Netflix on Google TV, Apple TV & Roku Compared

49 Comments

Netflix (s NFLX) has been a big selling point for connected TV devices, and it’s no surprise that big players like Google (s GOOG) and Apple (s AAPL) are embracing the company’s Watch Instantly service on their new devices as well. However, the way Google TV and Apple TV handle Netflix is quite different. Apple designed an entirely new interface, whereas Google is relying on a first-generation look and feel. Check out our video below to compare Netflix on Google TV, Apple TV and a Roku set-top box:

It’s worth noting that Apple completely redesigned the Netflix UI for its implementation, giving it the look and feel the Apple TV media browsing experience. Apple TV also offers Netflix search, but doesn’t provide any fast-forwarding only provides basic fast-forwarding within a movie or TV show episode without any Roku like scene-selection feature.

Google, on the other hand, is relying on the now slightly outdated first-generation Netflix UI. Google TV users will have to compile their Instant Queue on the web, and they won’t have any access to search — not for now anyway. Representatives from Google and Netflix told me that the plan is to roll out an updated Netflix UI some time down the line.

Roku finally has pioneered the use of Netflix on a set-top box, and the company has also put some work into the second-generation interface, offering not only search and discovery across the entire Netflix online catalog, but also fast-forward with scene selection.

Which Netflix UI do you like the best? Let us know in the comments!

Related content on NewTeeVee: Google TV Apps Compared to Apple TV, Roku & Boxee

Related content on GigaOM Pro (subscription required):

49 Comments

katinkaknits

This is a slightly old post, but I thought I’d comment anyway. I have a Samsung TV with Netcast, a Roku XD box and Apple TV. Lately, I’ve been having problems with Netflix on both Netcast and Roku. I get a message saying “This title is temporarily unavailable, please try back later.” After having this happen many times with different videos, I decided to try streaming on my computer (a Mac) & that worked fine. Then I tried the Apple TV box, and that also worked great! I’ve looked around online for solutions to the Roku problem, without much success.

Sean

I own a google tv and am a long time subsctiber to neetflix. Before the google tv, i had an old laptap s-video linked to my tv. Netflix was fast. now, through google tv, the load time is slow, it loses connection more and i have an more awkward navigation experience. has anyone else had this? if so, any advice? tia

CraigN

IMHO the Xbox interface is VERY inferior to Roku! Got tired of the Xbox interface and bought a Roku at a friends recommendation and they’re still my friend… :-)

FF and other stuff in Xbox is awful. Finding shows not in your queue is non-existant. Worst thing is, if you want to fast forward or rewind in the middle of a show real quick, half the time you have to wait for your controller to power up again!!

Roku rocks compared to Xbox!

a_ps3_user

even if i can do it through my internet-enabled tv, i am using a ps/3 to access to Netflix library: its interface looks similar to Roku’s! And the video is clearer and sharper on screen through HDMI connection.

Sonya

I can control the AppleTV with my iPad and also update netflix queues while watching netflix on the AppleTV. This allows me to search & queue the next program while watching the current program. For me it is about the full integration of all Hardware and Applications.

Fred

You can add a browser to the Gen 1 AppleTV through “ATV Flash”, but not yet for the Gen 2. Apple will never add a browser directly since the UI for the Web and a browser is made for 2 feet, the AppleTV is made for 6 feet or more.

Guillermo | Social Media apps

I wish there would be a service like Netflix here in Germany, and with the movies in the original language. Here in Europe things are slower. The different copyright laws, regulations and rights, makes the streaming very difficult to implement.

Frank Z

Google is going to have to bring more to the table than that garbage! The gold standard for NetFlix viewing is Roku. Apple did a nice job but not enough to outshine the King. It’s pretty but the Roku is more usable.

The AppleTV’s main flaw with regards to NetFlix is that it doesn’t go back to where you left off. For example when you watch an episode in a series it just takes you back to lala land instead of prompting for the next show. If it’s not a series you go back to the top of the list instead of the position you were before you chose a show.

My AppleTV does fast-forward though… I don’t know what’s wrong with this guy’s box…

I thought it was over for Roku when Apple embraced NetFlix but Roku still makes the better box hands down.

jm

You somehow forgot to mention that with Google TV you can switch from the native Netflix app to another window with the full Netflix.com experience in the Chrome browser and back again seamlessly. Until Netflix & Google update the app, it would be rather trivial to search, manage the queue, and add something to the instant queue from Chrome.

Also, not including the Xbox 360 implementation is a big oversight. Is Netflix not available on the 360 in your region?

Fawaz

excellent points, I also thought that since googletv includes a browser and thus the ability to browse the netflix.com website it would be the best option for finding the right movie to watch if it is your queue or not.

I guess this report is specifically about the netflix apps, but it’s an important item to note.

