Surprise: The Wii U Is Actually Perfect For Netflix

Australian Netflix: I'm enjoying it. A lot. It's priced right. It's fast, slick, works on all my devices. Keywords being: 'all my devices'. I have a lot of them.

I have a tablet, I have a PS4, an Xbox One, I have two laptops, I have a mobile phone.

I have a Wii U.

With that, here's a little story about Netflix and those devices. This is a story with a surprising conclusion: the Wii U is really good for using Netflix. Please allow me to explain...

This story begins with a long weekend, during which I visited relatives in Canberra. I brought my PS4 with me, for two reasons: first, I wanted to play Bloodborne, my brothers-in-law wanted to play Bloodborne. The plan for the long weekend: to have a damned good Bloodborne weekend.

The second reason: I wanted to watch Netflix.

Fast forward to Monday night. My wife and I just made the three hour journey back to Sydney. The plan for the remainder of the long weekend: watch Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. The problem: I left my PS4 power cord in Canberra and -- incredibly -- I don't have any spares at home. The solution: watch Netflix on one of the other million devices I own that has Netflix on it. Easy. But which one?

At this point in the story my mind stuttered a bit: the Xbox One? Sure. That would make the most sense I guess. It is in the process of finally becoming the multi-media device we were promised. Anything else I could justifiably use? Hmmm...

It took a while for me to even consider the Wii U plugged into my second HDMI port. Why? Because the association between Nintendo and video content is about as distant as it gets. It's a concept as vague and strange as buying a Television from Aldi. Sure, Aldi sells TVs but nah. Just... nah.

Yet my mind did settle on the Wii U and that was weird. Gut instinct would have me choosing the Xbox One -- but I chose the Wii U. Why? One simple reason. At some point during my time playing video games on the console I noticed that my Wii U, for some reason, had done me the service of automatically downloading the Netflix app and placing it on my Wii U homepage -- in advance of launch. The Wii U had done this before, automatically downloading apps for me. Sometimes that feel weird: a bit patronising, like a breach of privacy or... something. I can't quite put my finger on it. In certain circumstances I could see myself being angry the Wii U felt as though it could download an app I didn't ask for.

But in this case it felt justified. It felt right.

And it essentially made my decision for me. I could either delve into the Xbox One, jump head first into its ever-confusing User Interface, find the Netflix app, download it, install it, and type in my log-in details clumsily with a controller...


I could use the Wii U.

Some background: the plan was to use Netflix after my wife watched what seemed like a bloody feature-length episode of The Block. She would have been happy for me to go though the pain of switching to the Xbox One while I located the Netflix app, downloaded it, installed it, and logged-in.


I could use the Wii U.

Because here's the thing: not only was the Netflix app already pre-installed on the Wii U, I could use the Off-TV functionality of the Wii U's tablet-esque Gamepad to log-in, find Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt on Netflix while my wife was watching The Block. No interruptions. No problems. Nothing. Seamless. If I wanted to, I could plug in some headphones and watch another show while I waited for The Block to finish.

Technically, I'm sure I could have done this with the Xbox One. I could have pre-installed the Smartglass app on my tablet, synched it to my Xbox One and had a very similar experience but there are problems with that: I haven't installed Smartglass, I haven't synched it to my Xbox One and -- being perfectly honest -- that all sounds like a tremendous pain in the arse. I'd much rather do the same thing with the Wii U with a user interface designed for the ground up for tablet use. That seems like a far more efficient use of my time.

And lo and behold it worked. It all worked. Everything ran as advertised and, as someone who has had issues using the Wii U for internet related content, I was sort of shocked by that. Pleasantly shocked. I was shocked by how well Netflix integrated into the Wii U's interface, how it worked perfectly with the Wii U's Gamepad. I was pleasantly shocked by the possibilities: I could watch something else while my wife watches TV shows I hate. We could sit next to one another instead of stranded on opposite sides of the living room. My son could watch Octonauts on the Wii U Gamepad while I played OlliOlli 2 on my PS4.

Privately, I contemplated making the switch. Maybe the Wii U should become my Netflix companion of choice?

I'm seriously considering it. Previously, I chose the PS4: reliable, fast. I feel as though I can trust the PS4 to run Netflix without issue but I find the benefits of the Wii U intriguing: off-TV viewing, the ability to get set-up whilst watching terrestrial TV, the ability to chose shows using the Gamepad's touch screen. There are massive benefits there.

I'm more surprised than anyone: the Wii U is actually really, really good for using Netflix.


