Updated: Netflix has changed the price of its tiers, spurred on in part by the arrival of a 'digital GST' in Australia. Updated review below.
Netflix, the undisputed streaming king, has joined local services Stan, Presto and Quickflix in providing Australians with the future of entertainment consumption, and now we're ready to see how it stacks up to the competition.
Now that Netflix Australia is here, there's one question on everyone's lips: how does it stack up to the US version of the service?
Cheapest stream around
Netflix Australia starts from $ 9.99 per month for the entry-level, single-stream standard definition package, all the way up to $ 17.99 for the deluxe, 4K quality, four-stream package.
While not everyone is going to be able to take advantage of 4K streaming quality, either due to the resolution capabilities of their TV set, or the bandwidth quality that's available to them, the package is unquestionably great value.
If you're worried about the kind of stream quality you're going to get from the service, never fear: you can try Netflix out with an obligation-free 30 day trial period.
While we can't really recommend the standard definition package to anyone who can help it, it is a nice option for those with poor-quality internet connections.
Most people will want to opt for the middle range package, giving customers access to two simultaneous streams of 1080p content for $ 13.99 a month.
Please note, If you plan to stream Netflix on an Xbox 360 or Xbox One, you'll need to have an Xbox Live account. That isn't a Netflix thing; it's a Microsoft thing, and it applies to Netflix's rivals, too.
There's also an added bonus for Optus and iiNet customers – Netflix usage is completely unmetered for those internet service providers.
Though its competitors are slowly improving in terms of device compatibility, Netflix remains king, playable on just about everything.
Like Stan and Presto, Netflix can be viewed with the use of a Google Chromecast, Apple TV, iOS device, Android device, PC, Sony’ PS4 and PS3 consoles, and a range of Smart TVs. Unlike those services, you can also watch Netflix on Microsoft’s Xbox 360 and Xbox One, Nintendo’s Wii U. It can also be watched on a range of set-top boxes and media players like Roku player and Fetch TV.
Though Netflix was previously viewable on WD TV Live media player devices, that functionality has since been patched out, with Western Digital choosing to focus on what it’s good at – streaming content from your computer to your TV.
Speaking of Roku, Netflix is now also available on the Roku 2-powered Telstra TV streaming box, which. along with the PlayStation 3 and 4, can provide access to all three of Australia’s major SVOD services.
It should be noted that not all devices can stream Netflix in 4K. This functionality depends on your 4K smart TV has an in-built Netflix app, or if you’ve got 4K-ready device, like the Xbox One S, an Ultra HD Blu-ray player, or the Fetch TV Mighty.
Setting up Netflix
Getting Netflix up and running is remarkably straightforward, and should be easy enough for even your tech-illiterate mum and dad to set up without any problems – simply create an account and use your login details to sign in to any of the devices listed above.
The signup process involves the usual entering of your details, moving on to choosing one of the three packages Netflix offers.
Because Netflix prides itself on its recommendation algorithm, you will be asked to pick three shows or films that you’d like to watch or know that you enjoy from a range of options.
Choose carefully, because these choices will form the foundation of your Netflix recommendations experiences for the foreseeable future.
While Netflix will continually tailor its recommendations for you based on what you actually watch, your initial choices will still be used to recommend you stuff years later.
Once you’ve created a profile, you can start adding shows and films to your Netflix ‘My List’.
You can make multiple profiles, of course, so everyone in your household can get a personalised set of recommendations and keep their own queue of shows.
There’s even a ready-made profile exclusively for kids, with all the inappropriate stuff filtered out.
The Netflix user experience
Those who've used an overseas Netflix service before can rest assured that Netflix Australia's interface is completely identical (aside from its content selection).
Those who are using Netflix for the first time shouldn't have any trouble navigating its user-friendly interface, which separates Netflix's content into a number of different genres and categories that you can swipe through to see what's on offer.
The shows and movies you've watched most recently are at the top of your Netflix screen, allowing you to jump right back in and continue watching, and following right after is the 'My List' category, giving you easy access to all of the shows you've queued up for later perusal.
From here, you'll get categories that show you what's currently popular on Netflix, the service's 'Top Picks' for you, which are based on 'thumbs up/thumbs down' ratings handed out by people with similar viewing habits to you. Eventually, genres and recommendations become more specific to your interests as you continue to watch different kinds of programmes and movies.
Admittedly, it can be annoying to have to scroll through several layers of categories to get to the sections you actually want to browse.
Rather than show you everything the service has on its front page, Netflix would rather maintain a level or mystery surrounding the size of its library, opting instead to give you a taste of what it has, and then keep springing new suggestions on you based on what you watch. If you do want to see everything the service has to offer, you'll need to visit each individual genre separately and scroll through its offerings.
Thankfully, it's been revealed that you can now unlock a huge number of oddly specific categories on the web version of Netflix by adding a numerical code to the end of a certain URL. The trick gives you access to such genres as 'Understated Movies based on real life' and 'Gory Italian Movies from the 1980s.
The constantly shifting nature of Netflix's suggestions gives the service the illusion of having more content than it actually does – it's like this in every territory.
Hop into a programme and either choose a specific episode from a specific season or continue from where you were last at – Netflix will always remember your spot.
Unlike Stan, Netflix gives you subtitle options on pretty much every single show in its range, as well as different language tracks where available – this is a huge win for the hearing impaired and those with a language barrier.
When it comes to actually watching content however, Netflix completely outclasses its competitors.
Even on a moderate broadband connection, our streams began almost immediately after hitting the play button – we only ever experienced two or three seconds of loading before the start of a show, and within ten seconds of it starting, Netflix's variable bit rate had already cleared the image up into a pristine, high-definition presentation.
