App type: Entertainment
Publisher: Netflix, Inc.
Release date: October 12, 2012
Supported platforms: Windows 8 (x86), Windows 8 (x64), Windows RT (ARM)
Price: FREE (*requires Netflix subscription)
While the arrival of a Netflix app for Windows 8 and Windows RT isn’t unexpected or even timely, it’s one of only a handful of super-popular mainstream apps to arrive on the Metro platform so far. If you’re familiar with Netflix on Windows Phone or other mobile platforms, you get the idea.
With over 27 million members in the United States, Canada, Latin America, the United Kingdom and Ireland, Netflix is of course the world’s most popular video subscription service. It offers online access to the world’s largest streaming-based collection of TV shows and movies. (Netflix began as a mail-order DVD rental firm. It still offers a connected service for DVD movies and Blu-Rays, which is unrelated to the Windows 8 or other mobile apps.) I use and recommend Netflix as noted in my most recent What I Use article, from September 2012.
As a mobile app, Netflix for Windows 8 and RT works much like the Windows Phone version of the app, though of course the presentation is different and more tuned to the larger and landscape oriented screens typically used on modern PCs and devices.
Navigation is simple enough. The home screen is a standard Metro-style app, with UI elements that disappear off the right edge of the screen. Up front and center are main links like Home, Top Picks for You, New Releases, and Genres, and groups like Continue Watching (your most recently viewed videos) and Instant Queue. If you scroll over, you’ll see many more groups, however, such as Recently watched, Top Picks, Popular on Netflix, and many, many more.
Netflix also supports the Metro semantic zoom feature, giving you a broader but less visual look at your navigation options.
Video playback also works as expected, though it’s unclear what quality levels are possible. As with Xbox Video offerings, Netflix appears to utilize a fast-start scheme in which video playback starts as quickly as possible and then the quality improves as it plays.
If you tap the screen, you’ll get a simple set of playback controls with a play/pause button and timeline scrubber, and a back button for returning to app navigation. Tap and hold (or right-click) and you’ll see volume and audio controls; the latter offers language and subtitle choices, when available. And in my experience, subtitles are offered quite broadly on this service, which is a plus.
There are a few important things to understand about the Netflix app. One, it’s a front-end to the streaming service only, so you cannot use this app to manage a DVD subscription, or even to find movies or TV shows that are not available for streaming. Second, because it is a streaming service, you must be online to use it. And if you’re using a broadband cellular connection, the bandwidth requirements of this app will eat into your monthly allotment very quickly, so it’s best to try and stick with Wi-Fi connectivity when possible.
Overall, the Netflix app for Windows 8 and Windows RT works exactly as expected, though I’d still like to see some integration with the firm’s DVD/Blu-Ray service. For example, when you search for a film, director, or actor, it would be nice to see options for adding movies or TV shows not in the streaming service to your DVD queue. But this is an issue with all versions of the Netflix mobile app.
Obviously, if you are a Windows 8/RT-using Netflix subscriber, you will want this app. If you’re on the fence, and live in a supported country, be sure to check it out: Netflix offers a 30 day free offer so you can see whether it’s worth it for you. The streaming subscription service is $7.99 per month.