PS3′s Netflix app will add surround sound and 1080p video, lose the disc

Ben Patterson

No more will PlayStation 3 owners have to load a special Blu-ray disc before streaming movies and TV shows from Netflix on their consoles.

And even better, the PS3 is about to become the first Netflix-ready device to support full-on surround sound on streaming titles from the video rental giant.

Sony and Netflix announced Thursday that a revamped Netflix app will be available for download starting Monday, Oct. 18, and yes — you'll be able to toss the old Blu-ray disc that you've been using for Netflix on the PS3 out the window.

Once the new PS3 Netflix app launches, that will leave the Wii as the only major game console that requires a disc for Netflix streaming, while the Xbox 360 has offered disc-less Netflix use from the get-go.

The coming PS3 Netflix app will also replace the bare-bones, somewhat clunky look of the old PS3 Netflix interface. The new UI offers a full grid of poster art rather than just a single row of titles, and you'll also be able to use the analog sticks on the PS3's Sixaxis controller to navigate the wall of streaming Netflix movies.

PS3's new Netflix app
PS3's new Netflix app

Of course, you'll still be able to browse categories (such as new arrivals, personalized suggestions, movie genres and so on) as well as search for titles and add them to your movie queue.

The coming improvements will finally bring the PS3's Netflix app up to par with Netflix on the Xbox 360, which first went live almost two years ago.

But Netflix on the PS3 is also set to leapfrog the Xbox — sorry, guys — in a couple of key ways.

First of all, Netflix says that at least some of its titles will be available for viewing on the PlayStation 3 in 1080p, compared to a maximum resolution of 720p on the Xbox and other Netflix-streaming devices. [Update: A PlayStation rep just told me that the PS3 Netflix app will support 1080p video for some titles, not just 1080i as the original Sony press release stated.]

No word yet on which or how many streaming Netflix titles will offer 1080p video.

Even better, the PS3 will be the first Netflix device to deliver surround sound — Dolby Digital Plus 5.1, to be exact — on select streaming titles, thanks to a partnership between Netflix and Dolby Laboratories. Other Netflix devices, including the Xbox 360, are still stuck with plain old stereo when it comes to the audio on streaming Netflix movies and TV shows.

All in all, very nice — and indeed, I'll probably start watching streaming Netflix movies exclusively on my PS3 console now that Dolby surround sound is part of the package.

That said, when it comes to renting movies, it's still tough to beat the instant-watch, 1080p and surround-sound movies on Xbox Live. For now, movie rentals on the PS3 are still downloads rather than streaming (you can start watching while downloads are still in progress, although you might have to deal with buffering if the speed of your broadband connection changes), with no support yet for 5.1 sound.

So, are you streaming Netflix on your game console — and if so, which one?

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