The Netflix Experience – Wii vs. PlayStation 3

Wii Console - Thumbnail for Netflix Review ArticleI’m late to the party on this one, but I finally tried Netflix. After years and years of ignoring television commercials and banner advertisements for Netflix, instant download movies and TV shows have entered my home. Disks in red envelopes are appearing in my mailbox too. But if not for the Wii and the Playstation 3, I probably would have continued to miss out on the joys of modern day movie rentals. Long gone are the days in Brooklyn, where I would run down to the local video store. As for Blockbuster video, you were cool in the 90’s. But today, a gaming console does so much more than play games.

I used to feel sorry for the Wii. Of the big three systems, it’s the only one without a standard way to play Blu-Ray or even DVD movies. With Netflix, the Wii narrows the gap. In fact, if you haven’t connected your Wii to the Internet, Netflix is a really good reason to do so. It’s pretty simple. The process is similar with the PS3. If you have a wireless router set up, it shouldn’t be too much trouble to connect the Wii or the PS3 to your network. Getting Netflix set up is even easier. You just request a disc from Netflix.

About two business days later you should have the discs. They’re free! Also, there’s a free trial of Netflix. If you don’t like it, just cancel before the free trial ended. Otherwise, you’ll get billed a monthly subscription fee. I ordered both discs to test the difference between both systems.

I got the PlayStation disc first. It was awesome. I watched the GI Joe movie instantly. Even though I heard this movie was pretty lame in theaters, I rather enjoyed it from the comfort of my office. When it’s part of a monthly subscription fee, and when I don’t have to trek to a theater or rental place, I’m more forgiving of plot holes — like ice that sinks. The picture quality was pretty good. It wasn’t as good as Blu-Ray, but it was close enough for me.

It wasn’t until I loaded up Netflix on the Wii that I noticed some big differences. As soon as I saw the blurry thumbnails for movie and TV listings, I was disappointed. The 480 interlaced display of my Wii doesn’t compare to the 720 progressive display on the PlayStation. (Instant streaming doesn’t run at 1080p on the PS3 and my Wii was stuck at 480i. I don’t have a Wii Component Video Cable.) If you want to watch shows in better quality, the PS3 is simply better than the Wii.

Searching for movies is an issue. Netflix has categories of movies to choose from. But if you’re looking for a specific movie, it’s a lot easier to use the PS3. You might be wondering, “How do I search for Netflix movies from my Wii?” Currently, you cannot search for movies from the Wii. What you can do is use a web browser to add an Instant movie to your queue. There’s an oxymoron – instant queue. Fortunately, if you’re in a pinch, you don’t need a desktop computer to load movies into your Instant Queue. You can use the Wii web browser.

The Wii did have an advantage. The navigation — particularly with skimming through a movie — seemed more peppy. I also think the Wii is easier to use. The navigation is smoother with the Wiimote. I think it’s better for kids to use. But be warned, there are some adult movies on Netflix Instant viewing. I wasn’t expecting the raunchiness of Crank 2, which included lewd sex acts, lots of naked women and plenty of violence.

Oh, and Instant Viewing is in addition to movies by mail. Netflix offers an upgraded subscription for the delivery of Blu-Ray discs. Obviously the PS3 is much better in this area.

Yet, Netflix helps the Wii to gain ground. With digital downloads, the important of large storage discs like Blu-Ray is mitigated. So even though the PS3 crushes the Wii with movie viewing quality, the Wii wasn’t really in that fight until now. A forgotten TV, once reserved exclusively for the Wii, can now be even more entertaining. It’s also important to remember that the Wii is much cheaper than the PS3. The Wii also uses less power. That can mean cheaper electric bills. It’s actually a pretty close fight. If you’re looking to save money, it’s not a huge difference between Netflix on the PS3 versus Netflix on the Wii.