Since 1997, Netflix has changed the way that we think about "renting" movies. Instead of schlepping it to our nearest big box rental shop or mom 'n pop store to pick up a tape of DVD, they've made us all lazier -- excuse me, enhanced the convenience of renting a movie -- by sending discs directly to our mailbox based on a queue arranged on their website. Wait times can be a hassle for high-demand items, but the service has nevertheless made believers out of many consumers. However, with the likes of free movies available at various venues across the Internet (Hulu, The Auteurs), a new type of viewing experience has become predominant within the past few years: instant streaming, along with free on-demand rentals through cable providers.
In reaction to this, Netflix has also come out of the gate with movies available to play instantly via their streaming service -- though it's only become available on specific standalone Blu-ray players (such as LG’s BD300), as well as on the computer itself. Well, Netflix has again tinkered with the way we think about viewing movies in the home by trumpeting out instant streaming via gaming units, first with the Xbox 360 earlier this year and now with a newly-fangled Streaming Disc for the popular Playstation 3. The marriage between the Playstation 3 and this new streaming disc is a naturally stellar union, offering a highly-integrated, quick, and intuitive process to entry.
Getting the PS3 set up for the streaming disc is pretty easy. First step is to send a request to the company for a disc, done here (http://www.netflix.com/InstantStreamingDisc). Since the mailing is handled by the local distribution centers, it should arrive on your doorstep in about the same timeframe as receiving any other disc in the mail -- roughly two days. It arrives in the signature red envelope just like the other discs from the service, only with bright writing that states that the user doesn't have to return the disc at any point. A second sleeve, similar to a standard DVR slip, also comes with the disc to protect it when it's not in the machine.
Once it arrives, it's a really straightforward process: insert the disc, access the Netflix option in the "Video" row of the XMB (if you don't have Auto Load turned on), and wait for it to load on the system. Once it boots up, the user will need to communicate a code via the Internet to "pair" up the individual PS3 system to the account. It asks if you "already have your Netflix streaming disc", making a field available on the website where said code, which will pop up on your screen, can be entered. That process happens almost instantaneously. After the two have been linked, the system's ready for streaming.
Categories and Instant Queue:
Once it's loaded, the navigational interface is both nicely laid out and very pleasing. File tabs appear at the top, which can be "flipped" through with the directional buttons on the PS3 controller (or the directional pad on the Bluetoothe Blu-ray remote).The Instant Streaming framework comes equipped with several standard options to surf through, including New Arrivals, Recently Watched, basic categories (Comedy, Sci-Fi & Fantasy, etc.), and a few elaborate categories (Serial-Killer Thrillers, Movies About Weddings, Raunchy Movies, etc.). Each of the categories typically has twenty-five (25) suggestions, and some of the offerings are rather respectable at the start -- including the likes of Full Metal Jacket, Blade Runner, and modern hits like The International.
What makes the Instant Streaming infinitely valuable is the first folder, the Instant Queue. The user can built their list of movies to watch by browsing, searching, and adding titles on the Netflix home website, all of which pop up very shortly after it's done. This feature is available by clicking on the "Watch Instantly" tab at the top of the home web address, further refined by categories directly underneath the main bar. Genres range from Action & Adventure and Horror to Faith & Spirituality, as well as a category specifically set aside for high-definition (HD) films. Every film either has an "Add" or "Save" button underneath the cover artwork; however, the films available for Instant Streaming are annotated with a blue "Play" button. Hovering over that blue button makes a second option pop up underneath, "Add to Instant Queue". Simply click on that button and the network will update the selection.