    Except it's slow as shit and won't auto-play the next episode if you're watching a TV show :(

      Really, slow as shit? Have you actually used it?

      I use my Wii U for netflix too. With the "quick menu" function they patched in half a year ago (or so) (without having actually timed it), I'd wager you go from pressing the power button to watching a show in Netflix in under 30 seconds.

      We have a ps4 too that we use netflix on, there is no way the ps4 goes from "on to netflix" as quick as the wii u. Plus as the article said, being able to browse shows/films via the tablet controller while your Sig.Other is watching something else is very handy.

      p.s. sorry and as for auto play....the tablet should be sitting right there next to you, and when a show finishes, it pops up a big red box saying "play next episode", you literally just have to touch it with your thumb/finger/stylus/nose to play next.

      This is really not a thing. I would actually guess some people would prefer it not to auto-play next ep and some people would prefer auto play. To me, this is really a preference thing not a real criticisim.

      My Wii U is certainly not my main game device. My PC is, but it has been excellent for social nights and now netflix.

        I've barely used the Wii U version, so I can't comment, but I actually turned auto-play off for the PS4. I really don't like the constant stream of stuff. You really need to come up for air every now and then!

        Remember, there are two modes on the internet. Over the top hyperbole or rage at something not being specifically 100% automatically tailored to your personal preference.

    Totally agree. Our WiiU is set up in our lounge room on our main TV (other consoles and gaming PC set up in my man cave on a monitor), and I find its really handy and useful as a Netflix machine for the lounge area. We don't (or, didn't) use the WiiU that much (just for social gaming nights), but since using it for Netflix, its actually been getting a bit of a workout. Good times.

    I'm quite happy to just push stuff from my phone to my PS3/PS4 or use the integrated app in the Bluray player in the second lounge. But I guess if it gives the Wii U an actual purpose then more power to it.

    Last edited 07/04/15 10:09 am

      Most things have a purpose that ignorant people can't see.

        And calling someone ignorant for a joke is such a great way to live your life. Go away.

    I use the Wii U too. Turns out having a second screen really helps, for the Off-TV video and because it makes searching for shows much easier. Typing on the Gamepad is far superior to other consoles or a TV remote. Speaking of, you can also use your Gamepad as a TV remote, which makes it even more compelling.

    The Netflix app on the X1 takes a really long time to load. Once loaded though it is seamless and fantastic to use, especially if you have the X1 media remote.

    Does the app load slowly on other consoles too?

      Can only vouch for the PS4 but it's mighty quick to load on that (at least, I've not noticed myself being impatient waiting for it to load)

        When he says long it might take 10 -15 seconds to load the entire app then it's all seamless

          mine is closer to 30secs, which seems entirely too long for an app to load. To be honest I don't really care, I can wait that long - I was just curious.

            Definitely doesn't take 30 seconds on Ps4, probably closer to 10.

            I think it's the way the app is built clashing with the way the XBOX One treats software. It's not that the app is slower to load it's that it's doing a bunch of stuff it doesn't need to. The XBOX One doesn't turn it off, but when the app is minimised Netflix cuts the feed. You open it up again and from the XBOX One's perspective it seamlessly resumes where you left off, but from the apps perspective it needs to deal with the fact it's been disconnected. It does it's little disconnect dance, then it logs you in. I assume with the PS4 the app is always starting fresh. In theory if you just manually shut down the Netflix app on the XBOX One it probably goes from hitting A to the main menu about as fast as the others (I mean it's not a power house app, so even the phones should load about as fast as the PS4).
            Granted it could just be a crappy connection.

            Last edited 07/04/15 10:55 am

              Thanks Dogman - that makes a lot of sense and explains a bit of the Netflix app behaviour.

              It's not just a connection issue. The Verge covered it in one of their podcasts a couple weeks back. Despite the hardware advantage of the Xbox One over other set top devices like the Apple TV, it reloads far more regularly, and the crappy app is most probably the culprit.

      Yeah agree. I works really really well. Streaming is so flawless in HD for me.

      My only problem is the way you find movies or tv shows.... I have to scroll through about 20 different categories before I finally find what I want. They need one big page with each category displayed so I can go straight to action movies or UK tv shows. It's actually super annoying.

      The app on the PS4 loads with in 4 seconds for me. The longest loading time for any Netflix app in my experience is that on the Apple TV. It take at least 20 seconds to load the app and then at least 10-20 seconds to load and start the episode/movie. It's clunky and slow with a bad early 2000 UI.

