I love Netflix. I’ve been a subscriber for about two years (on the three-at-a-time, unlimited plan). I list the movies I currently have at home on this site, along with an ad for them (if you sign up from the ad I get a small commission). I even own a bit of Netflix (NFLX) stock (which has gone up about 37% since I purchased it a few months ago).
My biggest complaint with Netflix has been my inability to use their service to stream video to my computer, because they don’t support Macs. That may all be moot now, since they’ve announced a new device that handles the streaming, directly to my TV.
Called The Netflix Player by Roku, it’s a tiny rectangular box you connect to your high-speed internet connection, and to your TV via HDMI, composite or component cables. In some ways it’s a competitor to Apple TV, TiVo & Amazon’s Unbox partnership and Vudu.
It’s biggest advantage though is its price: a mere $100. If, like me, you’re already a fan of Netflix and joined at least the $8.99 a month plan, there is no other cost. (If you’re not yet a Netflix subscriber, join up and try it for two weeks for free.)
Of the 268 titles in my Netflix queue, only 22 are available for streaming, including Funny Girl, Supersize Me, MI-5 Volume 1, and Superfly. Among the complete collection (about 10,000 titles of the 100,000 in Netflix) are the likes of 30 Rock (NBC), Passenger 57, and a bunch of old TV shows like The Incredible Hulk, Gimme a Break and Charles in Charge.
Not exactly a vast and exciting selection, and you won’t find many recent releases here like you would on Apple TV or TiVo/Amazon Unbox, but, like The New York Times suggests, The Netflix Player is the “first shot of the revolution“. It’s a one-point-oh product which can only improve as content selection and internet speed improves.
Apple TV is a better product in many ways, from the higher quality (720p HD with Dolby Digital 5.1) to new movies released the same day as the DVD. If you mostly watch new movies, don’t have Netflix, and own an HDTV, Apple TV is a better choice.
I’m a huge TiVo fan (I own three, one now decommissioned but operational), and can use the Amazon Unbox service with it, and yet I’ve never bought or rented a download through their service. I think it’s because I don’t like the idea of paying $3.99 to rent a movie for 24 hours, or $9.99 to own a movie when I could get the physical DVD for the same price. (Which is odd, as I have no problems buying music through Amazon and iTunes.)
If you already pay for Netflix, though, and like (or would like to see) classic or little-known movies and TV shows, or, like me, don’t yet have an HDTV (horrors!), The Netflix Player, at just $100, might make a nifty addition to your home theatre setup. I expect it’ll soon have a place in my home.
Several sites have already done reviews. Take a look at CrunchGear’s review (pictures, including approximate video quality), CNET’s video review, or engadget’s first impressions.