One of the big name apps now available for Windows 8 PCs and Windows RT tablets is a shiny new Netflix client, downloadable free of charge from Microsoft's Windows Store. What is it like to use this app for watching movies and TV? In comparison to many other Windows 8 apps, Netflix for Windows 8 is a standout in some ways, as we'll see in this review.
Overall, the idea behind Netflix for Windows 8 is quite simple: access and play movies and TV shows from the vast online archive on Netflix. (If you don't know what Netflix is, I would have to ask you where you have been all these years.)
The new Netflix client is a "Modern UI" app, as Microsoft is fond of describing its new interface for Windows 8 and RT. This means that it's compatible with PCs and tablets running either OS, including Microsoft's own RT-enabled Surface tablet. Generally, "Modern UI" apps also bring certain compromises in design, but Netflix for Windows 8 does an admirable job of working around the constraints.
In addition to compatibility across both platforms, being a "Modern UI" app also means that the Netflix client for Windows 8 features an incredibly simplified interface. For most apps like this, the interface is visually sparse: great gobs of blank space, with two or three menu options. Fortunately, that's not the case for Netflix.
On signing into the app, you're greeted by three main tiles. You have your play queue, another tile for recently watched items, and -- if you have any shows or movies that you've paused or stopped in the middle of -- it will display these, too, in an invitation for you to resume watching them.
If you're new to Netflix and you don't have a play queue or the like yet, the app will show other options, such as top picks, new releases, etc. Each of those tiles is then made up of a thumbnail of the movies or TV shows in that category, creating a kind of mosaic. This ends up taking a UI that can look rather plain when used by other apps and giving things a nice, visually informative feel instead.
Once you choose something to look at, you're taken to an individual page that lists all of the important details: items like synopsis, cast, PG-13 and five-star quality ratings, and just about anything else you'll need to know.
The information page for a movie can feel a little empty compared to the amount of detail listed for a TV show -- but then again, movie listings aren't accompanied by episode guide information, season listings, individual episode summaries, and so forth.
Like most of the new Windows 8 apps, the Netflix client is extremely touch-friendly. In fact, navigating around it WITHOUT being able to use finger swipes and similar gestures feels a little unwieldy.
This app was definitely built mainly for tablets and convertible laptops. That's not to say by any means that it doesn't work on desktops or traditional laptops, but I can very easily see that if I had both a Windows 8 PC and a Windows tablet at hand, I would prefer using it on a tablet.
I ran the app using Windows 8 Pro upgrade on an IBM Thinkpad T43p that I use as a backup machine. The PC is a bit slow for Windows 8, but otherwise fine for running the new OS. I experienced no snafus with video or audio playback or other aspects of the app. Buffering was appropriate to the connection speed.
Subscriptions to Netflix's streaming video service are currently priced at $7.99 per month, with one-month free trials available.
All in all, Netflix for Windows 8 delivers a simple, user-friendly, and informative way to watch movies and TV shows on the newest Windows operating systems. It's not a really advanced app, but it doesn't need to be. It gives you easy access to your account, tells you about your shows, and plays them for you.
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