Is achieving enlightenment as simple as connecting your PS3 to Netflix?
Is achieving enlightenment as simple as connecting your PS3 to Netflix? Marc_Smith/via Flickr
A couple weeks ago, Netflix shipped us a Blu-ray disc that allows us to watch movies on our TV instantly, using our PS3.
If you'd seen us when we fired it up the first time, you'd have thought Nirvana came rolling down and parked its fat, happy, Buddha-behind on top of our house.
Setup was a cakewalk. We popped the disc in the PS3, logged into our Netflix account using a laptop, went to netflix.com/PS3 and entered the code that the TV screen displayed. A la peanut butter sandwiches, we were off and running immediately.
You can use the instant queue service for up to 6 systems on a single Netflix Unlimited account, which boggles my mind. The Blu-ray disc serves as a key, requiring you to insert it each time you want to use the service.Netflix instant queue is also available on other devices, including Xbox360, TiVo, and several Blu-ray players.
The menu is easy to use, even for a non-gamer like me. The instant viewing items in my Netflix queue are served up in the first tab, including ones I'd originally ordered on DVD that are now available via this streaming service. The remaining tabs cover new releases, themes compiled by Netflix like "Suspenseful Crime Dramas," and custom genres that appear to be based on preferences I specified in Netflix's online recommendation engine (e.g., "Quirky Indie Films"). If you come back to a tab, the system remembers the last item you browsed, which is useful because there are up to 100 items under each tab.
I haven't found an easy way to navigate straight to a specific movie using just the PS3 controller. For this reason, I'd strongly recommend that you use the Web site to load up your instant queue before using the PS3 platform the first time. I haven't found a simple search box, which I hope they add soon and model on their auto-complete field at netflix.com.
More bliss and hiccups, after the jump.
Very few of the online recommendation engine features are available, but you can star-rate any movie in the menu, and the system factors those ratings into your PS3 menu and updates the online recommendation engine, too. It also keeps track of items you've watched all the way through and serves up what it considers related shows. After watching and rating Bolt, for example, a new tab popped up with about 15 suggestions for adventure-packed kids' movies, including Jim Henson's The Storyteller, a 1980's TV series I forgot about and was delighted to rediscover.
We initially experienced no skipping, hiccups, or buffering. My husband remarked on the first night of use that "I kind of forgot I wasn't watching a DVD." I trawled through several items in the next several days on my own and saw the same high-quality playback.
And then we tried to watch the first episode of Monty Python's Flying Circus. We stalled out in the midst of the "Italian class for Italians" sketch, only about 8 minutes in. Alas, though we have a wireless signal booster in the hall to ensure a good connection, we are at the mercy of Verizon DSL's overall stability, which appeared to be suffering from the digital equivalent of swine flu that night. After trying to reload the disc and service, we eventually gave up, but we've watched shows since then with no problems.
Just like a DVD, you can pause, fast-forward, rewind, and even pick up from where you left off, even if you shut down the PS3. Picture quality was quite good, though we did notice some blobby pixilation in low light and foggy, graduated shots. This might be a shortcoming of our low-fi analog TV. But it wasn't like the fat pixel snow we see when the HD signal dies.
What impact does the service have on our overall household media consumption? Well, we don't watch much TV to begin with. When we do watch, it tends to be shows that we really care about. The Jeremy Brett Sherlock Holmes series on PBS — which is going to get a run for its money now that it's available on the instant queue — So You Think You Can Dance, and ... that's about it.
I watch TV episodes and movies online as well as on DVD, so the best thing about PS3 + Netflix is that I can view much of the same content on a really big screen with other people, instead of by myself at my desk. Our cats are delighted with the resulting extra lap time.
I am wondering, though, when the other shoe will drop.
Netflix is not charging any extra money for this service at the moment: it's essentially their all-you-can-eat streaming service on another platform. I can't believe it will last. They're eventually going to have to charge per view instead of talking it up as an inclusive freebie of the unlimited plan DVD mail service. For now, though, I'll cram in as many episodes of Red Dwarf as possible.
2007 PS3 (with Blu-ray) running on a wireless n network with an outlet-powered signal booster, using Verizon DSL and tapping a Netflix Unlimited 1-out-at-a-time account.