First Impressions: Netflix Instant Streaming on the PS3

We've been quite pleased since replacing our Apple TV with the slimmed down PS3 console as the heart of our media center, with a transition smoother than expected. The tipping point for the switch was mostly due to Apple's updates continually nixing our Boxee and XBMC modifications. But we also found ourselves drawn to moving over to the PS3 for greater media playing options, including the recently added feature in the PS3's arsenal: Netflix instant streaming. Our first week impressions below.

Upon unpacking and setting up our PS3 system, we immediately placed an order for a PS3 Netflix Streaming disc; the request was fulfilled in the blink of an eye, with the disc coming in the same sort of recognizable envelope all of us Netflix subscribers have become accustomed to seeing in our mailboxes. But inside this delivery was the solution to transform the Sony console into a much more useful home theater device than out of the box.

First thing upon inserting the disc is activating your disc via web browser on your computer. A unique access code is provided once the disc loads, which is then entered at Netflix.com/PS3. With a slight pause, the system starts again, now providing access to your own personalized Watch Instantly Queue, while also supporting access to browsing and watching other categorized genres, including new movies and new TV shows. The user interface is clunky at best when searching for content outside of your own queue, requiring one too many button presses to even load a show. But once you find what you want, the system does an exemplary job of serving up both standard def and "HD" content (streaming HD is served at 720p, but is more like upscaled DVD in quality compared to a Blu-ray disc).

To be honest, we only previewed a few snippets of HD content via Netflix because we excitedly found a wealth of BBC TV shows hidden amongst the categories, and soon found ourselves lost amongst episodes of Sherlock Holmes and Duchess of Duke Street, which look great considering their age and source, but aren't exactly the programming one uses to showoff a home theater system. But it is this sort of programming options which we feel helps trump the Apple TV for viewers such as ourselves; we're pleased with the sizable library of older content we actually want to watch, trading off instant access to new releases which are sent via snail mail on a regular basis already. In our minimal TV-watching household this trade-off is fine, but we hope Netflix and Sony's promise of a XMB app update that does not require the use of a disc arrives sooner than later, alongside some polishing of the user interface. We haven't pressed this many buttons since trying to (re)learn how to play Street Figher 4!

Pin it button big

And for those of you fellow PS3/Netflix users, be sure to download a PS3 cover for your Netflix disc to give your disc a proper safe and labeled place to keep it safe while not in use.