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Netflix on PS3: Disc-Free Instant Streaming's Pros and Cons

netflix on ps3 Hey PlayStation3 owners: aside from having the coolest gaming system around, now you don't have to whip your disc out every time you want to watch Netflix. The Red Envelope has gone even more virtual, finally switching to a downloadable program for optimal movie and show viewing. Previously, PS3 users (along with Wii owners) had to pop in a Netflix-supplied DVD to stream. Now, movie fans can just hop into the 'PlayStation Network' icon and opt to "buy" the free Netflix app, and the program starts downloading. When completed (after about 20 minutes), head over to your video section, launch, and voila.

Besides having one less disc cluttering your console, the new Netflix boasts high-def streaming capacities (at 1080p, for geeks) and a new, streamlined interface. Gone are the days of the enhanced scrolling dock -- now the layout is a nice, organized grid that lands the user on their Instant Queue. From there, pressing "square" gets you a list of personalized categories (your author apparently enjoys "Witty Sci-Fi" and "Action Movies with Strong Female Leads"), and "triangle" nets a traditional, alphabetical search. The D-pad now has a larger function -- hitting "down" expands personal choices and categories, while "left" and "right" act as a select and back button, respectively.

Netflix for PlayStation 3

Like the former layout, you can search by categories or genres, but this time the movie and television programs are laid out in a spread. Selecting a title pulls up the regular options ("Add to Instant Queue" or "Play"), but now subtitle options appear, along with a screenshot from the movie (that appears to be randomized). Sadly, unlike the regular site, trailers are still not available.

The main differences between the two interfaces are speed, search and quality. The enhanced scroll was not only a headache to read (and painful for anyone who didn't scan at the same speed as the captain of the controller), but also seemed to take ages to load. With the layout format, maneuvering through menus is a breeze. Also, searching for titles is a cinch from any screen, and parsing categories is quite intuitive (some have noted that predictive text entry is a new addition, but that has been a part of the PS3's Netflix capabilities from the get-go). The best addition is the pop-up information that appears when the movie is highlighted: before, roomfuls of watchers would shout to see a movie's description, only to find it was Bai Ling's 'Gene Generation'. Now, merely resting on a movie provides info, saving helpless onlookers from getting sucked into another "creepy post-apocalyptic thriller." Also, when watching movies in hi-def, the quality is crisp and clear. Unfortunately, it's difficult to tell which titles are available in HD, as you're unable to filter by resolution.

Not being able to filter HD movies isn't the only issue in the new system: the world of disc-less watching is great, but it still takes a while for the Web Queue and the PS3 Queue to match up. For instance, adding something on your Queue using the computer may not appear on your console (but if you remember the movie, you can still search for the title). For some reason, each genre only hosts 75 movies to browse through, though there are way more options. If you have a movie in mind, direct search is the best option: it's a shot in the dark to see if your preferred title is even featured in a genre. Adding stuff to our instant Queue, as mentioned earlier, was very simple; deleting, however, was not. The interface got totally confused, refusing to update the grid and leaving the titles for each selection frustratingly wrong and the old titles still in tact. Lastly, we can't see any reason why top-rated comments don't appear with movies, as nothing is more time-consuming than having to pull out the computer to get any feedback on what you are about to watch.

Overall, the Netflix experience on the PS3 is vastly improved, though still has hiccups and difficulty linking between and your device. We'd love to see a Netflix as robust on the PS3 as it is on the Web, and we are certain one day it'll get there. For the time being, we are glad to chuck another disc and continue to stream the dream.

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