Finding the Best Netflix Player

Last Updated: July 18th, 2012 

What’s the best Netflix player? There are over nine hundred devices that stream Netflix such as Blu-ray players, tablets, smart phones, smart TVs and set top boxes. However, not all Netflix players are created equal. Tech of the Hub is always on the hunt for the best Netflix player. I’ve written extensively about the subject and I’ve created this page as a centralized repository of that knowledge. Here is the original February 2011 post I wrote comparing the Apple TV 2, Roku XDS, Playstation 3, Wii and TiVo. While all Netflix players let you play titles from your Instant Queue, other features are limited to select players. Features such as 1080P high definition (HD) video and surround sound create a better viewing experience. Even within HD video and surround sound there are two different levels of quality. While many players can play Netflix video in 720P HD, only a select few can access the 1080P streams. Even with surround sound, some players offer Dolby Digital while others offer the superior Dolby Digital Plus. Yes, in both cases there is a noticeable difference with the right TV and sound system. I’ve created a list below of which players have these premium functions.

The Netflix players also have a wide variety of user interfaces (UIs). With a catalog of tens of thousands of TV episodes and movies, having an easy way to navigate and find content is important. We’ve captured as many user interfaces as possible in the Netflix UI Gallery. While some UIs are superior to others, sometimes preferring one over another is simply a matter of taste. Personally, I like the Apple TV’s Netflix interface the best. Not only is it easy to use but it offers suggestions based on a particular title you are looking at.

Netflix Player Recommendations

What’s the best Netflix player today? My favorite Netflix player for the living room is the 2012 Panasonic DMP-BDT220. This Blu-ray player supports 1080P, Dolby Digital Plus and closed captions. The picture quality from the BDT220 is superb. It also can stream content at 24 frames per second. For more details, see my in-depth review of the Panasonic DMP-BDT220 as a Netflix player. By the way, it also plays Blu-rays!

For a stand-alone streaming box, I recommend the Roku 2 XS. Note, while it offers 1080P, Dolby Digital Plus and closed captioning, one needs an A/V receiver with HDMI and Dolby Digital Plus decoding to fully utilize it. If you have an older receiver with digital optical inputs, a great alternative is the WD TV Live boxes. The only drawback is that it doesn’t offer as many content choices as the Roku, In particular, it doesn’t offer Amazon Instant Video but it does offer VUDU. (Note: While I’ve tried it, I haven’t thoroughly tested out the WD TV Live).

I also like to use the 3rd generation Apple TV that was released in March 2012. Like its predecessor, the Apple TV has a great user interface for browsing titles IMHO. Unlike its predecessor, the new Apple TV will now stream Netflix in 1080P. While the Apple TV supports closed captions and Dolby Digital surround sound, it does not support Dolby Digital Plus. The Apple TV is also the best way to stream iTunes movies, music and TV shows into the living room. Here’s a walk through of the new Apple TV software.

If you’re interested in just a basic Netflix player, the Roku LT is the most affordable option. At $49, it still offers 720P HD video, surround sound, closed caption support and is easy to use.

Update:  A new Netflix player has just been released for the TiVo Premiere. Supporting all of the premium Netflix features, it’s another great choice for watching Netflix. It’s the only Netflix player that I’ve found that automatically adjusts to the frame-rate of the material it’s streaming.  I’ll add more info here later but for now read my hands-on review.

 Roku 2 XS
Roku 2 XS

While the Netflix support site lists devices that support 1080P and Dolby Digital, I have found instances where that list is not accurate (e.g. the Boxee have Dolby Digital and the 2011 Panasonic Blu-ray players supporting 1080P when they do not).

Netflix Device Premium Features:

1080P Video:

TiVo Premiere (1080P/24, 1080i/30)

OPPO BDP-103 Blu-ray Player

Apple TV 3rd generation

D-link Boxee Box, MovieNite, MovieNitePlus

Netgear NeoTV Pro

Panasonic 2012 Blu-ray players. 2012 Smart TVs

Sony BDP-S390, S590 Blu-ray players, Sony Playstation3, 2012 Sony Smart HDTVs

Roku 2 XS, XD

WD TV Live and Hub

2011, 2012 LG Smart TVs, Google TV, Blu-ray players (2011 BD670), HTIB and Smart TVs

2011, 2012 Samsung Smart TVs (D5, D6, D7 Series)

Philips 4706/5706 TV

2012 Toshiba Blu-ray and Smart TVs

2011 Sharp Smart TVs

Tablets: Lenovo K1, LG Revolution

Dolby Digital Plus surround sound:

OPPO BDP-103 Blu-ray Player

TiVo Premiere

Sony BDP-S390, S590 Blu-ray players

Roku 2 XS, XD, HD, LT

D-link MovieNite, MovieNitePlus

Netgear NeoTV Pro

Panasonic 2011, 2012 Blu-ray, Smart TVs and HTIB

WD TV Live and Hub

2011, 2012 LG Smart TVs, Google TV, Blu-ray players, HTIB and Smart TVs

2011, 2012 Samsung Smart TVs (D5, D6, D7 Series)

Philips 4706/5706 TV

2012 Toshiba Blu-ray and Smart TVs

2011 Sharp Smart TVs

Dolby Digital Surround Sound:

Apple TV 2nd and 3rd generation

Sony Playstation3

Xbox 360

Closed Caption support:

OPPO BDP-103 Blu-ray Player

TiVo Premiere

Sony BDP-s390, S590 Blu-ray players

Roku 2 XS, XD, HD, LT

Apple TV 2, 3rd generation

Wii

WD TV Live and Hub

Toshiba 2012 HDTV and Blu-ray players

Philips 4706/5706 HDTVs

Google TV (Logitech Revue and Sony TV, Blu-ray models)

