I finally got around to testing netflix capability with my current setup. First, I called Netflix, which has excellent customer support by the way (waited less than a minute both times I called and person was very helpful). They explained to me that I have 5 hours of streaming netflix free with my plan (old plan of 2 dvds a month). Since I’m not using a netflix “device” and just streaming from my computer, they said I didn’t need to activate anything. I asked if the streaming via PC has HD video capability and they said it did. When I asked about audio, they said they are working towards that as they realize more people are using PCs to access Netflix content. Lastly, I asked how to keep track of the usage, and he said to view “Your Account and Help” at the top-right portion of the homepage, and the section “Instant Watching Activity” will track your streaming usage. Once you reach 5 hours, it will not cut you off, but allow you to finish the program you are watching and then prevent you from accessing anymore streaming content until the following month.
Once I had all the information, it was time to test streaming Netflix. One thing to note…you must have Microsoft Silverlight installed to stream Netflix content. As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, my method to view full screen content on my HDTV is not as simple as I’d prefer, but it’s only two steps. First, I select “Extend these displays” from the Windows “Screen Resolution” menu, ensuring that my A/V receiver/HDTV is checked as the main display. Then, I go to my Catalyst Control Center (associated with my Radeon 5570 video card) and nudge the overscan until the content fills up my HDTV screen. I’m still trying to figure out a more automated way to do this, so if anyone knows, I’d love to learn how to do this.
I chose my Netflix streaming program via my wireless mouse from the living room, and pushed the play button. I had to agree to some Silverlight dialog boxes, and then the program began. During the first few seconds, the image was poor and I was thinking “oh great”, but I believe Netflix senses your broadband speed and adjusts accordingly. My connection is between 10 and 20 MBPS, so I think this is plenty of speed to view full HD resolution. The program definitely was HD, and it looked better than many of the programs I watch on digital cable. Ensure that the HD option is selected at the bottom menu when you start your program…and choose full screen.
All in all, Netflix streaming was a success. The content filled the entire screen and the program was HD, smooth, and not jumpy. Hopefully they will offer HD audio soon, in addition to the HD video. I didn’t test a program that was audio-intensive, so I will add more thoughts on this when I do.
Below is a snapshot of an Icelander from the program I was watching (TLC’s Dhani Jones travels the globe). You can see how clear the image is, and it filled the entire screen as the border of the HDTV is the dark black.