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Hands On: Netflix Wii

Posted by Jon Wahlgren

Another reason to never leave the couch

It may be late to the party, but Netflix's movie streaming service has arrived on Wii consoles in the U.S. via a free disc for subscribers. Despite being stuck in standard definition, those lamenting the lack of a Wii no Ma or BBC iPlayer equivalent in the US will appreciate the increased functionality. Compared to its console cousins, the service performs quite well with the only noticeable difference being content limited to 480p.

Before we get too deep, we'd just like to apologize for the terrible quality of the images and video below. The camera isn't very good to begin with and taking photos of a screen is trickier than it sounds. So yeah!

Anyone that has fired up the Nintendo Channel and watched a video will have a rough approximation of what level the image quality on offer is here. All videos are presented in SD, of course, and the quality can fluctuate quite a bit depending on the source's digital transfer quality and your bandwidth. In our tests, Blade Runner, a 1982 film, looked noticeably more compressed and grainy than, say, NewsRadio, a 1995 television show, during back-to-back viewings. On an SD set it's not as noticeable and the quality is about par with what you'd expect from regular networks, but on an HD screen the quality hit is more drastic but still watchable for all but the hardest core of videophiles. Original aspect ratios are also supported, so movies and shows do well on 16x9 sets. Switching queues and browsing is nice and speedy, and load times for starting a stream tend to be around the 10-second mark. Should you stop watching something before it ends, Netflix will remember where you left off so you can resume at the same spot on any Instant-enabled device.

Navigating your queue and browsing content is very simple with the Wii Remote: the IR pointer makes selecting movies and jumping to categories and recommendations a breeze, and if you'd rather use buttons to get around then there's that too. Compared to the Xbox 360's setup, the Wii seems to have slightly more information accessible up-front; for example, you don't need to click through several times to rate something you've watched on Wii because the stars are right below the queue. There's also something to be said for browsing movies with the controller closest to an actual television remote; it's ultimately not something that tips the scales either way, but in our opinion it just feels better than using a "classic" control pad.

Sorely missing is a search function. While the app allows you to browse listings based on genres or recommendations, you can't access anything not in your queue or on these lists within the app even if Netflix has it on their Instant service. It's a needless exclusion and would have made the Wii viewing experience completely independent of a computer. You could always use the Internet Channel, we suppose, but that still involves needlessly circumventing the app.

Closed captioning is another big missing feature, and this is something absent from all of Netflix's Instant offerings (not just a Wii shortcoming). Films without spoken English come with subtitles burned in to the transfer, so to say, so if you want to watch Pan's Labyrinth and don't speak a lick of Spanish then you're golden. On the flip side, you can't disable captions on foreign films if you do understand the language and don't want text cluttering the screen. For English-language movies there's no way to toggle captions, which is a significant issue for the deaf and hearing impaired at the moment. When asked, a Netflix representative promised this functionality would be "coming soon," but considering the static nature of DVDs as opposed to a downloadable channel it seems uncertain whether this will be extended to Wii in its current setup.

Those who already have access to Netflix Instant via a PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 or other set-top box might not feel compelled to make the switch and downgrade the visual quality, but those who have yet to dive in might find the well-rounded extra functionality enough to warrant the $8.99 monthly subscription. The catalog is large and ever-expanding, and the parental controls available through the Netflix Web site make the whole affair as family friendly as you'd like.

The clip below will give you an idea of how the interface is constructed and general load and navigation speed. The camera used might not allow proper demonstration of image quality, but, as mentioned before, that varies from movie to movie. The image quality of the Super Mario Bros. Super Show! was pretty good, although the actual content delves into dark places we're glad Nintendo has since abandoned:

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User Comments (42)

Betagam7

#3

Betagam7 said:

Netflix really need to get their act together on closed captioning. It's a problem they've been dodging for far too long now and its only through a loophole in the legal wording that they are escaping breaking the law by not supporting it.

The deaf community deserve better.

SilverBaretta

#5

SilverBaretta said:

At least I have an excuse to get Netflix now. I don't like their box thing you hook up to the TV. Doesn't that cost extra, too?

AlphaNerd01

#8

AlphaNerd01 said:

Been a Netflix subscriber for over a year. It's well worth the investment. I requested a Wii disc from Netflix Tuesday, and got it the next day. While I've been watching movies instantly via my Xbox 360 and Boxee on my computer for a while now, it'll be nice to be able to watch on the Wii as well. I did a quick test and it looks fine. I can't recommend Netflix highly enough. If you were on the fence, Wii instant watch capabilities should sway you.

