Got my Netflix disc as promised and have played around with it. I like the GUI--looks a lot like most of the non-Xbox, non-TiVo ones. For the benefit of those who don't subscribe, I'll try to give something of a description of it.
There were no usage instructions included, but it was intuitively easy to figure out. When I first popped it in, I thought it was broken because I was somehow expecting to see the disc in the game column. Of course, it shows up in the video column, with the Netflix icon displayed. When you start it, it will give you a registration code to enter at netflix.com/ps3
. Once I entered that, it almost instantly started displaying the title browser in my Instant Queue.
The title browser shows 7 visible full covers, with half covers visible on either side. The selected one in the center is 4 or 5 times as large as the others, with two lines of basic properties displayed below it: the title on the top line, the duration, rating and an indication of whether or not it has an available HD encoding below (for television series seasons, instead of duration, there's a count of episodes). You can get to the title description by pressing either ENTER, X or DOWN, where, at the top, you'll find a little cover graphic with three or four options (maybe five for TV series):
- Resume playing (if you'd played it and stopped before the end)
- play from beginning
- Star rating (in the form of a string of stars)
- remove from Instant queue (or "add to Instant queue", if the title isn't in the Instant Queue)
Below that, there's a short list of the title's starring actors with a description of the title underneath. At the bottom, more properties: duration, release year, HD indicator (if it has HD encodings) and the name of the director, followed by Genre and Subgenre on the bottom line.
If you choose "play from beginning" (or "resume playing", if it's there), playback will begin (or resume from where you left off). Before playback begins, the screen blacks out, it places the word "retrieving" with a "temperature gauge" style progress indicator at the bottom and the name of the film in the center of the screen, all plain white text against a black background, gradually lengthening red line in the progress indicator. When the progress indicator fills up, playback starts (or resumes). Unlike all of the other players (with the exception of the PC) there is no indicator of starting quality level--no bars, no balls, no nothing. However, unlike most of the players, you get some of the PS3's normal video information display when you press SELECT--sound type and current sound bit rate, video type and current video bit rate. For the stuff I watched, sound was always 128Kbps DD2.0 sampled at 48KHz and the video type was always AVC with variable bit rate. While watching both Serenity
the bit rate peaked above 5 Mbps, so I assume that I was getting the HD encoding. The information display give no time info--neither progress or time remaining; kinda sucks since it's what I expect. You do
get a scrub bar showing the progress and duration when you press PAUSE, FF or REW, so it's not too bad. Pressing STOP or UP will get you back to the description; if you didn't watch through the end of the title "resume playing" will be on the menu.
There are three speeds of FF and REW, using the "frame" selection style GUI. It doesn't speed up or slow down playback, it just presents you with a series of seven frames, with the center one larger--if you press PLAY, the center one is where you'll start playing again. At higher speeds, the time between frames is greater. All the other players have some variation on this (some with fewer frames displayed before and after, but a bigger center frame, etc). Pressing the ">>|" and "|<<" buttons doesn't do anything--they do something in both the Xbox and TiVo players (in Xbox, skip back and forth to tick marks on a scrub bar; on TiVo ">>|" will skip to the end and "|<<" will skip back several seconds).
Back at the title browser, above the display of covers, there are three tabs, the currently selected one in the middle. If you press UP, it will take you to those tabs where you can select a list of titles in a particular genre (and a couple of other things) to look at:
- Instant Queue
- Recently Watched
- New Arrivals: Movies
- New Arrivals: TV
- Action & Adventure
- Sci Fi & Fantasy
- Children & Family
- Movies You'll Like
- Suspenseful Crime Dramas
- Dark Sci-Fi
- Violent Movies
- Visually Striking Movies
- Mind-Bending Movies
- Like: Serenity
- Like: The Terminator
Everything below "Movies You'll Like" are types of films that I told Netflix that I liked as an account preference. Serenity
are movies that I recently streamed, though Terminator
isn't one of the most recent ones, so I'm not sure why it's showing me movies "like" it. Choose one of those tabs and the browser will fill with covers of movies of that genre, limited to 100, which I presume are the most popular ones. No matter what they do, a browser for the entire 18,000+ titles in an embedded device would be ungainly (as is the Amazon download browser on TiVo). If you select one of titles from that list, you can play it immediately without placing it in your Instant Queue, and playing it doesn't place it in you Instant Queue; there's an option to place it in your Instant Queue on the description display.
That's about it. The mechanics for choosing a TV series episode are a bit different, but I won't get into it.
- No indication of quality level when you start playing.
- No way to start playing from the top browser level.
- Pressing the PLAY button in the description means "play from beginning"; I think it should be "resume playing".
- You can get to the end of a list of titles by scrolling backward from the beginning and vice versa--very cool.
- The overall design of the GUI is nice. I might like it better than the Xbox's, which was my previous favorite.
I stated above that I didn't think that I'd be using this thing, but I just might. We'll see if swapping discs is terribly annoying.