I finally got a chance to try out the Netflix integration with Windows Media Center last night, and I have to say - the playback quality is horrible. Like, really, truly bad.
- Pick a movie from my instant queue. From that movie, pick a section as the test.
- Watch the section of the movie from the Xbox 360.
- Watch the section of the movie through Windows Media Center (Silverlight based player).
- On the same PC as the Windows Media Center test, watch the section of the movie through the normal Netflix streaming player (Windows Media Player based player).
I ran the test. The results:
- The Xbox 360 had the best picture and sound quality. Streaming was smooth with no hiccups and the video came through in HD. Initial video buffering was fast and playback started in a couple of seconds.
- The standard Netflix player (Windows Media Player based) was the next best. The video wasn’t as high quality as the Xbox 360, but the video was smooth and watchable, and the audio was reasonable. Initial video buffering was fast and playback started in a couple of seconds.
- The Windows Media Center integrated player (Silverlight based) was unwatchable. The video looked like it wanted to stream in HD, but something (network? processor speed? video card?) wasn’t liking it so much, so the video was very jumpy, like you’d see about half a second of video, it’d freeze, the sound would stop, then the video would resume, the sound would resume, and the whole stuttering effect would repeat. Initial video buffering literally took like ten full minutes - I left the room, got a drink, came back, and it was still going.
I ran the test on the same physical PC with the same network connection to try to rule out hardware or network issues. I didn’t go to the lengths of determining if the two players stream from different back-end servers or anything, though, so there well may be something on the network that caused the issue.
Long story short, though, I’m totally unimpressed. I had high hopes, too. Guess I’ll stick with the Xbox 360 streaming for now.