Netflix UK

After a long wait the UK finally has access to the Netflix film and television streaming service. We signed up on the day of release and after a few days of use I can say that over all I’m fairly pleased with the service. That’s not to say everything is perfect though, there’s a long way to go before any streaming service is what I would call excellent, but this is a good step in the right direction.

The first thing that really catches your attention is the price. At £5.99 a month that’s about the price we would typically pay for a film of reasonable quality on DVD. As we probably, on average, buy a DVD once a month that means as long as we watch a couple of films a month on Netflix we are quids in – we’ve saved money this month already…

The sign up process is pretty painless, just give then your email address and credit card details and off you go. There’s also Facebook integration if you want to use it. I, grudgingly, got myself a Facebook account a few months ago but I’m at a complete loss to think why I’d want to broadcast a list of what I watch. Annoyingly Netflix seems to think that Facebook integration is the best thing since sliced bread though so it keeps asking me if I want to link my account – no, never, leave me alone!

I really like having the ability to watch pretty much anywhere you want. The only limitation is that you can only watch one stream at a time. A small fly in the ointment from my point of view is that there is no Linux client at the moment but apparently they are working on that.

The selection of films seems to be pretty good. There are a lot of films that I’ve not heard of and the collection contains more than it’s fair share of films from the late 80s and 90s. New films are added on a fairly regular basis but the real blockbusters don’t seem to be present. Don’t, for example, expect to ever see Harry Potter in there but you will find Miss Potter. As well as films there are a wide selection of series available. The only problem being that invariably they only have the first few seasons available to watch with no clear schedule of when or even if the other seasons will be made available. I was really pleased to see they had Myth Busters for example and then discovered they only have the first four seasons and most of the first season is missing.

If there is one thing that really bugs me more than anything else though it’s the lack a queue feature. It would appear they do have a queue which you can see if you manually enter this URL:  the trouble is there is no way to add things to the queue. That means every night I have to go though the list looking for something to watch rather than just grabbing something from the queue. I hope this gets fixed in the near future.

The web interface is minimalist to the point of being extreme. The default cover view of films has no sorting, the sortable table doesn’t show any covers. One thing that wasn’t immediately obvious at first was the star rating – the rating that is displayed is not what the community has given the film but what Netflix think you would rate the film. A clever idea but I would like to be able to sort by both ratings.

The video quality of regular films is best described as adequate when on the highest setting. It’s better than you get from a pirate streaming site but no where near DVD quality. The quality of the HD films is considerably better and probably around DVD quality. I don’t know what encoder Netflix have used but it has an annoying “feature” suddenly presenting a high quality image when the picture is fairly static. I’m guessing they aren’t using the fairly standard H.264 as I’ve never seen that happen with that encoder.

Right, time to get back to enjoying films…