Hands-on: Netflix on the Apple iPad

Finding the official Netflix streaming video app ready to go for the Apple iPad launch was a pleasant surprise, as it's sure to be near the top of anyone's killer apps list for the tablet. We were able to download the Netflix app from iTunes and give it a test drive, and the initial results are very promising.

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Finding the official Netflix streaming video app ready to go for the Apple iPad launch was a pleasant surprise, as it's sure to be near the top of anyone's killer apps list for the tablet.

We were able to download the Netflix app from iTunes and give it a test drive, and the initial results are very promising (which you can see for yourself in the video above).

Launching the app takes you to what looks almost exactly like the Netflix Web site. You sign in with your username and password just as you would when using Netflix on a PC, no device authorization required. You can sign out just as easily if sharing or borrowing an iPad.

All the standard Netflix Web site features are there, from the movie recommendations to the disc-based and instant viewing queues. Because the Netflix Web site is designed for a mouse and keyboard, we had some trouble hitting a few of the tiny buttons, especially the small play buttons on the instant queue page.

CNET/Sarah Tew

Once we did hit play, however, the iPad jumped to a video playback screen. Loading up the video over Wi-Fi took a few seconds, and we saw an "authorizing" message displayed each time. Once playback started, even SD video looked good, and there was no stuttering or slowdown. In fact, the iPad's 4:3 display is almost better suited for non-letterboxed SD content. HD videos looked even nicer, but a portion of the screen was eaten up by letterbox bars (perhaps an argument for a 16:9 iPad 2.0).

You can easily jog through the video by grabbing a tiny timeline bar at the top and dragging it. We were very impressed with how quickly the video rebuffered and started playing again--a much quicker process than doing the same thing on a laptop or game console .

Sarah Tew/CNET

The content and most of the navigation is exactly the same as the PC and Mac Web-based Netflix streaming service you're used to, and the app itself is free to download. Keep in mind that like all streaming media apps, you'll need to be constantly connected online in order to use it.

Hopefully Netflix will be able to take some time, post-launch, to further optimize this app for the iPad display and touch screen, but in the meantime, it's definitely one of the best reasons we can think of to sign on to Apple's new device.

Check out hands-on photos of some of the iPad's best features , including e-books, Netflix streaming, and gaming, in the gallery below.

 

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