I just don’t get it. Which is nothing new.
What don’t I get? The thunder of voices saying not only that they all use Netflix streaming (or Hulu) instead of DVD and Blu-ray, but that everybody should. (Well, some of these voices just mention DVD, either saying that Blu-ray is a fraud or simply ignoring it.)
And, in many cases, asserting that there’s no difference in picture quality between streaming through any ordinary broadband and DVD/Blu-ray.
It’s your choice
So far, it’s your choice. Netflix is certainly encouraging people to go with streaming, especially given the changes in subscription prices. They won’t offer us a “no streaming” option for a slight discount, but they’re now offering a “no DVD” option…and increasing the prices for DVDs, albeit only slightly.
Here’s the thing, though. We didn’t get an HDTV until just three or four months ago–in part because our 12-yr-old Sony XBR had such a superb picture, one we’d paid a lot of money for at the time. But with the cutoff of analog TV (although we could still use cable) and the growing percentage of shows broadcast widescreen, we finally took the plunge.
We took some care to buy a set with a first-rate picture. We picked up a Blu-ray player. After watching one movie in Blu-ray, we switched our Netflix subscription to Blu-ray as a preference, and probably 80% of the movies we get now are in that format. Yes, we can see the difference–although DVD as upconverted by the player is certainly still very enjoyable, Blu-ray is a lot better.
As for TV itself (an antenna isn’t an option here without a humongous rooftop tower), Bones is the extreme example: Comcast gave us a consistently crappy analog image last year–and Bones in HD is magnificent. Just magnificent.
We don’t watch much current TV–it comes out to 7.5 hours a week. Some nights, we either watch a full-length movie or catch up on old series, using Netflix discs for some of those.
Yes, we tried streaming
Our TV has internet widget support (and we added the wifi dongle), including a Netflix widget. I got it working. And we tried it–a couple of little tries, then five minutes of a Lois & Clark episode, since that’s one of the old series we’re watching.
Neither my wife or I could stand it after five minutes: The picture quality was so vastly inferior to the DVD, at sort of a sub-VHS level, which might have been acceptable on a smaller screen but was just unpleasant on the big screen. Netflix surveyed me on the streaming quality. I told them: Unacceptable.
Oh, it’s your broadband…
Maybe. We have the fastest DSL AT&T will currently provide at our address. It typically tests out at 1.5 to 2Mbps download–right now, it’s 1.6 as I run speedtest.
You can’t stream true HD at 1.6Mbps. Hell, you can’t stream DVD quality at 1.6Mbps. (True Blu-ray quality would require a minimum of 30Mbps.)
So should we upgrade our broadband?
Well, Comcast (shudder) will sell us “6Mbps” broadband for $54 a month–$29 more than we’re paying for AT&T DSL. Want 20Mbps? That’s $100/month. Still not enough to stream at Blu-ray quality, but close. 6Mbps? Probably better than we’re getting now, but certainly nowhere close to Blu-ray, probably not even DVD quality.
And, of course, from everything I’ve heard, Comcast isn’t going to let you happily stream at full speed for hours on end: “usage caps” do come into play.
Plus…hmm. $29 more, plus $8 for a streaming-only Netflix subscription. That’s more than we’re paying for Netflix now–and if we drop back to a 2-disc subscription, it’s a lot more than we’re paying now. Since 1.5-2Mbps download speed is just fine for everything else we do, we would wind up paying more money…for still-inferior quality and the loss of Blu-ray and DVD extras.
What a deal.
(No, neither Fios nor I-Universe or whatever AT&T’s fiber-almost-to-the-home is called are options, at least not yet. And the I-Universe prices, after the first six months, aren’t all that attractive either. We have Limited Basic cable, $17/month including all the fees, and it suits us just fine.)
Just don’t tell us our choice is wrong
If you don’t see the difference between streaming and Blu-ray or streaming and HD, that’s your business (and maybe your TV set). If you see the difference but don’t care, that’s also your business: I’m not going to tell you you’re wrong, any more than I ever said people listening to 128K MP3 were wrong.
But when you say there is no difference, or that anybody who wants Blu-ray or HD broadcast quality is either foolish or wrong, then my back goes up. My wife professed not to care about the differences…until she started seeing the higher quality. She was the one who said to stop the Lois & Clark streaming, although I could certainly see that it was crap video quality.
As a sidenote: We don’t own a DVR. I’d love to be able to record shows in HD. What I wouldn’t love: Increasing our total electricity usage by more than 10%, because the DVR is running 24 hours a day and consuming 50 watts all the time (according to the tests done by somebody who refuses to give up the DVR). Sell a DVR designed for those of us who don’t record all that much, that spins down and uses 0.5 watts or so when it’s not needed, and we’d probably buy one. (Yes, adding 36 kWh a month to our usage would be at least a 10% increase.) That’s a different discussion.