Janko Roettgers

Jim, that’s a good point. The again, having to add anything you want to sample to your instant queue isn’t nearly as instantaneous as simply browsing the entire catalog with the ability to play anything right away…

Ian

It would be REALLY helpful if you included Xbox and Boxee UI too.

Im trying to decide between Xbox, Roku, Boxee and an HTPC like the Dell Zino and its really hard to find any article yet that has them compared.

If you could write a great comparison post that would be HUGE.

Ian

That is helpful, thanks! Any chance you can add in the Xbox to that list? Any reason why its being left out of most of this streaming video discussion in general? Honestly, after watching your comparison video, I really think the Media Center and Xbox implementation of all this looks the most slick in terms of the UI. Add on Kinect for the UI controls and it certainly is a worthy competitor that should at least be included in these comparisons.

Gaurang

From just your video, it appears that the Apple TV interface is the best and most polished, while Roku has 2 good features (of thumbnail searching, and pop up of movie info on the bottom right). Overall it is a close fight between Apple TV and Roku.

Google TV interface was just done on the last moment it appears — it is so rudimentary.

Greg Myers

LOL, I guess I better stop using the FF on my Apple TV since it is not there? Such a glaring error makes me wonder just how many of the devices were actually used by the author. Did the video come from someone else?

trrll

As others have pointed out, fast forward works fine on Apple TV, with 3 speeds available. However, it shows only a single thumbnail at a time, not the row of thumbnails shown by Roku. I prefer the Roku approach. I have also encountered a few videos where the thumbnails do not display properly when fast forwarding. This seems to be a bug, since the same videos showed no problems on another Netfilx device.

Two features make the Apple TV preferable to me over other Netflix clients. The first is that when browsing the queue, Netflix shows 21 titles at once, and scrolling is very fast. This is important to me, because I have over 300 titles in my queue, and I like to browse before selecting what I am in the mood to watch. A disadvantage, however, is that you have to click on a cover to get details, and when you return to your queue, you aren’t where you left off, but all the way back at the beginning. I’d rather have a pop-up when I hovered over a show, like in the Roku interface.

The other advantage is that the Apple TV seems to be consistently a bit more snappy than other clients I’ve tried in cueing up a show, and in restarting the video after a fast forward or rewind.

One significant deficiency is that it doesn’t remember what episode you last watched of a TV series, or how much of each episode you’ve seen. Many other Roku clients offer this feature.

Jojoba

Roku is also fast at scrolling netflix que and but you get most if the description before you click on the title. You do wind up where you left off in the que after viewing the title info on roku. I have like 411 titles in my que, so I’m glad I CSM scroll fast :-)

joe

Really? You gave about 20 seconds to Google TV, not even showing how it functions when playing a show… but you devote 4 minutes to Apple TV and 1+ to Roku. Thats a comparison?

Eric

I have netflix on the apple tv in canada and it ff and rw just fine. Imo the best ui is clearly the appletv one.

Lee Owen

Apple tv absolutely fast forwards and rewinds netflix and everything else. You must hold the right or left buttons. A quick tap does nothing. Also the iPhone remote app supports ff and rew with swipe gestures.
Do your homework.

Adam

Should note that the FF and RW is only down while you are in play mode on the Apple TV.

Adam

“Apple TV also offers Netflix search, but doesn’t provide any fast-forwarding within a movie or TV show episode”

BS. I can fast forward by pushing right on my Apple TV remote, for both movies AND tv shows. Better update your article.

davezee

And guess what it also supports skip forward and backwards. I downloaded the Apple TV setting for my Harmony Remote and I was able to skip forward and backwards.

Okune Naoto

“only provides basic fast-forwarding within a movie or TV show episode” is also incorrect. As noted, it support “skip forward” and “skip back” with a Harmony remote

Hitesh

You can also skip forward and backward using the AppleTV Remote as well. (The only thing it doesn’t support is a scene by scene forward) that I can do for instance on the Netflix web.

I think it would be useful to perhaps capture the difference user interfaces in a table of sort. I think the AppleTV UI is very intutive

One thing It might be useful to call out is the integration of AppleTV with other iOS devices (like iPad and iPod Touch, iPhone) which makes the whole interface become much smoother. (for instance search, much easier to type on the iOS virtual keyboard than the Roku box, i think).

Overall solution, if the AppleTV Netflix UI adds scene selection, it is the top of line IMO.

Mike

You’ll have to pry my Tivo from my cold dead hands.

I can’t see changing to any of these systems. And, Google needs to give the UI a higher priority with all of their products.

Griffon

LOL, I had not even noticed the FF was missing from the Apple UI for netflix. Now, that is totally going to bother me. Hopefully it will get added, but with no nonclericals to skip through it’s it not my top on list feature request (DLNA dammit, just DO IT).

dissertations

You haven’t noticed its absence because it is there:) I love how blogs are edited according to people’s comments. Creates an impression of interactivity:)

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