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Hands-on with Netflix on the PS3

The PS3 received an update this morning that allows Netflix streaming without a disc, and CNET takes a hands-on look at the new user interface.

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Matthew Moskovciak
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1 of 12 Matthew Moskovciak/CNET

Disc-free and better than ever

As of this morning, PS3 owners should notice a new icon under the video section of the menu: Netflix. The PS3 gained the ability to stream Netflix back in November of 2009, but it required using a special Netflix disc and the user interface now looks outdated compared to newer offerings from Apple TV and Xbox 360. (The Nintendo Wii can also stream Netflix without a disc now as well.)

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Quick setup

Setup is painless. Select the Netflix icon from the "Video" icon of the XMB interface, and the PS3 will start a quick download of the new Netflix program. Enter your Netflix subscription info and the new interface pops up.
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Main interface

While the PS3's old interface got the job done, the new interface is a joy to use. There's a left-hand menu that includes sorting categories, such as "Genre" and "New Arrivals."
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Additional info

When you jump into each section, you see additional rows of movies and if you hover the cursor over a movie, you get additional information like runtime and Netflix's guess as to how much you'll like the movie.
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Instant Queue

You can still browse your Instant Queue like before, but now you can even search straight from the interface.
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Search right from the interface

The search results update as you type, which mitigates most of the frustration of using an onscreen keyboard, since we generally only had to type a few letters to hind what we were looking for. Our only nitpick is there currently isn't a way to filter movies by video quality; a simple "HD" filter would be appreciated.
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Detailed search interface

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Movie info

Like the previous interface, selecting a movie gives you a synopsis and additional movie information.
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Even more options

The suggestions section has several in-depth filters based on what Netflix thinks you'll like.
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New arrivals section

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Genre section

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New HD image quality

While Netflix streaming has always had passable video quality, videophiles could find plenty to complain about. Even HD streams had plenty of visible compression artifacts, especially in scenes with lots of camera motion. We looked at a few of Netflix's HD programs, including "The Office", "Archer" and "Space Cowboys". Overall, we were impressed, as the new HD content looks significantly better than what was previously considered "HD". We could still see some noise and compression artifacts in backgrounds--we noticed plenty of false contouring in the sky at the beginning of "Space Cowboys"--but it only shows up during a handful of scenes. On the whole, it's on par with what you'd expect from most cable HD channels, which also feature compression.

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