Netflix has been on a roll in 2009, adding its Internet streaming video-on-demand service to an ever expanding list of devices. In just the past few weeks, the big news has been the imminent arrival of Netflix streaming on the PlayStation 3, along with more rumors that it will be coming to the Wii as well. Best Buy's Insignia brand has debuted a Netflix-capable Blu-ray player that lists for $149 (and has already been seen on sale for as little as $99). And Roku has delivered two new versions of its mini set-top box, lowering the entry-level price to just $80 for the non-HD version. That's in addition to Netflix's availability on the Xbox 360, TiVo DVRs, and Blu-ray players from LG and Samsung, and an increasing number of TVs.
With those notable changes in the Netflix landscape, we thought it was a good time to update our overview on Netflix streaming. (A recap follows, for the uninitiated; the Netflix-savvy can jump straight to the list of Netflix-compatible products.)
Netflix offers a library of 12,000-plus streaming titles over the Internet, available on an "all you can eat" basis for any customer on the $9 per month (one DVD movie by mail at a time) or higher plan. So, in addition to getting DVD (or, for an additional premium, Blu-ray) discs by mail, Netflix subscribers also get unlimited access to thousands of hours of on-demand programming. Just add the titles to the "Instant Queue" in your Netflix account, and they'll be available on any compatible device once you pair it. (The setup procedure, as outlined by CNET's Molly Wood, is quick and easy.)
There are a few downsides. Almost none of the available movie content would be classified in the "new release" category--the newest titles are usually at least a few years old. Also, the availability of titles ebbs and flows--many are available for a window of 60 to 90 days, after which they may or may not return a few months later. And many of the videos aren't available in their native wide-screen format. Also, you have to manipulate your queue from a PC browser. Aside from a list of new and notable titles, you can't search the available offerings and pick new selections that aren't already in your queue.
That said, we think the advantages are palpable.… Read more