Review: Netflix CanadaPosted by Mike Yawney on September 22nd, 2010 View Comments
[UPDATE: check out our review of USVideo.ca, a way to get American Netflix in Canada]
We have a bit of a confession to make. While all the rumours have been swirling around the web regarding Netflix coming to Canada, we’ve secretly been testing it out. Netflix gave us early access to the service before its official Canadian launch to get a good feel for how the service works. Unfortunately, we haven’t been able to talk about it thanks to non-disclosure agreement. Now that the cat is out of the bag and Netflix CEO Reed Hastings has made the official announcement, the cone of silence can be lifted and we can give you our thoughts on Netflix’s first venture outside of the US. So how does it compare to service south of the border? Let’s just say this is not the American Netflix you’ve heard so much about.
In the States, Netflix offers two services. The first is a DVD-by-mail rental program where you pay a monthly fee and have DVDs mailed to your home. When you are done watching the movies, you send them back and the next set of DVDs you have in your online queue are mailed out to you. Netflix also offers a streaming service that lets you stream titles right to your TV or Netflix-enabled device such as a Blu-ray player, Roku, or TiVo set top box. Here you can choose from a more limited selection of movies and TV shows and watch them instantly without waiting for them in the mail.
Canada already has established DVD-by-mail services such as Zip. As a result, Netflix will not offer its base mail-order service in Canada. Instead, it will provide a streaming service that allows Canadians to watch movies and TV shows instantly. The service will work on desktop computers, laptops, iPads, iPhones, newer TVs with the Netflix app built-in, as well as the Playstation 3, Xbox 360 (coming soon) and the Wii (coming soon).
The User Interface
We tried out Netflix on a laptop, iPad, and on the Xbox 360 and we have to say the experience was very similar on each. When using a computer you must login with a username and password on the Netflix website to begin. Once you login you are taken to a home page which shows you your choice of movies that you can stream on your computer.
The movies are broken down into New Arrivals and Genres. New Arrivals will show you the latest titles to be added to the service in all the major genres. This is a sneak peek at what’s new across the board. The Genres category gives you a dropdown menu so you can narrow down your searches. There are 20 different genres to choose from ranging from Action and Adventure to Documentary.
The user interface is slick making it very easy to find the movie of your choice. Each title comes up as a thumbnail showing your the movie poster and user rating below. If you click on the title, you are taken to an information page where you can read the movie synopsis, the actors and user reviews. Below the thumbnail is a Play option. Clicking on this will instantly start playing the movie in your browser.
Movies can be viewed within your web browser or you can choose to view them full screen–a much better choice. Since the service streams the films, you don’t have to wait for the entire movie to download. Within 20 seconds of pushing play, your movie will begin. A play line is visible along the bottom of the screen allowing you to stop a movie, just as you would on YouTube. You can also fast forward or rewind movies. When you fast forward or rewind a series of thumbnails appear on the screen showing you where you are in the movie. This helps determine how far you need to rewind or advance, especially if you’ve seen the movie before.
Using Netflix on an iPad is a similar experience to a laptop, however you will need Wi-Fi in order to use the service. Netflix does not run off of 3G which is probably a good thing since it would cost a small fortune in data charges. However, using Netflix on your Xbox 360 is a different experience as it’s much more streamlined.
Once you download Netflix to your Xbox (this is done through the dashboard and will rollout in Canada shortly) you are given as pass code. You must then go online to your Netflix account and register your device using that code. Instead of seeing the new releases and genres along the top of the screen, the Xbox version simply gives you rows of movies split up into genres. Pressing up and down on your Xbox controller will change the genres and pressing left or right will flick through the available movies. Pressing the X button launches the movie you wish to watch. Within 30 seconds, you be be watching your movie of your choice. It’s simple and it works well.
Of the dozen or so movies and TV shows we watched on Netflix, we must admit we were pleasantly surprised. The video quality was quite nice. We never experienced any video stuttering during playback. Even when we skipped far ahead into a movie using the fast forward feature, the buffer was able to catch up within 10 seconds and begin playing the movie without difficulty.
A select number of Netflix titles are available in high definition. While you can certainly tell the movies and shows are upconverted (not looking nearly as nice as Blu-ray) they are still of good quality and very easy to watch.
[UPDATE: Netflix has boosted content. See what's new here]
Here is where the Netflix begins to lose its shine. The selection of movies available in Canada compared to the United States varies greatly! In fact I was shocked to find out what our friends south of the border were able to watch compared to us. We compared the service to the one our American Review Crew members had. Let’s look at the results shall we?
This is just a small example of the difference you will find in content between the two countries. It’s clear there are distribution rights in Canada which is preventing Netflix from streaming the newer content that is available in the US. The selection just doesn’t compare. Of course this isn’t the fault of Netflix; rather, it’s the red tape in which the company has to wade through to provide programming.
The Bottom Line
Netflix has a brilliant and slick user interface to provide streaming content to Canadians. The service is fast, the quality is great and at $7.99 for unlimited streaming it is certainly good bang for your buck. Our biggest concern at this point is content. If one had to choose between Pay Per View and Netflix, chances are Netflix will lose out every time. The first run movies and shows just aren’t there. That being said, it will be interesting to revisit the service within a few weeks to see if it is up to par to what our friends south of the border currently enjoy. One can only hope.
Slick user interface
High quality streaming
Where are the first run movies?
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