Last weekend, a hurricane hit our town–literally. So my son and I were stuck inside the house pretty much all weekend. I had been thinking about giving Netflix a try for a while–and since the weather made it less than pleasant to leave the house, I decided this would be the perfect weekend.
Using my PC, I signed up for a 30-day free trial from Netflix. During this process, I was asked to provide my name, address, phone, and valid credit card information. I was then asked to read a Terms of Service document that looked pretty standard: it stated that my credit card would be charged $7.95/month, one month at a time, if (and only if) I did not cancel before the end of my 30-day trial. I was happy to read that cancellations can be done online, right from your Netflix account–with no awkward telephone call with a salesperson trying to pressure you into keeping your account. (Whew!)
Netflix has two categories of titles:
- streaming video titles, which are viewable over the Internet on a computer or other compatible device
- standard DVDs, which you must order and return through the mail
When you sign up for a free Netflix trial, you’re automatically signed up for the unlimited stream movies and TV plan. You’re also given the option to add the DVD-through-the-mail plan to your subscription. If you add the DVD option to your trial and don’t cancel within your trial period, you’ll be billed a higher amount than if you were only signed up for unlimited streaming movies and TV.
In a nutshell, Netflix offers the following plans:
- Unlimited streaming (no DVDs) — $7.99/month
- 1 DVD at a time (no streaming) — $7.99/month
- 1 DVD at a time + unlimited streaming –$15.98/month
- 2 DVDs at a time + unlimited streaming — $19.98/month
- 3 DVDs at a time + unlimited streaming — $23.98/month
- 4 DVDs at a time + unlimited streaming — $29.98/month
All of these are considered unlimited plans, because you can borrow as many different DVDs as you want each month–with the only stipulation being on the number of DVDs you have in your possession at one time. DVDs must be returned to Netflix before they’ll send out your next selections. Blu-rays are also available for an additional charge.
In addition to the unlimited plans, Netflix offers a limited DVD rental plan for $4.99/month, but it limits you to two rentals per month.
Is it Worth Getting DVDs Through the Mail?
Honestly, I had no interest in ordering DVDs through the mail–it’s just too much of a hassle. One the plus side, adding on the DVD option increases the selection of titles available to you.
When I first signed up for my free trial, I had a particular movie in mind that I wanted to see: Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Roderick Rules. I knew it was out on DVD, but I wasn’t sure if I’d like it, so hadn’t purchased it. But I soon discovered that Netflix wasn’t offering that film via streaming video–they only offered it on DVD. This was a bit disappointing, initially, since I was really in the mood to check that movie out. But then, as I looked through the Netflix selection of streaming titles, I realized there was quite a bit of interesting material there–substantially more than I’d be able to get through during a 30-day free trial!
Best Streaming Videos from Netflix
Keep in mind, this selection is likely to change over time. But this will give you a snapshot in time of what kinds of titles/selections you might find available. Also, this is just a limited selection of what Netflix is offering…just to give you an idea.
- Eureka — TV series
- Soul Eater — Japanese Anime TV series
- The Iron Giant — animated movie
- The Twilight Zone, seasons 1-5 — original TV series
- The Dresden Files, season 1 — TV series
- Alpha and Omega — animated movie
- Ponyo — animated Disney movie
- Astro Boy — animated movie
- Prince of Persia — feature film
- Secretariat — Disney feature film
- Santa Clause 2 — feature film
- Parenthood — feature film
- Bleach, 109 episodes — Japanese anime TV series
- Ouran, season 1 — Japanese anime TV series
- Fullmetal Alchemist, 51 episodes — Japanese anime TV series
- Fruits Basket, 24 episodes — Japanese anime TV series
- Chobits, 27 episodes (complete series) — Japanese anime TV series
- InuYasha, 167 episodes — Japanese anime TV series
- FLCL, 6 episodes — Japanese anime TV series
- Ghost in the Shell — animated Japanese anime movie
- Naruto, seasons 1-2 — Japanese anime TV series
- Star Trek Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager, and the Original Star Trek Series — TV series
Some of these titles, I’ve already seen–but a lot, I haven’t. See what I mean about Netflix offering way more than you can watch during a free trial? A lot of good stuff, too.
Netflix Suggests Titles Based on Your Likes and Dislikes
Frequently, Netflix gives you the opportunity to rate titles you’ve watched on their system. They then make immediate suggestions to other shows you might be interested in, based on your response. The more titles you rate, the better their suggestions get. This is actually a kind of fun way to try out programing you might not initially be tempted by, but that you turn out to like quite a bit.
Need to Pause a Program? Pick Up Where You Left Off.
If I can’t make it through a program one night because it’s getting too late–or because I need to focus on making dinner–I can pick right up where I left off during that program when I come back. This works similarly to the way a DVR works–except you don’t have any kind of box taking up space in your living room!
My Final Review, 2 Weeks into My 4-week Trial
It’s hard to complain about something you got for free, right?
Seriously, though. The signup process was extremely easy. And streaming the movies and TV shows through our PS3 was simple, too–just a matter of going into the Netflix section on the PS3 dashboard and typing in my Netflix account information.
As for the quality of the streaming video: there have been moments here or there where the picture got just a tad fuzzy, but I can’t say this wasn’t just a factor of our wireless router. And it hasn’t happened often.
The selection of streaming titles could be better, honestly–but there’s still quite a bit good stuff there to watch. And since Netflix doesn’t require a contract or service agreement, you can cancel after a month, if you’ve gone through all the shows you like. Assuming they haven’t added new titles by then….
Cost: it’s great that Netflix offers free trials. This way you can get a feel for the system, plus have a good look at their selection and see if it works for you. Beyond that, $7.99/month seems fair for unlimited streaming. Adding on the DVD package seems a bit less of a value, to me–if only because you’ll only be able to watch so many titles when you have to depend on the postal service to deliver discs back and forth. But it’s still a lot cheaper than the brick-and-mortar video stores charge, assuming you happen to still have one in your neighborhood.
To be honest, when I signed up for Netflix’s free trial, I wasn’t planning to keep the service. But I’ve gotten hooked on the Eureka TV series, and I won’t be close to finishing seasons 1-5 by the time my trial is over. So I’m afraid they’ve got me hooked! At least, for the next couple of months or so. Whether I continue beyond that will depend on what kind of title rotation Netflix has for their streaming collection. And that’s something only time will tell. In the meantime, I’m really enjoying the selection they’ve got now–and there’s lots of stuff for my 10-year-old son, too: plenty of Nickelodeon series, as well as animated movies and other age-appropriate programming.
On top of everything else, I can see that Netflix may well save our family money–because time spent at home, watching great movies and TV shows together is time we’re not “out and about”–which invariably ends up costing money. Plus, seeing a show or a movie on Netflix can help us to avoid purchasing DVDs of movies that we end up not liking.