My purchase of a TiVo HD about a year ago continues to pay off. Now I can watch streaming movies from Netflix on the TiVo and the experience beats the pants off watching Netflix streaming movies on a computer. The instant gratification of a decent-quality stream is luxurious compared to the long wait to download a video to my Apple TV or to my TiVo from Amazon’s Video on Demand service, let alone waiting several days for a DVD or Blu-ray disc to arrive from Netflix.
Mind you, I still will insist of viewing great movies on Blu-ray discs I rent from Netflix. The video and audio quality of an actual disc are far better than the Netflix Watch Instantly stream. But the Netflix stream is certainly good enough for casual viewing. It certainly looks okay on my old-school 30″ CRT HDTV, which has 800 lines of resolution. I would likely be less satisfied if I had the gargantuan 50″ 1080p home theater TV I can’t justify buying (yet). And the stream is free with my current five-discs-per-month Netflix account, versus having to pony up to rent or buy a movie via Amazon or the Apple TV.
I just watched The Pixar Story, a documentary that isn’t yet available on Netflix disc, with the new Netflix streaming service on the TiVo. The video stream didn’t have to pause and buffer and only occasionally was I annoyed by macroblocks and other compression artifacts. It is annoying to have to edit my “Watch Instantly Queue” on the computer rather than being able to edit it on the TiVo, but it could be even more frustrating to try to search for movies and edit the queue using the limited controls on a TiVo infrared remote. CNET has a good review of the new service.
As Netflix expands its roster of Watch Instantly movies I will probably drop back to a cheaper 3-or-4 discs-per-month account, and I’m hopeful that their deals to get their streaming service on the TiVo, on the standalone Roku box, on Samsung players, and the Xbox 360 means they will survive the eventual death of movies on disc. I do hope, however, that economics don’t doom Blu-ray discs too early. Movie theaters are becoming obsolete and until we get larger bandwidth for true HD video streams we will still need Blu-ray discs to show quality movies with appropriate video and sound quality.