Local Netflix a pale version of US library

Having been a Netflix subscriber since late 2014, I have long urged friends to sign up for the service, as well as an accompanying VPN service needed to access it locally.

The free-flowing streams of movies and TV shows on Netflix take up most of my nights, whether it is rewatching Frasier or Friends, catching original shows such as Orange Is The New Black or House Of Cards, or binge-watching complete seasons of NCIS, Arrow and The Flash.

Sadly, the recently launched local version is a pale mirror of its US library, and while geographical content rights have granted local viewers access to some shows not found in the US, such as Better Call Saul, we have lost more than we have gained.

Unofficial comparisons estimate that we have only 12 per cent of the complete Netflix movie library of 4,500 titles, and 17 per cent of a little over 1,000 TV shows.

Now, this is not a case of complaining that the local bowl of ramen from Ippudo tastes different from the Japanese one. Rather, this is paying for the same bowl, but getting a fraction of the ingredients.

Someone pointed out to me that, given the amount of content available in the local version, one can easily be done with the service in three months. In any case, you would have to pay for only two, as the first month is free for new subscribers.

The cheapest Basic plan offers one standard-definition stream and if your TV is larger than 40 inches, you will see artefacts.

The Standard plan offers high-definition (HD) streaming, as well as the ability to watch two different streams simultaneously, so your wife and you can watch two shows on two devices, using one account.

The Premium plan offers 4K videos. Even if you do not have a 4K TV, this plan allows you to watch four streams simultaneously.

As you do not have to sign in to Netflix each time, it is possible to pay one price and share the Premium plan with different homes, like the homes of your parents, in-laws or close friends.

Once you sign up for Netflix, you have to enter a four-digit PIN. Singapore, together with Germany, are two markets where titles are rated, and restricted ones are locked behind a PIN.

While the service is available on laptops, as well as on TVs via set-top boxes, the menus are different. Searches on a TV require the constant push of the remote control's directional button over the right letter of the alphabet, and this is time-consuming.

Netflix keeps a record of shows you have viewed, so you can continue watching a show from where you left off on another machine.

Imagine turning off your tablet when you get off the bus, and continuing the show at home on your TV or laptop after dinner without missing a beat!

I'm actually watching several different shows at the moment, and I can always start a new title but return the following week to where I left off on an older title.

Settings, such as subtitles, can be set to apply to all shows, so you do not have to change them each time.

The Netflix app can be installed on most devices, such as smartphones, tablets, media players, game consoles and smart TVs, but these support only HD videos. You need a 4K TV for Netflix 4K titles to appear on your menu, even if you signed up for the Premium account.

The ability to stream 4K depends on your home network. When a 4K title is requested, Netflix will start buffering the video, which starts playing at a lower resolution before reaching full 4K glory.

In my room, which has a Powerline connected to a 1Gbps Singtel fibre network, I get 4K streaming on my Sony 4K smart TV in under a minute in the evenings.

Verdict: Singapore's Netflix "lite" service is less amazing when compared with that in the US. While Netflix is clamping down on the use of VPN, there are many free options that can still work for you to make the most of your subscription.


BASIC: $10.98

STANDARD (HD): $13.98

PREMIUM (4K): $16.98


This article was first published on January 27, 2016.
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