The latest entry in the battle of set-top boxes is the new Netflix Player manufactured by Roku. It lets you watch movies from the Netflix library on your television using only an internet connection. The Netflix Player costs $99.99, with no other recurring charges beyond a Netflix subscription.
The Netflix Player doesn’t download movies, but instead streams them from the Netflix web site. It comes with a remote control, but no keyboard. To watch a movie on the Netflix Player, you first need to use your computer to put the movie in your “Instant” queue on the Netflix web site. The contents of that queue appear as available movies on the Netflix Player, and you can use the remote control to watch any of them. You can also pause a movie, fast-forward and rewind, and even stop the movie and resume it later.
The Netflix Player has a number of interesting features:
- It can output composite video, component video, S-Video, and HDMI.
- It can output analog and digital optical audio.
- Up to four Netflix Players can be attached to one account, although only two can play movies at the same time.
- There are no additional charges for any Netflix customer with an “unlimited hours” account.
It also sounds like there are a few disadvantages:
- It requires a moderately fast internet connection.
- Only about 10% of the 100,000 movies in the Netflix library are available for streaming.
- Fast-forwarding and rewinding are a bit awkward (a common problem with streaming).
Since I seem to be one of the few people in the country who has never subscribed to Netflix, I was unfamiliar with their rental plans. According to the Netflix web site, there seem to be three “unlimited hours” pricing plans:
- 3 DVDs at a time for $16.99
- 2 DVDs at a time for $13.99
- 1 DVD at a time for $8.99
The number of DVDs refers to the number allowed out in the mail at one time, so I am confused about how this concerns the Netflix Player. If you didn’t want to receive mailed DVDs, then what would be the advantage of having one of the more expensive plans? My assumption is that most people will still want to receive DVDs in the mail and will use the Netflix Player to supplement their viewing. I’ll be interested to see how this experiment turns out.