D-link Boxee Box

2011 Sharp HDTVs

2011, 2012 LG Smart TVs, Google TV, Blu-ray players, HTIB and Smart TVsPanasonic 2011, 2012 Blu-ray players

2011, 2012 Samsung Smart TVs (D5, D6, D7 Series)

Philips 4706/5706 TV

2012 Toshiba Blu-ray and Smart TVs

2011 Sharp Smart TVs

Sony Playstation3

Xbox 360

Mobile devices (iOS and Android)

Anything device missing? Let me know at info // at // techofthehub dot com/

Netflix Device Reviews:

TiVo’s New Netflix Player Hands-On Review
Panasonic BDT-220 Blu-Ray Player Netflix and Streaming Video Review 
Sony SMP-N200 Streaming Player Review
1080P Netflix Coming to TiVo
Apple TV 4.4 Update First Look (3410)
Roku 2 Firmware 2663 Released in Time for Christmas
Roku 2: The Best Netflix Player?

In Search of 24 Frames Per Second on Netflix

What’s the Best Netflix Player? (Apple TV, PS3, Roku, TiVo, Wii)

Best 2011 Blu-ray Player for Netflix (LG, Panasonic, Samsung)

Other Netflix Posts:

HD and Surround Sound on Streaming Services
Parental Controls on Streaming Services
PS3′s New Netflix Interface: A Step Forward or Backward?

 

Tech of the Hub's reviews Netflix players from Roku, Apple TV, TiVo, Wii and Sony Playstation 3

Tech of the Hub's first Netflix Player Shootout

Netflix Blu-ray Player reviews

Netflix Blu-ray Player reviews

16 Responses to Finding the Best Netflix Player

  1. bill long on March 9, 2012 at 7:52 pm

    “I recommend the Roku 2 XS”

    Are you insane? The unit is buggy AND they make you enter a credit card.

  2. jordan on April 12, 2012 at 6:00 pm

    Hi, I see that the Samsung Smart TVs’s can play 1080p and Dolby Digital Plus. Do you know if Samsung’s blu-ray players and HTIBs support these features? Thanks,

    -Jordan

    • Gabe Gagliano on April 14, 2012 at 9:16 am

      Hi Jordan,

      They should support it but I am awaiting official confirmation from Samsung. Stay tuned!

  3. Sonja Lewis on April 23, 2012 at 5:29 am

    Hi Techofthehub,
    Interesting Thoughts, Scheduled to be released sometime in the second quarter of 2011, Krell’s Evolution 555 Blu-ray Player has a lot of people talking. First introduced at last years CES show, this $15,000 player is Krell first attempt at the Blu-ray market. Trying to set the standard in Blu-ray performance the Evolution 555 will be loaded with the latest and finest video and audio features.
    I’ll be back to read more next time

  4. Chad on April 25, 2012 at 4:01 pm

    Thanks for the list of CC/Netflix devices! It is so frustrating to not be able to get a straight answer on such a simple question.

  5. Niambi on June 15, 2012 at 5:11 pm

    Will the Panasonic DMP-BDT220 play subtitles when streaming using Netflix? And can anyone please tell me about any blue ray players that will. I know about other devices such as Roku etc….I’m interested in blue ray players only. Thank you!

    • Gabe Gagliano on June 15, 2012 at 10:13 pm

      The Panasonic DBP-BDT220 will display closed captions in Netflix. The 2011 players from Panasonic (and LG) will also show closed captions. Most Netflix-enabled Blu-ray players that came out in 2012 have closed caption support including those from Sony, LG and Samsung.

      • jim k on September 8, 2012 at 2:51 pm

        Closed caption is not the only subtitle feature people look for. Does it work with subtitles, not just closed caption?

  6. Bob on July 12, 2012 at 1:43 pm

    Why is the Xbox 360 not listed in the 1080p video list? It most certainly outputs 1080p as well as passes the DD5.1 sound. :-)

  7. sean on July 18, 2012 at 6:19 pm

    I’ve got an older ps3 fat. I don’t seem to be getting the dd + on my Denon receiver ( it’s new and can decode it ).. I’ve heard that the older ps3′s downconvert the dd+ to regular dolby. Is this true? If so I’m thinking about picking up the roku2 xs, As I know that has dd+ support. Basically my question is what has better sound in the case of an older ps3 fat?

    • Gabe Gagliano on July 18, 2012 at 10:56 pm

      That’s correct. The PS3 outputs Dolby Digital not DD Plus. For some titles, there is a difference in sound. I did an A/B test once with the opening scene of Lost Season 1, episode 1. I definitely noticed some more dynamic range with DD Plus. The Roku 2 XS is a good choice.

  8. Vince on August 29, 2012 at 6:48 pm

    Great article. Good to see others can also tell the difference between SD, 720p, and 1080p. Also, stereo and 5.1. I think I would settle for 720p if that is the only way to get 5.1 sound (at a decent bit-rate for both audio and video).

    Once you have 1080p projector (or just a large flat-panel TV) and real 7.1 sound system … and see what a Blu-Ray can do, it’s hard to settle for less at movie time.

    Would it be possible to present this in a chart or spreadsheet format?

  9. Tomahawk on December 26, 2012 at 8:31 am

    It looks like Yamaha now supports Netflix in at least Dolby Digital on the BD-A1020. Is Tech of the Hub able to confirm this?

  10. Norm M. on August 8, 2013 at 9:21 pm

    I have a DD+ capable receiver, connected to a ROKU XS (set to surround sound), Netflix (set to surround sound mode) going through HDMI, and still not getting any surround sound.

    If the DD+ signal was there, my front panel would should this on the display. Internet speed is close to 5 Mbps. I can’t figure out why this doesn’t work.

    Any ideas?

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