Egg_miester

#12

Egg_miester said:

now i just need my dang disk in the mail it should be anyday i asked for it yesterday or monday

Slapshot

#13

Slapshot said:

Ive been running Netflix on my PS3 (wathcing it right now) since the day it launced in the US.
Couple of tips....
1. Set up you Instant Queue through a computers, as you can access everything that Netflix has to offer online via the search box and improved menus over the console options available.
2. Just not even trying to find movies through the consoles.
3. Put you New Release DVD (BluRay is on PS3) on your DVD queue Prior to the DVD Release and you will get it the day it releases or very shortly there after.
4. Mail off you DVD movies as soon as your finished watching them to keep you queue rolling on and you will never run out of movies to watch.

Im very happy with my Netflix subscription, enough to cancel my Blockbuster BluRay Subscription as the Instant to Watch movies are incredible. Its well worth the money. Ive upgraded my service to BluRay and 2 BDs at a time and still with the Unlimited Instant to Watch and its still only like $16 a month or so.

Instant to Watch that I recommend...
Carrier (documentary)
Auschwitz (documentary)
Nile River IMAX
....well ALL the IMAX films ;)

Slapshot

#14

Slapshot said:

@SilverBlackTail... the box that hooks up its ONLY for if you dont have a PS3, X360 or Wii to run Netflix on your TV. Anyone that invest in the box are really ripping themselves off as they can buy a console to run it in HD for $300 or SD $200.

Not being a Sony fanboy but if you were looking for a way to run Instant to Watch Netflix the PS3 allows for all of it in HD as well as having BluRay support as well. Granted you need a decent HD setup to really enjoy that though.

n8ron

#15

n8ron said:

Yes it is only SD, but it is better than the SD that the Cable/Satellite companies charge/rape you for (highly compressed). I would call it DVD quality, if not, it is extremely close to it. I can deal with that vs HD for the low price of a Netflix subscription over the high price of Cable/Sat (and still get Blu-rays). I no longer have satellite or cable. I am a fan. I've been screwing around with Boxee on my netbook, and it is really cool. Once I get The Boxee Box from D-Link, I will have completely replaced Cable/Satellite.

castlezelda

#17

castlezelda said:

Is netflix for Wii any good? has anyone got the free disc yet? if so, do you put the disc in wii every time that you wanna start a movie? I never subscribed to netflix, but since it came to wii, I might subscribe,

Sushie

#18

Sushie said:

this is wonderful. I haven't played a game on this thing in over a week, I've been too busy watching Buffy and Jeremy Brett's Sherlock Holmes series to do anything else. Now I can finally watch the 350 movies I have in my ever expanding instant que without having to sit at an uncomfortable computer desk.

DarkEdi

#23

DarkEdi said:

It looks interesting but I can see youtube in wii´s internet channel, and i´m very sure Netflix will never come to Mexico

Mirrorball

#25

Mirrorball said:

@slapshot82: I don't think people get ripped off by buying the little box from Netflix, the Roku. I have had it for awhile now, before Netflix was available to stream on any console. At $100 and has HD, that is a lot less, especially if someone isn't looking for a bluray or a gaming console. It also has other channels to add, like Pandora. oh, and the box is pretty small, less than 4 CD cases on top of each other. I don't feel ripped off at all.
I agree about your instant movie suggestions at least. ;) Auschwitz is well done (and everyone should see it, just to at least remember that something like that happened), and those IMAX movies do look good :)
I currently have 100 shows & movies in my instant queue. I LOVE it!

I like the Wii version. the video quality is fine with my set-up. I also prefer the interface on the Wii compared to the Roku, works so much smoother. Not HD, but still looks as good as playing a standard DVD, at least with what I watched, so far, through the Wii.

Ren

#26

Ren said:

just got my disc today and tested it out! I was so excited that it was coming anyway, since I've wanted a roku for a while and this is essentially free to me as a previous netflix subscriber.

The quality is great for newer films and plenty good enough for TV shows. It's also really great that you can browse other genres besides just what's in your own queue without going back to a computer which is something that Roku sorely lacks. I don't mind the lack of search because if you can't find something between your own queue and the browse-able titles then I don't get why you have netflix anyway; netflix is essentially a web based video store so you should already have a pretty well stocked queue.

