|✔ Large library of original and licensed content|
✔ Easy to navigate
✔ Useful recommendations
✔ Smooth and reliable streams
✘ Originals aren’t as highly rated by critics and users
|Netflix is the default streaming service for a reason: It has the best mix of original and licensed content around, and its technology is in a class of its own.|
Netflix review summary:
- $8.99/mo. for Standard Definition resolution
- $12.99/mo. for High Definition resolution
- $15.99/mo. for 4K Ultra HD resolution
- One-month free trial
- No commercials on any plans
- Select titles available to download for offline viewing
From the moment Netflix launched the streaming arm of its DVD-rental-by-mail business, it’s been the face of streaming services. No service has more subscribers, spends more on its library or wins more awards. It’s been a part of most people’s lives for so long that we hardly question whether the $13/mo. is still worth it.
But that’s starting to change. As newcomers like Disney+ and HBO MAX enter the streaming ring, Netflix is losing beloved titles and facing new competition for subscribers’ streaming budgets. Netflix is no longer a given.
To see how it actually compares in 2020, we dug through metrics like average critic and user ratings, awards won and content budgets. Then, we spent about five hours watching the service on different streaming devices to grade its overall experience.
The result of our Netflix review? It’s still the best streaming service for most people, even if it is a bit more expensive than others.
Netflix plans and pricing
Netflix has three different plans to choose from, all of which come without commercials. The biggest difference between the three is picture quality. You’ll only get 640 x 480 pixels on the Basic plan — roughly half the number of HD (1,280 x 720) and a fifth of 4K Ultra HD quality (3,840 x 2,160).
For comparison, Prime Video includes 4K streaming at no extra charge, while Hulu and HBO NOW don’t have any 4K content yet. If you’ve recently purchased a new 4K TV, it might be worth upgrading to Netflix’s top plan to take advantage of its extensive 4K library.
Is there a Netflix student discount?
Unfortunately, Netflix doesn’t currently offer any discounts for students. If you’re a full-time student looking to save some money, we collected some of our favorite student discounts here, including Hulu, SHOWTIME and Spotify Premium for just $4.99/mo.
Does Netflix still have DVD plans?
Yes, you can still get DVDs and Blu-rays in the mail from Netflix. The Standard DVD plan costs $7.99/mo. and lets you take out one DVD or Blu-ray at a time. Netflix mails you the disc, and you get to keep it as long as you want, with no limit on how many you can take out every month.
|One disc at a time||Two discs at a time|
|Unlimited discs per month||Unlimited discs per month|
Unfortunately, the Netflix streaming service isn’t included in the DVD plan. If you want to stream Netflix, you’ll have to sign up separately. On the plus side, Netflix’s DVD library is much larger than what it has streaming. If you’re into more obscure movies, you’ll be able to find just about anything.
How does Netflix’s content compare?
To gauge Netflix’s library compared to other major TV streaming services, we broke our evaluation into two categories: licensed content and original programming. For the shows and movies Netflix purchases instead of producing themselves, we focused on the total number available and how much people actually like them. For that, we used IMDb’s lists of the top 250 TV shows and movies, which combine user ratings and popularity to determine its rankings. We counted how many titles each streaming service had in both lists.
For original content, we collected a handful of metrics for every original title produced by Netflix, Hulu, Prime Video, HBO NOW and Disney+. We collected audience reviews from IMDb and Rotten Tomatoes and critic ratings from Rotten Tomatoes, then looked at how many nominations and wins each service has from the Emmys, Golden Globes and Oscars. This gave us a good idea of the overall quality of each service’s originals.
|Netflix||Hulu||Prime Video||HBO Now||Disney+|
|Number of movies*||3,751||1,210||22,876||930||676|
|Number of shows*||1,569||1,347||1,984||189||170|
|Movies in IMDb Top 250||33||7||21||2||14|
|TV Shows in IMDb Top 250||69||62||47||26||4|
*According to data from JustWatch.com (01/17/20)
Netflix has one of the largest libraries of any streaming service, with more than 5,000 combined TV shows and movies. That’s still only about 20% the size of Prime Video’s library, but evidence suggests that Netflix actually has more of the stuff that people want to watch.
Of IMDb’s top 250 movies, Netflix has 33 movies in its collection — 12 more than any of the other major services. (The Criterion Channel, a streaming service devoted to arthouse films, has 28.) Netflix also takes the top spot for TV shows, with 73 in IMDb’s top 250, compared to 64 for second-place Hulu.
That said, while Netflix is in first place right now, there’s plenty of evidence that those numbers are already trending downwards, especially in its selection of TV shows. Three high-profile shows — Parks and Recreation, Friends and The Office — are all set to leave Netflix over the next year. As more and more streaming services launch, there’s a good chance Netflix’s library won’t look so dominant for long.
|Parks and Recreation||October 2020||Peacock|
|Friends||January 2020||HBO Max|
|The Office||January 2021||Peacock|
|Netflix||Hulu||Prime Video||HBO NOW||Disney+||Apple TV+|
|Number of Titles||1,197||57||164||507||12||9|
|Average Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score||71%||79%||74%||75%||N/A||91%|
|Average IMDb user ratings||6.9||7.2||7.3||7.3||7.5||7.2|
|Tomatometer Critic Score||75%||78%||75%||85%||75%||67%|
When it comes to original content, Netflix produces a lot more than its competitors, but it isn’t always of the highest quality. It has nearly 1,200 original titles, while second-place HBO NOW has only 507 — and it has about a 20-year head start on Netflix.
