Netflix is the video streaming service for a variety of countries, including the United States and the United Kingdom. With a wide catalogue of both local and international content, alongside a fairly minimal price tag, Netflix is an attractive prospect for anyone who wants to stream legal video content.
Available right from the launch of Windows 8, Netflix’s official app makes the service available natively in the user interface formerly known as Metro and does an excellent job at it.
Browsing and Playback
The Netflix app obviously shares the same set of features and functions that the service does on any platform and in the browser.
Users can browse the available library of content through initial categories before filtering further by genre. One of these initial categories is a Top 10 list of suggested content based on your viewing habits in Netflix. It’s pretty easy to pick up a certain show as your latest watched series appear in a special Recently Played section.
For movies, selecting a specific item brings up an enlarged shot of the covert art and some details about the film. These include a brief description or synopsis of the plot and key information like actors and release date. TV shows bring up a similar set of information but, naturally, allows users to select a specific episode, filterable by season.
Playback is everything you’d expect, fitting in with the overall style of playback apps in Windows 8 and integrating fine with dedicated keys on your keyboard. Unfortunately, you can’t do some of the Netflix-specific playback features, like changing the episode of the show, in the player, but performance is snappy enough so that it isn’t too much of a disappointment.
Netflix for Windows 8 has the ease and the simplicity of Netflix on any platform, and performance is good. Of course, it’s the best Netflix client out there.
The big feature — let’s call it — that differentiates this particular Netflix app from any other is it’s design. Netflix for Windows 8 adheres to the Windows 8 style user interface in all aspects, even though it differs from the stock UI on a lot of platforms.
Somewhat similar to Netflix for Xbox 360, Netflix for Windows 8 mimics the typography and layout conventions in the operating systems itself which makes it feel very much like a stock app, making it really intuitive for newer users, especially those having trouble transitioning to Windows 8 as a whole.
However, by doing so, a few basic features do get hidden by the OS while they aren’t on other platforms. Searching must be done through the hover-in charms menu which adds precious sections to accessing the content you want. A minor delay perhaps, but it would be nice for a search bar integrated right into the main Netflix menu. With more extensive exposure to Windows 8, this may well become a non-issue over time, however.
Also of note, things like the scrolling conventions in Windows 8 allow for areas like the season view of a particular TV show to present larger preview images and such, with the larger amount of real estate available versus that on other platforms.
No Xbox 360 Friendship
Of course, Netflix for Windows 8 syncs with other platforms in features like saving your current position in a certain video. You can, with ease, watch something on your Xbox 360 and pick it up later — mid-show or simply the whole season — in Windows 8, and vice versa, but you can’t play Netflix videos from your PC to your Xbox, like AirPlay.
Of course, that’s not something possible with your Apple TV but Netflix isn’t a native app on OS X. With native implementation on both Windows 8 and Xbox 360, it would have been nice to see. Fortunately, Netflix promises more features later in the year.
Netflix in Windows 8 is a snappy, largely intuitive experience that feels very at home in Microsoft’s latest operating system. Everything works fine, performance is efficient and there are no stability concerns.
Importantly, Netflix provides instant native access to a large catalogue of content for Windows 8 buyers. Apple has iTunes and, at least at launch, Microsoft has Netflix and an otherwise lacking collective of media outside of the browser and traditional Windows apps.
However, as one of the first apps available for Windows 8, it has to be commended. It’s an easy-to-use, functionally sound app that promises more stuff in the future, which i’ll look forward to. At $7.99 a month, the entire Netflix service is worth paying for and the presence of this app only ensures that to Windows 8 users.