Netflix has changed our TV and movie viewing habits completely. It has more than 100 million subscribers worldwide and that has allowed it to not only challenge and beat video rental services, it now has the userbase and muscle to take on traditional broadcasters too.
It makes its own TV shows and movies that are exclusive to the platform. And with recent successes like Narcos and Stranger Things, plus the UK and European rights to Star Trek: Discovery, it has already proved that its output can rival any other studio's in the business.
But you might not have jumped onto the Netflix bandwagon yet, or aren't sure how to watch the streaming service. Here we give you a lowdown of how to get it onto your television or many other devices.
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What is Netflix and how much does it cost?
Netflix is an online streaming service with thousands of TV shows and movies available to watch instantly. They are streamed over an internet connection to a wide variety of devices, including TVs, tablets, phones, games consoles and set-top-boxes. You can also watch Netflix films or programming on a computer.
It is a subscription service with one monthly fee. Depending on which subscription plan you opt for, you can watch Netflix on multiple devices at the same time. You can also opt to watch video in different quality settings, depending on your subscription: standard, high and 4K Ultra HD.
There are three different subscription plans:
- £5.99/$7.99 a month enables you to watch standard definition (SD) video on just one device at a time.
- £7.99/$10.99 a month enables you to watch high definition (HD) video on up to two devices at the same time.
- £9.99/$13.99 a month enables you to watch 4K Ultra HD video (with HDR where available) on up to four devices at the same time.
Almost all shows and films are available in HD, a rapidly growing selection are now available in 4K Ultra HD too. Many of those also come with HDR10 for most TVs or Dolby Vision (a different standard of HDR) for TVs that support it.
What broadband speed do I need for Netflix?
You will also need a broadband service that is capable to stream each of the different video qualities. Netflix uses adaptive bitstreaming to deliver its content, which changes the image quality depending on your broadband speed. However, if you have the following at minimum, you will be able to get each of the video resolutions:
- 3.0Mbps - recommended for SD quality.
- 5.0Mbps - recommended for HD quality.
- 25Mbps - recommended for 4K Ultra HD quality.
That gives you the option to change the quality settings, but you also need to keep in mind how much data each format uses. A mobile data plan or some broadband plans often have a monthly data limit. You can also use the playback settings to limit the amount of data used so you don't use it all up on one movie.
For example, 4K Ultra HD video uses around 7GB of data per hour, while SD video uses a tenth of that.
What are Netflix profiles?
Netflix also supports profiles, so you can set up a different profile for each family member which will tune its content offerings depending on their individual viewing habits. There is also a dedicated Kids section that you can set as the default for younger viewers.
Once set-up, profiles appear on startup as giant icons, so you can choose your own. The main account holder can also link their Netflix profile to a Facebook account and have their own Facebook Profile Picture as the icon.
How to watch Netflix on your TV
If you have a Smart TV from LG, Samsung, Sony, Panasonic, Philips, Sharp or Toshiba it is very likely that there will be an Netflix app available on the set's respective app store. The former three are also recommended by Netflix to carry the official badge.
You can find a list of "Netflix Recommended TVs" here.
The app will be free to download and install on your connected TV but you will need a subscription. You do get a 30-day free trial though, if you've never used Netflix before.
Once you have the application downloaded and installed, you can log into it with your account details and off you go.
How to watch Netflix on a set-top-box
If you don't have a Smart TV or want to watch Netflix in a bedroom, for example, you can get a set-top-box or connected dongle that gives you access.
There are many devices on the market that have Netflix apps available, which include Apple TV, Roku's many boxes, Nvidia Shield Android TV and Amazon Fire TV.
You can also watch Netflix content on a Virgin Media TiVo box, Virgin TV V6 box and a YouView TV set-top-box.
Netflix is accessible, in the vast majority of cases, through the respective device's app hub. Just find the icon with your remote and start it up.
Virgin Media also has a Netflix section on its electronic programme guide, which sends you to the app when you click on it. Its new serieslink+ feature also lists related shows that are available on Netflix, so you can start them from there too.
Some Blu-ray players, such as those from LG, Panasonic, Philips, Samsung, Sony and Toshiba, have access to Netflix apps too.
How to watch Netflix on a games console
Netflix is also available as a downloadable application on a large number of games consoles.
If you have a PlayStation 4, PS3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, or the now discontinued Wii U or Wii, you can watch Netflix in varying qualities - depending on the ability of the console itself.
The Nintendo Wii, for example, is only capable of standard definition playback, while some models of the PS4 and Xbox One can not only play Ultra HD content, they are both compatible with HDR video too (PS4 Pro, Xbox One S and Xbox One X).
You just have to select Netflix from any of the console's main user interfaces, using either a gamepad or dedicated remote if you have one.
How to watch Netflix on Chromecast
Google's Chromecast works differently to most connected devices. Rather than have its own app store and user interface on the device itself, it works with smartphone or tablet apps in order to control the shows and films you want to watch.
A Chromecast plugs into a TV's HDMI port and you open the Netflix app on your phone or tablet. You will spy a Chromecast icon (a TV with a Wi-Fi symbol on top) at the top of the screen. Tap it and it links with your Chromecast dongle. Then, after starting a show or movie, tap the same icon at the top of the video again and it will start to play on your TV instead.
You can then use your mobile device as the remote control. You can also use it for anything else you fancy, such as make calls or browse the internet, as Chromecast streams the video over the internet directly. It doesn't stream the content from your phone or tablet.
The Chromecast Ultra will play content in 4K Ultra HD and with HDR.
How to watch Netflix on a smartphone or tablet
Netflix is also available to view when travelling, over mobile or remote Wi-Fi, through a smartphone or tablet device.
There are dedicated Netflix apps for iOS (iPhone, iPad and iPhone touch), Android and Windows Phone (Windows 10).
Just download them from the respective app store, start them up, enter your account details and away you go.
How to watch Netflix on a PC or Mac
You can watch Netflix content on any computer through a web browser and the Netflix.com website.
You can also plug a laptop into your main TV and watch Netflix on the bigger screen if you don't have any other device connected.