Netflix clearly prescribes to the “throw everything at the wall and see what sticks” approach. That means the average critic and audience reactions to their shows tend to be a little more negative than they are to other services.
That said, because Netflix produces so much content overall, it does have a lot of hits. Titles like Stranger Things, The Crown and The Irishman have all been enormously popular with viewers and critics alike. Netflix’s originals have earned more awards recognition than any streaming service other than HBO NOW, which isn’t actually a pure streaming service.
|Netflix||Hulu||Prime Video||HBO NOW|
|Emmy Nominees (2013-2019)||147||26||39||271|
|Emmy Wins (2013-2019)||21||6||16||55|
|Oscar Nominees (2014-2020)||53||0||11||7|
|Oscar Wins (2014-2019)||8||0||3||3|
HBO has twice as many Emmys as Netflix, but it’s a bit of an apples-to-oranges comparison. HBO has always been a premium network first and streaming service second. That said, if prestige television is your top priority, you’ll probably be happier with a subscription to HBO NOW.
Netflix spends more on content than other services
While Netflix is a bit more expensive than the average streaming service, you can be confident that it is putting your money to good use. The company invests more in content than any other service, and it’s not particularly close.
|Netflix||$8.9 billion||$12 billion||$15 billion|
|Prime Video||$4.5 billion||$5 billion||$6 billion|
|Hulu||$2.5 billion||$2.5 billion||$3 billion|
|HBO||$2 billion||$2.5 billion||$3 billion|
|Apple TV+||N/A||N/A||$6 billion|
Netflix spent around $15 billion on original and licensed content in 2019 — more than double any other streaming service. The streaming giant has increased its spending by an average of 34% per year since 2015, and it shows no signs of slowing down in 2020. If you want to be sure your monthly subscription fee is being reinvested back into content, Netflix is as safe a bet as any.
Above average user experience
While it has a few frustrating quirks, we think Netflix is as intuitive and easy-to-use as any streaming service out there. Its layout is intuitive to navigate, you can pick up where you left off with a couple clicks and saving titles to your watch list is a breeze.
That said, there are a few annoyances. Netflix autoplays trailers for all of its original shows and movies, so you can’t rest your remote on a title without being bombarded by sound. It can make browsing Netflix sometimes feel like a game of streaming hot potato.
Netflix also has a habit of showing you the same categories and movies over and over again. There’s probably a good reason for that — these are the titles you are probably most interested in — but it can make finding something outside the box a little challenging. (If you find yourself stuck, these secret Netflix codes might help reveal some fresh titles.)
On the whole, though, we found Netflix’s user experience to be more positive than Prime Video, Hulu and HBO NOW. Netflix also offers a one-month free trial, so you’ll have plenty of time to get used to it before committing to a monthly subscription.
What devices is Netflix compatible with?
As the most popular streaming service in the world, Netflix is compatible with every major streaming device, smart TV and gaming console around, including Roku, Amazon Fire TV Sticks, Google Chromecast, Apple TV, Xbox and PlayStation. The only major devices it’s not currently available on are Nintendo Switch and Amazon Echo Show.
How many simultaneous streams does Netflix allow?
You can watch Netflix on one screen at a time if you subscribe to the $8.99/mo. plan, two screens with the $12.99/mo. plan and four with the $15.99/mo. plan. If you go over this limit, one of the screens will get an error message saying you have too many streams. For more troubleshooting steps, you can see Netflix’s guide here.
How do I download movies and shows from Netflix?
Netflix only makes some of its shows and movies available for download, but that list includes all of its originals. You can only download titles on a smartphone or tablet, and you’ll need to look for the small download icon next to the title. For TV shows, the icon appears next to each individual episode. When you first open the mobile app, a message will pop up directing you to everything that’s available to download. You can also access this list by clicking the downloads tab at the bottom of your screen.
What internet speed do I need for Netflix?
Netflix recommends 3 Mbps of download speed for SD streaming, 5 Mbps for HD and 25 Mbps for 4K Ultra HD. If you’re not sure whether you’re getting these speeds already, you can take our speed test below to find out. Keep in mind, the more devices that connect to your internet at once, the higher speed you’ll need. So you may still experience buffering issues even if your speed test clears Netflix’s recommendations.
How much data does Netflix use?
Streaming video generally eats up a lot of data, and Netflix is no exception. You’ll go through around 1 GB of data in 20 minutes if you’re streaming in HD, compared to every 667 hours for typical internet browsing. For more information on streaming with a data cap, you can check out our full guide here.
|Data usage||Time to 1 GB|
|Browsing Facebook||0.09 GB per hour||667 hours|
|Streaming Spotify||0.072 GB per hour||13.9 hours|
|Streaming Netflix in SD||0.7 GB per hour||1.43 hours|
|Streaming Netflix in HD||3 GB per hour||19.8 minutes|
|Streaming Netflix in 4K||7 GB per hour||8.57 minutes|
Is Netflix worth it?
Netflix is the top streaming service for a reason: It outspends and outproduces its competition, and its first-class tech ensures you won’t see much of that dreaded buffering wheel. At $13/mo. for HD streaming, it is one of the more expensive services around, but Netflix still delivers the goods for most people.