netflix

The Three Best Netflix HD Streaming Devices

You’ve got a lot of choices when it comes to devices streaming Netflix, and no matter which option you pick, you’re making a trade off.  It might be the price, it might be the look, or it might be the functionality.  So what’s the best choice?  It depends on you.  Here are my three picks for standalone, integrated and gaming solutions.

Roku HD XR

Roku HD XR 300x198 The Three Best Netflix HD Streaming DevicesIf you’re going to get a standalone Netflix player, you can’t do much better than the Roku HD XR.  It’s the cheapest option, at $129, and it supports everything Netflix offers, and everything they’ll be offering in the foreseeable future.  The Roku HD XR offers 720p video output and it’ll work with the upcoming Netflix 5.1 surround sound update.  It offers stereo audio outs, an optical output, and the option to send audio through HDMI.  Perhaps best of all, it’s got built in WiFi connectivity that supports 802.11N as well as WEP, WPA, and WPA2 encryption.

The menu is nice and snappy and there’s very little lag when navigating through your options.  Yes, the user interface is starting to feel a bit dated compared to other options, and the video quality could be better, but it remains the best standalone device, and one of the cheapest ways to get Netflix in HD

In addition to Netflix, the Roku player will give you access to Amazon on Demand, Blip.tv, Revision3, Pandora, and a bevy of other streaming services.

Samsung BD-P3600 Blu-ray Player

Samsung 3600 300x144 The Three Best Netflix HD Streaming DevicesThere are a lot of Blu-ray player options for Netflix streaming, but they generally don’t offer enough of a difference to get too excited about.  The Samsung BD-P3600 isn’t an expensive player by any means, but it does offer a great Netflix experience.  The downside to the 3600, if it can really be called a downside, is that the HQV chip from the previous year’s BD-P2500 isn’t present in the newer player.  This HQV upscaling made standard definition DVDs, and Netflix content look just a bit nicer than on the 3600.

Where the 3600 really wins out is in speed and connectivity.  It’s a faster loading player, which is great from a Blu-ray aspect, and it comes with a WiFi dongle.  If you don’t need to go wireless, you can still plug it in, but it’ll connect to your 802.11N network with ease.  The BD-P3600 also provides access to Pandora for your music streaming, which is great for parties, or for some nice background tunes.  You’ve also got access to YouTube and Blockbuster On Demand.

Xbox 360

xbox360 285x300 The Three Best Netflix HD Streaming DevicesThis is a hands down win.  While both the Wii and PS3 offer Netflix as a streaming option, neither matches up to the quality of the Xbox 360.  To start with, the 360 has the best Netflix interface there is, aside from using your PC.  It’s slick looking, it’s fast and intuitive, and it’s got some basic features that the others don’t.  You can play a movie directly from the selection menu, rather than having to go one deeper, for example.

The 360 also separates itself by showing an indicator of quality before your selection starts.  You know whether you’re getting an HD signal or something below.  It’s not a huge problem on the other systems, but it’s nice to know whether you should stop your downloads to get a better picture.

The PS3 at least for now, requires a disc for Netflix viewing, which is inconvenient.  Sony says that the PS3 will get disc-free streaming in the near future, which would make it a much better option, if not the best.  The biggest downside to using a 360 for Netflix is that in addition to the $8.99 (minimum) you’re shelling out to Netflix every month, you’ve got to be an Xbox Live subscriber, at $5 a month.  Add that up and it’s an extra $60 a year.

28 comments

  1. I’ve been loving Netflix Streaming on my iPad lately. The speed is pretty darn good. My only caveat is that it gets a little pixelated when I get too far from the router.

  2. Parapraxis

    hmm, I think the “inconvenience” of using a disc easily trumps all those fees.
    So yeah, for consoles I’d have to say PS3 is the best, which will get better.

  3. HuskerGuy

    The 360 is fantastic for Netflix. Couldn’t recommend it enough. Hopefully the PS3 steps it up in this department sometime soon.

  4. Scott

    PS3 is also a better choice because of the built-in wifi. Not everyone can/wants to run Ethernet to their TV.

    Plus the PS3′s “inconvenience” of the disk is only temporary.

    Plus the PS3 is a blu-ray player.

  5. RollTide1017

    360 offers one thing the PS3 can’t touch right now. You can host a party with up to seven friends and vocie chat while all watching the same movie.

  6. Tim Larkin

    I use Netflix on 360 as my primary TV/Movie access. I don’t have or need cable television. The internet covers news and other TV shows, like Lost. The HD experience is excellent for Netflix, but not all shows/movies are in HD for streaming. Xbox also has many movies/shows for purchase via their Zune service.