      Last edited 07/04/15 11:52 am

    Wii U is my go-to Netflix player.
    Only downside is a lack of optical input, but having the second screen is a good trade-off.

      Optical input?

      You mean like... a camera that watches for gestures? Oh wait, are you talking about the Wii remote's IR camera, does it not use pointer controls?

        I think he means optical audio output so you can get the best quality audio to you speakers.


            HDMI is the "best quality audio" cable. The actual downside to the Wii U Netflix app from an audio standpoint is the fact the Wii U only does surround through uncompressed LPCM while Netflix only does surround through very compressed Dolby Digital which means you only get stereo sound since the Wii U doesn't support DD 5.1.

    I was excited to try the Netflix app on the Wii U, but felt there was a lot of wasted potential with the second screen experience especially with not being able to browse Netflix while watching something. I'm sticking with the PS4 for now, you can still get that second screen experience directly from a tablet using the dedicated Netflix app (it runs really well). I dont see the point of linking the glass app to Xbox just for the same experience as you can easily resume any movie or show from where u left off if u switch to a different device (I'm looking at you Stan)

    While the app itself sucks, if you setup a playlist on a PC and then play it via the Wii U app YouTube really compliments the Wii U nicely. Off-screen play is a bit of a mess in general but it certainly has it's uses. What sets it apart in my mind is that switching screens is 100% seamlss. Even if you've got the TV turned off or on the wrong input you just use the gamepad IR blaster to change the channel. I even find that it's the only console based browser I've ever had a good experience with.
    Also worth noting is that the charging dock (and that stupid little plastic dock) put the game pad at a nice viewing angle. I've played more Wii games on it thanks to the dock and the built in IR bar than I did on my Wii.

    Another note though, XBOX One's Smartglass is unexpectedly good too. It doesn't do what you seem to think it does. It's not like the Wii U where you flip screens at will but it does do some nice things. You can use the HDMI functionality of the XBOX One to control your TV's volume settings and the virtual gamepad is great for navigating menus (even though it's completely useless for games). It turns my phone into a really deep XBOX One remote control. Most of the time I'm happy to use the Kinect voice commands for media, but the Netflix app isn't really setup that well for Kinect so most of the time I use Smartglass on my desktop.
    It doesn't sound Earth shattering, but like I've said many times the XBOX One's alternative input methods really seperate it from the pack when it comes to media controls. I turn the XBOX One on with voice commands and then select what I want to watch with Smartglass or Kinect. Again, not particularly impressive sounding, but I don't need to turn on a controller then worry about accidentally hitting a bumper or whatever. Being able to just go 'XBOX pause' or 'XBOX mute' actually does improve the experience.

    The terrible shame no one is talking about is the amazing way the tvii app conglomerates Netflix, Amazon, hulu, and live tv into a single searchable entity.

    The only, only reason I'm not signed up to Presto or stan in addition to Netflix is because I can't be arsed to fish through multiple apps to settle on something to watch.

    It is a massive, massive shame we don't get tvii here. That stupid button taunts me so!

      WTF? I never read anything about TVii due to it not being in Aus......if that is what it does, I'm spewin we don't have it. Bugger!!

    I had the kids (4yr and 2.5yr old) using netflix on the wii u over the long weekend, they found it much easier to navigate around than when they were using the ps4 netflix.

    Only problem I have with it, doesn't appear you can log in as a different profile, so now my profile has a bunch of kids shows as suggestions!

    I remember my wife firing up the Wii U to play Captain Toad and seeing the Netflix there. I must admit I was biased and didn't touch it because I thought the PS4 would be better. I think we will give it a shot now actually. Thanks for the advice.

    Only reason I got Netflix was because it is on the WiiU. It's the only way, without buying something else, to watch it on my TV...

    Can you turn off the game pad, it's bright and annoying watching in the dark?

    Searching is yes, a little tedious , it is hard to just browse, they need littler icons so you more on screen at once. The big Red arrow on the picture also obscures the name, but it is only on the game pad pictures and not on the TV though.

    My Wii U is basically my Netflix machine now. It's a pretty good match I think, and definitely the easiest option I have for watching Netflix on my TV. So yeah, really happy with my Wii U right now!

    If it weren't for the Wii U I doubt I'd watch Netflix anywhere near as much as I do. It is a surprisingly slick and functional app and I rarely have any issues with quality or buffering. The gamepad is great to use as a remote or for off-tv use. The Youtube and Crunchyroll apps are also surprisingly good. Watching a lets play or similar with breakfast has become my morning routine.

