PROS / The original content is worth the price alone.
CONS / Current seasons of TV shows are not available.
VERDICT / For the ease of use, personalization and enjoyment, Netflix provides the best value among streaming TV sites.
Since its inception in 1997, Netflix has grown to be an industry leader. With millions of subscribers and an enormous library of content, this company is arguably the most successful streaming company. This success did not come by size alone; the service innovates by adding new features or producing original content, all of which helps provide the best experience for its customers. With a massive library of exclusive and original content, an easy-to-use interface, numerous features and superior customer service, Netflix has earned our Top Ten Reviews Gold Award for movie and TV streaming sites.
Even if you don't include the library of streaming movies, this web TV service clearly dominates the field in terms of sheer number of available TV series, both classic and contemporary. Not only are you able to watch multiple past seasons of your favorite show from one of the big four networks, but you will also have seasons of the best series from cable channels, with the exception of HBO.
The area where Netflix suffers is its availability of current seasons. While Netflix has begun to make deals with production companies to get seasons more quickly, currently you will have to wait an average of 10 months for the latest season to debut on Netflix. If you stream a completed TV series like "24" or "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," you won't have an issue. However, if you want to see why everyone is buzzing about last night's “Walking Dead” episode, you won't have the luxury of joining in on the conversation for quite some time.
While competing online TV services also produce original content, Netflix has the crown. Original series like "House of Cards" and "Stranger Things" are major critical competitors to award-winning cable TV series. Also, because Netflix doesn't operate with the restrictions and strict Nielsen ratings guidelines of a cable production company, it can create content for particular niche audiences. For example, several years after the critically acclaimed series "Arrested Development" was canceled, Netflix revived it. And when "The Killing" suffered a premature death on AMC, Netflix chose to bring it back for one last season and give fans closure. Netflix is a company that knows its audience.
While Netflix debuted as a computer-only online TV streaming service, it has grown and offers apps for every smart device available. The streaming service is accessible using smart TVs, Blu-ray players, gaming consoles, tablets and smartphones. Essentially, anything with an internet connection can access streaming TV through Netflix.
Netflix has branded its own version of 1080p high definition with what it calls Super HD. The content with this high-quality feature will display the Super HD tag in the item description. Of course, whether or not you get the HD quality depends on your internet speed. For the best quality, you should have an internet connection running over 7Mbps. This service is also rumored to be preparing for the next wave of high-definition: 4K technology.
The service lets you create a content queue, and every time you see a movie or TV series that you'd eventually like to watch, you can add it to your list. The more shows you watch and rate, the better the service can match your taste and recommend programming you’re likely to enjoy.
It doesn't take long to get the hang of Netflix. After you sign up for an account, you answer a brief questionnaire about what types of movies and TV shows you like. It then produces a list of recommended content that you can start watching immediately. If the Netflix recommendations aren't to your liking, or if you have a particular show you want to watch, the service's search function is quite intuitive and effective at finding titles available in its streaming library.
Netflix has managed to personalize movie selection even further with the option to create multiple viewer profiles. For example, if you watch action movies and don't want a Strawberry Shortcake cartoon recommended to you, there is the option of creating a profile specifically for your kids. When you log in to that specific profile, it will take you to the Netflix Kids section and not show any mature-themed television shows or movies.
A major benefit of Netflix is the lack of any on-screen advertising. Episodes will run as soon as they buffer, with no promotional fluff in between.
Help & Support
We were impressed with the high level of quality when it comes to this streaming service's support options. At one point, we ran into an issue of the movie library not appearing. The first avenue is the FAQs. Netflix has dealt with every problem you can think of and spells out solutions on its website. If you prefer to get help directly, there are also options for email and phone support. In our particular case, we used live chat. A representative started chatting immediately and didn't waste time with corporate lingo. When we expended nearly every option to make the library appear, the agent stayed on live chat until we found the issue, which was a necessary update to the computer. We admire the company's level of dedication for seemingly small issues.
Netflix is a no-brainer if you are looking for an easy-to-use media outlet. It's a simple solution for anyone who's ever contemplated quitting cable or satellite TV and is looking to save money. While this internet TV service does not host current seasons in production, it has the best features and exclusive content that make the price more than worth it.