Netflix's new PS3 app includes new features, new headaches (video)

Take Netflix's widely adored streaming service, subtract the disc, add 1080p video and 5.1 audio and you should have something everyone's happy with right? Not exactly, as we've discovered a day after the updated Netflix app launched for the PlayStation 3 with a bunch of new features and unfortunately, a few new issues to go along with them including the app not working at all on imported systems, needing a new PSN user ID and the confusion of certain users seeing very different interfaces than what was promised. You've been lighting up our comments with things you've noticed so we tried it out ourselves and with Netflix's help, have a few answers. Check after the break for a video walkthrough of the new interface including the new video browsing feature pictured above, plus information about some of the initial problems users have experienced and how to solve them.%Gallery-105437%

Update: And here's another. Reader Joel has forwarded screens of what appears to be yet another variation of the Netflix interface that is appearing on his 80GB PS3, while some commenters also report they're not seeing the video browsing option yet. Check the gallery for more pictures and a video after the break.

This screen shows how our Netflix UI appears, matching the earlier preview by the PlayStation blog. This interface obviously presents a lot more options to the user, however getting used to having all the titles lined up that way does take getting used to and may be something that depends on the user's personal taste. Obviously having a search function on the left helps things out, and if you find a title that isn't available on streaming, you can add the disc version to your queue.

The above images from AVSForum posters mproper and toografik4u show off two different variations on the user interface some are receiving. With the navigation on the right and the titles on the left, it's significantly different from the previews we'd seen before. We've contacted Netflix about this but haven't gotten a response on this particular issue yet. For another look at this variant, check out this YouTube video from a user who got the standard interface on one PS3, and this one on another - update and a new one from our reader Joel who's seeing something slightly different.

One major issue that a few are experiencing is that the app is region locked, and will only work on consoles purchased in North America, unlike the disc which worked on any PS3 as long as you were logging in from the US. Netflix confirmed to us that it's aware of the issue and it expects to have it taken care of by an update in the next month or so. Other questions we've heard concern the video quality, and whether it is 1080p or 1080i, we asked Netflix and were told the following:

"As for the 1080i confusion - Our 1080 sources are either interlaced or progressive. All of our 1080 encodes are progressive. This means that we do perform conversion of 1080i sources to 1080p at encoding time. We use industry-standard tools to execute the conversion."

As far as being able to tell if you're getting a 1080p stream, as we mentioned in our video walkthrough, hitting the "select" button on the PS3 controller shows the video and audio quality, with X-High indicating the highest quality stream available, although there's no way to tell specifically if that's 720p or 1080p. We can say from the video we've checked out, some streams definitely appear sharper than they did previously in 720p and with few compression artifacts. While it's not Blu-ray quality, it's on par with the best video we usually get from cable or satellite.

A few more specific complaints we've heard from some corners are that the Netflix app now requires a PlayStation Network ID to use, and that it no longer works with IR remotes since it relies on the PS button on the controller. We're still not sure what to do on the latter, although the AVSForum thread indicates a few users have been able to map their Harmony remotes to work properly, however the former seems to be a necessary tradeoff. Obviously using the new app means updating your firmware and losing OtherOS and possibly some jailbroken capabilities, but for most gamers, remaining logged in and able to check the status of friends on the PSN is a very worthwhile feature. Our major complaint with the new app has to do with the video browsing feature. While it worked long enough for us to get our video walkthrough done, it crashed and locked up our PS3 slim multiple times while casually browsing. We're not sure if this is an isolated occurrence, but were note sure this particular item is ready for prime time yet, and is probably why it wasn't originally mentioned.