That variable bit rate is the truly what makes Netflix so special, allowing the quality of your stream to seamlessly go up and down depending on your connection, rather than stopping your show dead in its tracks in order to buffer.
While Netflix has been adamantly against the idea of downloadable videos in the past, it might introduce offline viewing after all – the streaming giant has even hinted that offline viewing may be coming to Netflix 'by the end of the year'
While watching Netflix through a VPN and Smart DNS has always been a fast and smooth experience, local Netflix feels even faster and smoother.
Best of all, Netflix has finally introduced offline viewing, meaning that users can now download certain TV shows and films to their iOS and Android apps. On top of this, it is now possible to use Netflix's offline viewing functionality in the Windows 10 PC app. It's worth noting that this will only work within the app – offline viewing is not available through your PC's browser.
This changes absolutely everything when it comes to enjoying Netflix, as subscribers can now use the app outside of Wi-Fi networks without worrying about data consumption.
To download shows and films, you must first have the latest version of the Netflix app. Once you've got that, tap on the drop down menu and head to the new section, Available for Download.
Here, you'll find a selection of shows and movies that content holders have deemed acceptable to download. Not everything is available yet, but there is a decent selection to choose from. You can also head to your app settings to choose whether you want to download shows in SD or HD – the choice will really come down to how much space you have on your smart device.
Are you content with its content?
By now you’ve heard all about how Netflix’s content library doesn’t quite have the breadth of its US counterpart.
It’s true that as of launch, our Netflix has roughly an eighth of the content of the US service. This will surely bother people who’ve been experiencing US Netflix through a VPN or Smart DNS service, but for those jumping on board now, Netflix Australia still has a better variety of content than its local competitors.
Browsing its content offerings, it becomes evident that Netflix is running fairly light on content, especially as you scroll through each category and notice that each one ends prematurely. However, this is offset by the fact that the quality of stuff on offer is genuinely high.
In terms of local content, Stan definitely has Netflix beat, with a hefty range of Australian shows and movies on offer due to the service’s Channel Nine, ABC and SBS content deals, which provides Stan’s customers Aussie classics like Underbelly and Rake.
However, there’s still a nice selection of Aussie shows and films to choose from, as well as a range of stand up comedy specials from local comedians like Kitty Flanagan, Jimeoin and the Umbilical Brothers.
Documentaries are plentiful though, and there’s a good range of overseas TV shows to choose from – we’ve even put together a list of the 25 best Netflix shows streaming right now in Australia.
While there’s still room to grow in terms of Netflix movie selection, that’s not to say that it’s lacking – you will find that many of the biggest blockbusters of the last few years are ready to stream, including a large range of Disney films and superhero movies.
There’s also a nice selection of back catalogue films available – while the U.S. version of Netflix has more films on offer, the quality of the movies available on the Australian version is generally higher, with familiar studio movies taking up more of Netflix’s virtual shelf space.
Still, there’s no denying that Netflix Australia’s content offering is small compared to what’s available on the US version, though you can rest assured that its content library will continue to grow over time.
Regardless, Netflix’s subscription price is worth it for its original content alone – instant access to entire seasons of brilliant Netflix Originals like House of Cards, Orange is the New Black, Marco Polo, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, BoJack Horseman, Marvel’s Daredevil, Marvel’s Jessica Jones, Bloodline, Narcos and many others make joining the service a no-brainer.
Netflix’s collection of original movies also continues to grow, with the likes of Beasts of No Nation, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny, The Ridiculous 6 and Special Correspondents providing something for the whole family.
After anticipating the arrival of Netflix to our shores for what feels like an eternity, the service has managed to deliver the flawless streaming experience we’ve all heard about for so long.
Where it falls down in terms of its content selection, it makes up for in terms of speed and the quality of its streaming.
While other streaming services are still trying to find their footing, Netflix Australia delivers a perfected streaming experience right out of the gate – we’ve not encountered a single error or buffering problem in any of our tests, and streams always began immediately and cleared up into full HD in a matter of seconds.
Netflix Australia’s user experience is identical to that of its overseas counterparts, so if you’ve already been experiencing the service through a VPN or Smart DNS service, you’ll feel right at home.
While we’ve never had a problem watching an overseas version of Netflix, the local version of the service is even faster and smoother, delivering high definition quality in a matter of seconds.
Our time with the local version Netflix has been completely free of bugs or buffering problems, as the service has had plenty of time to mature and iron out any problems before reaching our shores.
This might be a matter of taste, but the service’s range of Netflix Originals are fantastic, even rivalling the best shows that HBO has to offer in terms of quality, and in a delivery format that is unmatched in the television industry.
Best of all, we love that we can watch Netflix on a large variety of devices, without having to be tied down limited number of devices.
There’s no denying that Netflix Australia’s content line-up is well behind the US version in terms of sheer quantity, so we hope that its library continues to grow with time.
We also wish we could see everything Netflix has to offer in each of its genres, without having to take wild guesses in its search bar to see if the service has a particular show or movie.
When we first published our Stan review, we claimed that it was the best streaming service that Australians had to date.
Well, consider that statement redacted – Netflix has taken Stan’s crown as the best streaming service in Australia.
Featuring flawless, fast streams in high quality and without any buffering problems or errors to speak of, Netflix delivers the gold standard when it comes to its streaming experience.
While its content library is undeniably lacking compared to its US version, the Australian version is still in line with what its local competitors are offering.
We believe that Netflix Australia’s content selection will only continue to grow in time, and even with its current content line-up, its range of excellent Netflix Originals shows makes signing up an absolute no-brainer.