Netflix's cheap Basic plan is getting a big upgrade — and it's long overdue

A TV with the Netflix logo sits behind a hand holding a remote
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

While Netflix has continued to raise prices across all tiers— and has even unveiled a plan that includes advertisements, something its CEO Reed Hastings said would never happen — the company has plans for a free quality of life improvement for its Basic tier subscribers.

Starting in November, Basic tier subscribers will see an upgrade in their resolution from 480p SD streaming quality to 720p HD resolution. 

That’s a sizable increase in quality and it should help bring the Basic tier a little closer in performance to the Standard tier that streams in 1080p.

Considering it’s been over a decade since 480p was the de facto resolution, the time is long overdue to make 720p its new base resolution moving forward.

An overview of the new Netflix tiers.

(Image credit: Netflix)

The Basic tier is still pretty basic, though 

While 720p still isn’t a “good” resolution, it is still HD, which is better than SD. The larger issue with Netflix’s basic plan is that it’s still being paired with SDR color and contrast rather than HDR. That means you’re watching a very unsaturated version of your favorite shows.

We’re not going to advocate that Netflix suddenly starts giving away shows and movies in the highest available formats for free — although a cheaper tier for 4K HDR with Dolby Atmos audio would be nice — it feels like Netflix could be giving more to its customers. A way to remove the pain of moving accounts has also been added but it is not really enough. 

Hopefully the rise of other low-cost streaming services might get Netflix to change its mind sooner, but it might be another few years before Netflix makes a move like this again to bring the basic plan up from HD to Full HD (i.e. 1080p). 

Other members of Tom's Guide's staff have said that they "won't even touch Netflix's new ad-supported tier," especially given the fact that tier will also max out at 720p.

Although I see the upgrade as a sign of goodwill to its subscribers, not everyone will and it doesn't do much to change the appearance that the company wants more money in any way possible, existing subscribers be damned.

Analysis: Is Netflix Basic $10 well spent?

If you're on the fence about a new Netflix subscription (or potentially returning to the service) it can be hard to know if it's right for you — especially with other, less expensive options out there right now.

At $10 per month, Netflix is right in the middle of the pack in terms of pricing alongside Paramount Plus, Peacock Premium and Prime Video. Disney Plus and Apple TV Plus are both cheaper at $7.99 and $4.99, respectively, while more premium services like HBO Max and Hulu without Ads are more expensive.

The best option, in my opinion, is subscribing to the more expensive Netflix plan that allows for multiple accounts and simultaneous logins, and split the cost with family members who also want to see what's available on the service.

If you've yet to see what's on Netflix, try a free trial subscription first, or if you've already tried it and still aren't sure, try another service for awhile instead. Netflix will still be there when you get back.

At $10 per month, Netflix might be a good fit for budget-conscious cord cutters, but movie lovers with one of the best 4K TVs might not find that the Basic tier is a good fit. If you're in that camp, check out Disney Plus or Apple TV Plus instead. 

Next: The Apple TV 4K 2022's best feature isn't the internal upgrades. Netflix could launch cloud gaming service — and succeed where Stadia failed. 

Nick Pino
Managing Editor, TV and AV

Nick Pino heads up the TV and AV verticals at Tom's Guide and covers everything from OLED TVs to the latest wireless headphones. He was formerly the Senior Editor, TV and AV at TechRadar (Tom's Guide's sister site) and has previously written for GamesRadar, Official Xbox Magazine, PC Gamer and other outlets over the last decade. Not sure which TV you should buy? Drop him an email or tweet him on Twitter and he can help you out.

  • Rich 1944
    Well, I have a 70" 4k TV but it is not HDR. The next year they came out with HDR. I watch shows and movies in 720p, 1080i, and 4k, and in most instances, they are all pretty good unless a show is really designed for 4k because a smoky bar scene is the same for all. I even watch some videos in 480p which are OK but not as sharp as HD.

    I would be happy with the $7 Netflix because I would just wait until a season of shows were over, upgrade for a month, watch the next Game of Thrones, and then downgrade again. Try it and upgrade if you really don't like it.