    I thought it was obvious that its the go to console for netflix considering it has a 'TV' button also having the choice of tv or gamepad.

    Smartglass? Is there a compelling reason why you couldn't just use a native Netflix app on your tablet?

    It just took me about three minutes to find Netflix on the Google Play store, install it, run it and log in. Interface is more or less identical to the PS4 version.

    I was genuinely annoyed that my Wii U preloaded Netflicks onto it & it was a pain to try to remove but now my TV is dying the death (screen issues) & lots of friends are raving about Aussie netflicks, it might be the way to go for a few months as I save for a new TV.

    People also haven't mentioned the Crunchy Roll anime streaming app for the Wii U. I loaded it up for a friend just after it was released & worked so much better than the PC version I had arranged for another friend's family.

    People will always have their personal preferences but I do love the Wii U's 2nd screen function. Found it very handy for Youtube (now they fixed the app) when I didn't want to have to turn on my TV or sit at my PC to load up quick view stuff (tablet can be dodgy because don't use it often & updating apps clogs it up).

    Netflix on the Wii U is awesome. MY kids can watch all manner of kids shows while I'm playing or watching something I want to. AWESOME!!! Or, similar to Mark, when the Mrs is watching drivel on TV, I can wacth something random in the same room.

    The only reason why I default to PS4 netflix is the surround sound. Wii U only has PCM audio output, and Netflix only has a stereo PCM track.

    netflix is so easy on the WiiU, actually all web browsing is easier on WiiU..... like...EVERYTHING... on par with a laptop hdmi to tv with a wireless keyboard & mouse but too much cluttered still

    Even better than a tablet streamed on TV, actually Apple TV and Cromcast are good too but they only do videos... apple TV abit more with mirroring but sux, no point.

    WiiU browsing is best UI interface, simple to use, fast.... my god its fast: i dont know how but its probably faster than my computer and my ipad, yeh thats right IPAD (3rd gen).

    Youtube or any other video stream works sooo great, u can have something playing on the tv while you search for something else..... this feature right here is why ppl get a second screen for thier computers and is why i choose it above all else.

    PS4? helllll no, that is soooooo slow, google search is slow, youtube is slow, u cant even change the resolution!!... its like set, other video stream is slow that is on the web (not counting dedicated apps on PS4)... overall web experience on PS4 SUX

    Managed to unblock US/UK Netflix on my Wii using these instructions

    Wii U Netflix doesn't allow you to use different profiles. So it's useless to me. It would've been nice though. PS4 is my go to.

    Has anyone used a Logitech Harmony remote with the WiiU ?

    I've been using Netflix on my PS4 but it irritates me that there's an additional controller I need to pick up and fiddle with. HDMI Link works for some button presses but it's a little flaky and doesn't work for everything (power, PS button).

    I know, I know, first world problems and all that - but Sony has seemingly deliberately locked out 3rd party peripherals and made their own PS3 accessories incompatible as well (PlayTV, PS Remote, Logitech Harmony PS3 receiver). I have everything hidden away except for the TV and like being able to control everything media related (with the exception of gaming obviously) with one remote.

    I think I'll do some research but it'd be great to have a single macro'd button on my Harmony to fire up the WiiU and launch Netflix.

      Not going to work, doesn't have an IR port.

      I do have to say that as a fellow harmony remote owner, it is very disappointing that the rise of streaming in our country has been accompanied by the fall of remote control access for the devices that support it. I now need to keep Wii U and PS4 controllers on the table next the remote despite (as you pointed out) the PS4 being perfectly able to talk to the PS3 adapter if they would just let it.

        Actually, the Harmony Ultimate syncs with the WiiU over Bluetooth so it seems to work fine - including powering on/off and amazingly, using the harmony touch screen to control the 'cursor' on screen. Pretty nifty.

        A bit of research later and it looks possible. But I've also realised that i can just use the Netflix app with my Samsung TV now so i don't need any consoles.

        Agree that it's disappointing about Sony locking out older peripherals - they're just using it as a way to eliminate 3rd party competition cutting into their own profits (even though PS4 peripherals may come late/never).

    Not a fan of the Wii U Netflix app. No profiles (as far as I could tell), and not a fan of the gamepad's low resolution (and I play most games exclusively on the gamepad). My main TV Netflix machine is my PS4 and in bed, I just use the iPad.

    The on-screen keyboard and ease of use make it my goto Netflix machine over my PS4 and Blu-ray Player.

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