I have a pretty huge HD tv and I watch Blu Ray on a player (not a ps3), but the Netflix Wii resolution is still pretty impressive to me considering it's only 480p and streaming. 10 thumbs up from me. I feel bad for other regions that don't have this, it's really a fantastic addition to my Wii, I can't praise it enough. If you live in the US and don't have it, get it. (unless you already watch too much trash TV. cancel your cable crap and stop watching commercials, even net viewing is becoming a sick conduit for adverts)

MakeMyBiscuit

#27

MakeMyBiscuit said:

I just got the Netflix disc yesterday (4/14/2010) and I have to say that the video quality was better than I expected (if you have not traded up to component cables your missing out).

I usually watch Netflix on the Xbox 360 or my PC but now it is nice to have the option to watch it on my Wii.

Now if they can just make the Netflix disc a channel on the Wii menu, that would be perfect!

justin167

#28

justin167 said:

I was really excited to get the disc today. I think it's a great feature, though I hope they add more shows.

Pegasus

#29

Pegasus said:

It does look rather decent. It surely performs a lot better than I was expecting it to. I really only requested a disc out of curiosity. My PS3 still boasts a bit sharper image even when displaying 480p content; the HDMI cable may have something to do with that. One advantage the Wii does have though is the interface. It just feels much more natural and easy to browse the interface via Wiimote than the continuous left/right up/down d-pad presses on my PS controller.

That said, it could come quite handy once I move into my own place, as I've still got my old TV sitting in the closet for now. Definitely good for bedroom viewing. ;)

vikingscool

#30

vikingscool said:

Hey, I'm deaf. I love this Netflix streaming on my Wii. Yes it is an excellent instant streaming via wireless wi-fi without problem, I had been watched "Short Circuit" I enjoyed it so far, but I want to have closed-captioned so bit more enjoyable. Also most movies NEED to be CLOSED-CAPTIONING will be coming soon. Please Netflix put the closed-captioning or you can a categories put a open-captioning for film in a category.

vikingscool

#31

vikingscool said:

Ren, I agree with you. I have been tried on the Wii for DVD queue without having to back with the computer. It is great item for the Wii!
Netflix and Wii rocks!

Slapshot

#32

Slapshot said:

@mirrorball.... when I looked at the boxes they were in the $250 range, so that is why I made that comment. Netflix on Wii is anothet great interface for the system, and even on PS3 not all the HD looks perfect on a large HD TV. I'm really glad to see this on Wii. As for HD Bandwith, I seriously don't think any Broadband or DSL internet connection would have issues with running it as it. My old connection was horrible and I could have 1 ps3 online gaming and the other streaming movies with no problem. I have a 6 meg gaming package and tested it with 2 ps3s online in games and the other streaming movies on the other side of the house from the router and still had no issues. It runs really well even with a lot of bandwith being pulled in the system.

longtimegamer

#34

longtimegamer said:

I spent a long time looking through there movies. It's pretty awsome for me. I was all excited with all the stuff I could watch. :) I got my cd yesterday and my brother helped ne on the debit card thing. I also found that I could add stuff online that I didn't origionally see when I looked at it from the actual program.

ejamer

#35

ejamer said:

I wish that Netflix would operate in Canada too - seems like a great service. Oh well. :)

FantasiaWHT

#36

FantasiaWHT said:

I have Netflix, and I have 360 and a Wii. I asked for a Wii disc for kicks. Will the browsing lists for Wii and 360 be the same or different?

plankton88

#39

plankton88 said:

I tried it on the xbox and I have to say, it is good, but there just isn't enough stuff you can stream. I went onto the website, and just kept getting dissapointed when I saw something I wanted to watch and it was mail only.

StarDust4Ever

#40

StarDust4Ever said:

I've got the entire DVD collection of the Super Mario brother's Super Show. The cheezy looking 80s gags on the live action skits, as well as the cheezy 80s animation on the cartoons kind of add a humorous element to the show.

BTW, I buy DVDs to own them, not return them in the mail or stream off the internet :P

brandylee

#42

brandylee said:

I have had the Wii Netflix disc for about a week and my family & I are really enjoying it. I wonder if the movie choices are updated? Anyone know how often? Is it possible to have a movie remain as a choice and not be removed as a movie choice? Such as a favorites/do not remove. I am new to Netflix & signed up due to being told a few details about the Wii feature.

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