This year, there has been a significant increase in the number of Netflix enabled devices that play the service’s 1080P video streams. Netflix’s support site now reveals the features and technical capabilities of select Netflix capable Blu-ray players, Smart TVs and stand-alone streaming players. Netflix used to be fairly mum about the respective features of devices from different manufacturers. The new Netflix support site was launched March of this year.
For each device detailed on Netflix’s support site, it indicates if a device can stream HD in 1080P versus 720P (Netflix says you need at least 5 megabits of bandwidth for 1080P). It also details if a device supports Dolby Digital surround sound, subtitles and the ability to browse genres. However, Netflix does not indicate if a device supports regular Dolby Digital versus Dolby Digital Plus. Dolby Digital Plus is more efficient with network bandwidth and can provide better sound quality.
In addition to 1080P players already listed on Tech of the Hub, the Netflix support site reveals an additional set of 1080P capable players. Some of them include 2012 Blu-ray players from Toshiba and select HDTVs from Toshiba, Phillips and Sharp. The support site also revealed streaming players that were formerly limited to 720P video that can now handle 1080P. LG’s 2011 Blu-ray players (BD670 and higher) received an upgrade last January enabling 1080P. The D-link Boxee can now handle 1080P video streams as well. However, while the site reports that Panasonic 2011 Blu-ray players are capable of 1080P, several sources have indicated the current firmware is still limited to 720P. Perhaps an upgrade is on the horizon? No comment from Panasonic as of yet.
It should be notes that the Netflix support site does not provide a complete list of 1080P capable devices. Two newly released devices, the Netgear NeoTV Pro and the D-link MovieNite both support streaming 1080P and Dolby Digital Plus from Netflix but are not listed on the Netflix support site. Tech of the Hub also maintains a list of which devices support which Netflix features including the ones can handle Dolby Digital Plus versus Dolby Digital.
Netflix opened the 1080P floodgates last year when they released a new SDK for device manufacturers. Before that, only the Sony Playstation3 could handle 1080P video from Netflix. Starting last year, the Roku 2 and the WD TV Live were first couple to implement. Sometimes referred to as version 3 of the Netflix software, a number of manufactures later implemented including Apple, Panasonic, TiVo and Sony. However, I don’t expect most pre-2012 devices will get the 1080P upgrade if they haven’t received it all ready with the only exception being the Xbox 360.
To wrap up, I bet that by next year, all new living room Netflix devices will support 1080P and Dolby Digital Plus (hardware permitting). That leaves me wondering what the next big Netflix feature will be.