We all my be ensconced with the latest Wii hit Super Mario Galaxy 2. But honestly, before that game came out – the Wii was getting kind of stale and I had grown bored of the same old games that seem to be coming out for this console. Fortunately, Netflix must have sensed my boredom and rescued the Wii from collecting dust, with the launch of Netflix for Wii. Before trying out Netflix for Wii, I had never even used Netflix, although I had heard much about their DVDs by mail service from friends who are using it.
First things first, you will have to sign up for Netflix and they will send you a Wii Netflix disk in the mail. I signed up for it and within two days (no joke), the Wii Netflix disk was in my mailbox. It really takes no brain matter what so ever to get Netflix going on your Wii – just pop the disk in and you’re off. However you must be careful not to lose your disk since you will need it every time you want to stream a Netflix movie or TV Show. Unfortunately the same goes for the PS3 as well – you also need to have the disk inserted into your PS3 to access your account for streaming. Also, you should be aware that using Netflix for Wii is not going to give you the same HD zing as if you used Netflix on the 720p PS3 or 1080p Xbox 360, or even an iPad for that matter. This is because the Wii isn’t HD and doesn’t support HDMI out of the box.
Once you insert the disk, the Wii will take a few seconds to process it and then Netflix will display on your home screen along with your other Wii channels. It would be nice for Netflix to have its own dedicated channel so that way you don’t need to keep inserting the disk all the time, but that is just a minor nuisance. To get started you will need your Wiimote to control your Netflix experience. Obviously, because you’re using the Wii’s motion controller it’s a totally different experience when viewing Netflix on your PS3 or Xbox 360 and it’s kinda fun actually. Click on the famous red Netflix box and enter your activation code. Another major difference right away between the Wii and the PS3 and Xbox 360 Netflix experience is that you need to load your queue of movies from your computer first, before the Wii will play anything. That means that you need to sign up for Netflix first on your computer and create a queue of movies that you would like to stream. As much as this is an inconvenience, we can actually think of ways that this “inconvenience” could potentially be useful for parents. Theoretically, parents can control what is in their Netflix account’s queue, so when kids go and watch movies on Netflix on the Wii, they will only be able to access movies that are already in the queue, which parents have already approved of. Anyway, once you have a queue created, your movie queue will then show up on your Wii Netflix queue ready to stream. Unfortunately there isn’t a real search feature on the Netflix for Wii’s interface that will let you search through the Netflix’s entire library. However, the interface does have a drop down menu that is split up with different genres for you to locate the movies you have already put in your queue.
Once your movies are queued up – you control all the functionality of the movie’s playback with the Wiimote. The Wiimote cross pad, A and B button operate all your typical streaming functions like play, stop, skip as you stream a movie or TV Show. You can skip ahead to other scenes just by pushing the cross pad and activating that section by clicking the ‘A’ button.
Regarding the viewing experience – this is a Wii after all and because the Wii isn’t HD, you can generally expect less than spectacular viewing. Regardless, I was pretty shocked and impressed with the movies I watched stream onto the Wii. I must put a caveat that I do have my Wii hooked up through Component cables, because my eyes couldn’t bare a composite setup, even for games, and that helps improve quality if you are using an HDTV. So I was very impressed with my movie choice of the Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Not because I’m a Brad Pitt, but more a Cate Blanchett fan, but also because it had some beautiful visuals and rich colors and the Wii managed to do them justice. But I went ahead and tried streaming the movie using Netflix on my PS3 and Xbox 360 too, in both cases the movie played at full screen, and was beautiful visually as if it were a DVD, and also loaded quickly. All of my consoles are hooked up to the internet via Wi-Fi with a Wireless N router and a download stream of 1.5m kbps. When I streamed it on my Wii, the colors were only slightly muted but load times were exactly the same. So overall there are no drastic differences between all three consoles and each one is able to offer the same great Netflix streaming experience. If you are highly sensitive to richness then you may feel disappointed with some red or blue colors that are lacking on the Wii’s version of Netflix, but once you get into the movie, I highly doubt that most people will even notice it. Another minor difference, although not a deal-breaker is that box art on both the XBox 360 and Ps3 consoles are also displayed in higher resolution than on the Wii – again not a big deal in my book, but others may think otherwise.
One of the neater things I liked about jumping around from console to console with my Netflix account is that I was able to pick up the movie from the same point from where I left off. BUT this only applied to standard definition movies. Benjamin picked up where it left off on both my Xbox and PS3 consoles but on the Wii it started over again from the beginning. When I played a standard definition movie – meaning an older one like Mannequin, it picked up from the same spot from all three consoles from where I left off.
Certainly the Wii isn’t the hi-def machine that the Xbox or Ps3 is, but Netflix makes the aging Wii that much more useful and enjoyable. Overall, Netflix is a unique service that I have really have grown to appreciate and love. I’m watching old movies I haven’t seen in a long while and new DVDs are landing on my door within days. But the best part about it is that no matter what platform, Netflix is available for you to enjoy – that includes the Ps3, XBox 360, Wii, on the Seagate FreeAgent Theater+ HD Media Player, it’s on several Blu-ray players and DVRs, the iPad, your Mac or PC, and an iPhone version has just been announced which we’re really excited about. Practically every modern family has at least one of these devices available in their home, if not multiple. But if you don’t own a game console and you’re looking for an easy and affordable way to integrate Netflix into your home theater system, Roku is the way to go. An SD version of Roku goes for as low as $79.99, and an HD version for $99.
Subscriptions for Netflix go for as low as $8.99 a month which allows you to have have 2 DVDs by mail out at a time, and unlimited access to Netflix’s constantly growing streaming library. As for Netflix’s streaming library – it’s pretty robust, but is definitely lacks when it comes to the majority of new releases, which more often then not you’ll have to rely on for the DVDs by mail for. Overall, the value here is great. The fact that you can access this movie library on all of these different devices is icing on the cake. If you ask us, piracy isn’t what is killing brick and mortar stores like BlockBuster – Netflix is.
The Good: Fast streaming. Good image quality even with composite cables. Very easy to setup.
The Bad: Disk must be inserted in the Wii for Netflix to operate. You have to load your movie queue on your computer first. Doesn’t pick up where other consoles leave off in higher definition movies.
Update 10/18/2010: Netflix for Wii and PS3 no longer require discs! Disc-free streaming has finally arrived on both of these consoles.