That’s all well and good, but how good is the content and service Netflix offers? How do its different plans stack up against Amazon Prime Video and Now TV in terms of value, picture quality, and other features such as the option to download content and watch offline? Read on to find out.
Netflix review: Prices and packages
Netflix offers a 30-day trial to all new customers, so you can see for yourself whether you like its content without parting with any hard-earned cash. Before making that decision, though, it’s important to know exactly what you’ll get for your money, if you do decide to sign up.
At £5.99, the Basic Plan is the cheapest Netflix subscription. As its name suggests, this option is very basic, offering only a standard definition stream on one screen at a time. If you’re on a strict budget, it’s a great way to get access to Netflix’s entire library of content, but otherwise you’re probably better off with one of the pricier options.
For only £2 a month more, the Standard plan (£7.99) unlocks both Full HD-quality streams and the option to watch on two screens simultaneously. And, finally, if nothing less than 4K will do for your snazzy new UHD TV, Netflix’s Premium £9.99-a-month plan is the only option. This package also unlocks HDR (both HDR10 and Dolby Vision are now supported) and the ability to watch on up to four screens simultaneously, making it a great option for families.
As far as what you can watch on, there’s a Netflix app for practically every device you can think of, including smartphones, tablets, PCs, smart TVs, games consoles and other streaming media players. The only notable platform to block Netflix is one of its main rivals, Now TV. So, if you want to be able to stream Now TV and Netflix on the same device, avoid Now TV’s own Smart TV Stick and opt for a Chromecast or a Roku streamer instead.
Regardless of which plan you choose, Netflix lets you download many of its TV programmes and films (most of its originals and some others, too) to watch offline at a later date. This works on the iOS, Android and Windows 10 Netflix apps and is great if you still want access to your favourite Netflix content in places you might not be able to get a decent internet connection – on a long haul flight, for instance.
Netflix review: Content
Although it started out as a simple streaming platform, in recent years Netflix has become a production house in its own right, increasingly investing in its own “Originals” programming. By the end of 2018 the firm says it will have 1,000 such TV shows and movies available on the service.
Some of its best-known series include House of Cards, Orange is the New Black and Better Call Saul, and it’s also had its fair share of hit documentaries and factual content including Making a Murderer and the Oscar-winning Icarus.
Hit feature films from Netflix’s own studios are much fewer and further between but the the best thing about its Originals is that, unlike licensed content, they scarcely, if ever, disappear from the site.
This means you start watching a series confident in the knowledge it’ll still be there if you take a break for a few weeks. The same can’t be said for Netflix’s other content, which comes and goes in a rather unpredictable manner.
As with its Originals programming, Netflix does licensed TV series much better than it does movies. That’s not to say it doesn’t have any good films at all – at the time of writing you can stream La La Land, The Revenant and Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight – but if you’re mainly looking to stream recent Hollywood blockbusters you’re probably better off with Now TV’s Sky Cinema Pass or perhaps even Amazon’s Prime Video.
Netflix also usually has a fair amount of British content, both old and new. Comedies including Fawlty Towers, The Office, Peep Show, I’m Alan Partridge and The Detectorists have all been available to stream and download in recent months, and there’s also a good chunk of the BBC’s natural history programming, too, including Blue Planet, The Hunt, and Life, as well as dramas such as Peaky Blinders.
If that’s not your bag, and you’re more of a big fan of US TV series, Netflix has you fairly well covered, too. All ten series of Friends were added to the service last December, and the entirety of Suits is also available, with a new episode currently added every week.
Netflix review: Competition
Amazon’s Prime Video is Netflix’s biggest rival in terms of the content it offers, allowing you stream its own originals such as The Grand Tour and Transparent along with a range of licensed TV shows and films.
Signing up to Amazon Prime for £79.99 a year (or £7.99 a month) is the best value way to subscribe to the service, because that also entitles you to free, next-day UK delivery on eligible items, and unlocks ad-free access to Amazon Music. Alternatively, you can subscribe to Prime Video only at a cost of £5.99.
Like Netflix, Amazon offers a 30-day free trial for all Prime customers. It offers Full HD-quality streams on practically all of its content and although 4K and HDR is supported, you’ll only be able take advantage of that feature on a select few Samsung, LG and Sony Ultra-HD TVs – and Amazon’s 4K Fire TV products. One aspect in which Amazon Prime Video outdoes Netflix’s Standard plan is that you can watch it on up to three screens simultaneously. Like Netflix, select programmes and films are available to download and watch offline.
The other big name in TV streaming in the UK is Now TV. Its Entertainment pass, which gives you access to over 300 TV box sets, as well as premium channels such as Sky One, Sky Atlantic and Comedy Central, is priced identically to Netflix’s Standard plan. For £7.99 a month, it’ll let you watch on up to four devices, although only on two screens simultaneously and at a maximum resolution of 720p regardless of the device (1080p support is coming later in 2018).
The Entertainment pass gives you access to all manner of top-quality programmes, from Game of Throne to Curb Your Enthusiasm, but most programmes only appear sporadically, so it’s worth checking how long something will be available for before signing up. Unlike Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, you can’t store any programmes offline.
Crucially, the Entertainment pass also includes no films. To stream Hollywood classics and recent cinema releases you need to buy a Now TV Sky Cinema Pass, which is £9.99 a month and gives you access to all 11 Sky Cinema channels as well as more than 1,000 movies on demand. Paying £18 a month for Entertainment and a Sky Cinema Pass is a lot to fork out but, if you’re prepared to pay up front, Sky usually offers some good discounts when buying its passes in bundles.
Netflix review: Verdict
It’s easy to see why Netflix has millions of subscribers. Along with its unrivalled catalogue of original and licensed content, it lets you watch on practically any device and download many of your favourite TV shows for watching offline.
Unlike Now TV, which is limited to 720p, Netflix’s Standard pass offers Full HD streams on up to three devices at once for only £7.99 a month. If you want to stream at 4K, it also offers UHD support on more devices than any other platform.
As with all such services, whether Netflix is the right streaming service for you ultimately depends on whether or not it has the content you want to watch. But technically and in terms of the value the service offers, Netflix is currently leading the way.