to get recommendations based on my interests so I can discover new movies. There’s also the option of seeing what your friends thought of a movie (Netflix friends) and see if it’s worth it or not.

Basically, Netflix makes filling my Visual Crack needs easy.

And then, of course, Netflix had to go and introduce its instant view, which is basically like free access to the candy store (some strings attached). The quality is 480p (with Higher Def in the works) and looks at least as good as a regular DVD on your HDTV (provided your Internet connection is good). All you need is an unlimited plan and you’re good to go.

Unlimited plans start at $8.99 (which is the 1 DVD at-a-time unlimited plan + unlimited watching).

The Pros: Instant viewing. No waiting for the DVD to arrive, no going to the video store, and no additional rental fee (see Amazon and iTunes). I love it for being able to watch The Office whenever I want, plus I’ve got something to watch in between DVD snail mail arrivals. Netflix also makes it easy to spot which DVDs in your queue have been converted for Instant View.

I’ve been watching SeaQuest DSV via Instant View and while normally it probably would have had to wait somewhere in the depths of the queue before I got to it, but now it’s something fun to have on while waiting on video renders at work, or to keep me company Photoshopping or Illustrating.

The Cons: The library is growing, but it’s still small. Don’t expect everything you could possibly want to be in there. Aside from the time-consuming task of converting 100,000+ DVDs, there are copyrights issues slowing down selection additions.

It *used to only* run on Internet Explorer. 😦 What? Not a Con you say? I won’t go into the security issues around IE, and although Netflix has promised future Firefox compatibility, it hasn’t happened yet. According to Netflix you can watch it on Firefox without any add-ons, but this is always useful for whatever reason some places do IE only:  LUCKILY, Firefox took the initiative, or at least someone who built an add-on and gave us the option to use Firefox instead. (command delete IE7.exe check!)

It *sort of* only runs on PC. Sorry Mac friends, unless you’ve got Bootcamp or the like to run Windoze, you’re generally excluded (Netflix has started its beta testing, see here).   😦 There is a sort of solution to that problem, depending on how much you care about instant view, and if you don’t want to spend a grand or so on a PC you’d only use for media playing.

Introducing: The Roku Netflix Player

netflix02This nifty little gadget lists at $99 ($110 with cheapest shipping) from Roku.com. You don’t have to pay any extra monthly fees–aside from your account–the $99 is it, like buying a DVD player. It has multiple hookup options for your TV (including HDMI!!) and while Netflix doesn’t have HD standard stuff yet, when it does the Roku player is ready for it. It hooks up to the internet wirelessly or by ethernet, comes with a simple remote and can take care of your Netflix-hates-Macs blues (which is actually more like Apple-hates-Netflix, since it’s Apple holding up the delivery. BTW, I have a Mac, so I understand the frustration).

So why didn’t you run out to the site and pick one up already? Believe me, the day I knew it existed, I had my credit card in hand ready to go. But since I have access to a PC in my apartment and at work, I paused.

Let me tell you why you may want to do the same: 1) While the player is cheap, its features are at best limited. The remote is simplistic and according to what I’ve read, fast forwarding has regressed to VHS style. 2) You can only browse movies in your queue. In other words, if you’re interested in watching a movie that’s not in your queue, you’ll have to add it first to watch it. 3) Netflix has encouraged/given plans/comissioned other companies to make their instant viewing available. This includes a blu-ray player in the near future (end of 2008).

It is the first and probably will be the cheapest device you can buy, but I’m waiting for better options since I have access. You may or may not want to.

**UPDATE**

There are more devices available to you Instaview fans out there.  According to Netflix you’ve got the following additional options:

1)  LG BD300 Network Blu-ray Player $349 MSRP

2) Samsung BD-P2500/BD-P2550 $399 MSRP

3) TiVo HD DVR $299 MSRP

4) Xbox 360 $199 MSRP

The Roku player remains the cheapest, but I’m still hoping the addition of the XBox might mean Wii support in the future, and I don’t see why not PS3 support as well.  At least if you have a PC/Mac you can do it that way.

If I didn’t say it enough, I love Netflix, and I’ve saved quite a lot of money watching first and not having to try and find or buy copies elsewhere. If you haven’t tried it, do it. You get two weeks free your during a first time trial and hey! Who doesn’t love seeing a big red envelope waiting for them in the mailbox or instant visual crack online? 😉

The verdict:

Netflix: A
Netflix Instant View: B+
Roku Player: B-
Additional Player Options: B

6 Comments

  1. One more con — they do not currently (today is 6/19/08) offer closed captioning on streamed movies. “In the works” and has been since they started the Instant service.

  2. Thanks, yes, I forgot to post that.

    Ran into that little snag trying to watch an anime series…. Only English dubs available….

    And “in the works” with Netflix could mean weeks, months, or years. Honestly, it could be tomorrow or next decade, it’s always a toss up. 😉

  3. As to the fast forwarding problem:

    I’ve had the most success letting it play for 1/2 minute to a minute before attempting to skip forward. Yes, that’s 30 sec or more you’re waiting just to fast forward, but go get a soda or some popcorn to pass those few seconds. It’s better than reloading and reloading and reloading.

    A friend of mine says he’s had the best success pushing it forward just before it loads, but that has never worked for me.

    The real solution will be that Netflix actually gets around to fixing it. Anyone else have suggestions for the fast forward dilemma?

  4. Something else that might be useful: If you’ve got your laptop hooked up to your TV and you’re seeing movie on the laptop and purple nothing screen on the TV, you probably need to switch the output to the TV. It sounded strange to me when the Netflix techie told me we had to do it, but on our laptop it was the “fn” key and then F4 (which has a little box graphic in it). We hit it once to get it to display, twice to turn off the laptop screen and just enjoy it via TV. A lot of you probably already knew that, but for those that don’t, hope that’s helpful.

  5. […] in manga form. I read the first volume in English and decided the anime series was worth a look. Netflix sent me the first disc and I was […]

  6. […] in manga form. I read the first volume in English and decided the anime series was worth a look. Netflix sent me the first disc and I was […]


Comments RSS TrackBack Identifier URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s