  7. chad

    Unless you’re stupid and pay for xbox live per month, then it’s only 50 a year. And, if you allow yourself to put on a thinking cap once and a while and buy your service from somewhere like amazon, you can get really good deals in the neighborhood of 3 bucks a month. That’s not hardly a price to bock and unless you’re only using your xbox for netflix in which case your still an idiot.

  8. Grenada

    @Parapraxist

    I disagree. The PS3 is easily the worst. The interface is slow, cumbersome, and terrible to use. You also have to swap disks just to watch it. Xbox Live is already $3 a month, and getting a premium user interface and more features is just the icing on the cake.

    Anyone with half a brain can tell that the 360 offers the best features when it comes to Netflix, only a PS3 fanboy would say the PS3 is better.

    • Grenada April 26, 2010 at 7:44 pm I disagree. The PS3 is easily the worst. The interface is slow, cumbersome, and terrible to use. You also have to swap disks just to watch it. Xbox Live is already $3 a month, and getting a premium user interface and more features is just the icing on the cake.

      Anyone with half a brain can tell that the 360 offers the best features when it comes to Netflix, only a PS3 fanboy would say the PS3 is better.

      so when you watch your blu-ray movies on your 360 oh wait you can’t.

      360 with no blu-ray option = epic fail.

      so when i have to pay extra money ontop of the netflix subscription to watch it on my PS3 oh wait i don’t have to.

      PS3 with no extra cost nextflix fee’s = epic win.
      Grenada April 26, 2010 at 7:44 pm

  9. SamPeteFLex09

    The X360 is the best one hands down. The best interface, its easy to use and offers party viewing. Voice chat with 7 other friends at the same time and commentate like they do in Mystery Science Theater lol

  10. Xbox 360 Netflix

    Xbox360 owns the ps3 when it comes to Netflix.

    Buy the 360 if you want the best Netflix experience.

  11. Homer

    $60 for Xbox Live? Really? Have you checked prices lately? It’s 49.99 RETAIL. And you can easily find it for 39.99 online everywhere. That’s just over $3 a month.
    It does not beat “FREE” in cost but you get what you pay for.

    • Dick Ward
      Author

      It’s $49 retail for a full year if you pay in advance. Obviously, that’s the smarter choice, but not everyone goes with it.

      In fact, if you pay month-to-month you’re spending $7.99 a month, or $95.88 a year. I felt $60 was a pretty good middle ground :)

    • Homer April 27, 2010 at 5:34 am $60 for Xbox Live? Really? Have you checked prices lately? It’s 49.99 RETAIL. And you can easily find it for 39.99 online everywhere. That’s just over $3 a month.

      It does not beat “FREE” in cost but you get what you pay for.

      Spoken like someone that hasn’t used netflix streaming on the PS3.

      just wait until the microsoft netflix deal is over and then you’ll com crying back and say the PS3 has the best netflix interface.

      that’s right you do get what you pay for as in pay extra for each game you play online.

  12. Mike

    Personally, I own a Roku but just pre-ordered the Popbox. It does 1080p, is fanless, has wi-fi built in, does Netflix plus also NAS/HDD streaming from your PC library, and much more — all for $149.

    It was tough deciding between the Popbox and the Boxee Box, but in the end the Popbox has the better chipset/CPU, has Netflix, and is less expensive.

  13. az060693

    I have to disagree on the Roku option; the WDTV HD Live can stream Netflix and most of the other services the Roku can, has network capability, and can playback local files, and has a huge list of compliant codecs, including MKVs

  14. MassacreXxX

    This article makes it seem like 50$ a year is a lot for Xbox Live, I strongly disagree.

  15. Ddraig

    I own an Xbox 360 and a PS3.
    I use the Xbox 360 primarily for gaming and Netflix. I use the PS3 for Blu-Ray and have tried Netflix on it. Personally, I think if you can afford either of these devices and pay monthly for Netflix then it is just silly to complain about $35/yr (Amazon price) for Xbox Live service. It really is a great service for those that want it.
    I really enjoy the Netflix interface on the Xbox 360 much better, but one thing that it is severely lacking that the PS3 does have is the ability to search for movies and stream them directly from the machine. I have to login to Netflix on my laptop or iPhone to add a movie to my instant queue and then watch it on my Xbox 360. Kind of a pain for those spur of the moment movie watching times.
    I find that it’s not too much of a hassle to pop in a Netflix disc into the PS3, but I swear that the video quality is just slightly better on the Xbox 360. Movies also load up much faster.