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Netflix review: Should you stay or churn?

Netflix is too big to fail these days

Steve (Joe Keery) and Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo) in the Netflix Original Stranger Things
Editor's Choice
(Image: © Netflix)

Tom's Guide Verdict

Netflix has an untouchably large library of Originals series and an strong library of films as well.

Pros

  • +

    Impressive library of Original shows

  • +

    Increasingly strong Original films

  • +

    Reliable apps

Cons

  • -

    Expensive at 4K

  • -

    Cancels shows a bit early

A Netflix review can seem like an impossible concept. One of the best streaming services there is, Netflix nearly defies analysis, moving at light speed in every direction at the same time. One second it's announcing the dual Knives Out sequels, and the next thing you know, they've actually got knives out to cut a cake shaped like a purse.

The thousands of titles in Netflix's impressive library may be hard to navigate, but that's almost part of the charm. You may never run out of things to watch on Netflix, though each month does see many films and (and some shows) leave the service. A lot of us are asking if we should cancel our Netflix subscriptions these days, but we always come back. This is a process called "churn," where you leave when there's nothing left to watch and return when your favorites are back.

So, for those who need help keeping track of why we like (and dislike) the big red streaming machine, we believe this Netflix review will have you sorted faster than you can say "Yes, I'm still watching."

Netflix review: Pricing and availability

Netflix has been around since 1997, when it started as a mail-based movie rental service. It didn't launch its streaming service until 2007, and didn't offer a streaming-only service until 2011. The initial price of the streaming service was $7.99 per month.

Currently, Netflix starts at $9.99 per month for the Basic plan that is mostly for people who have older TVs, as its picture quality caps out at 480p. That's not ideal for someone with a Full HD or 4K TV.

Netflix planPricePicture qualitySimultaneous streams
Basic$9.99 per monthSD (up to 480p)1
Standard$15.49 per monthUp to 1080pUp to 2 streams
Premium$19.99 per monthUp to 4K UHDUp to 4 streams

The Standard Netflix package, likely its most popular option, costs $15.49 per month. It includes image quality of up to 1080p Full HD, and a second simultaneous stream. 

Those who want to stream in 4K will get the $19.99 Premium Netflix tier, which has Ultra HD video quality and up to four streams.

That's really pricey compared to the $9.99 - $14.99 per month HBO Max and even less expensive services such as Peacock, Paramount Plus and others, but the math of Netflix's library makes it seem worth it. JustWatch (opens in new tab) claims Netflix houses more than 3,600 movies and 1,800 TV shows

Stack that up against Disney Plus' library of more than 740 movies and 280 TV shows (opens in new tab), and HBO Max's list of over 2,000 movies and 580 shows (opens in new tab) and the pricing starts to make sense.

Sure, HBO Max has a wider range of content, but fans want to see those shows in crystal clear 4K. Especially if they know another app can offer it.

Those simultaneous streams, though, are only in the same household. The unfortunate news that Netflix is cracking down against sharing accounts (a popular way to cut costs — and one of our top Netflix tips and tricks) used across separate households, may put a pothole in the road for some streamers.

Netflix is available globally, except that it's suspended service in Russia (opens in new tab) due to the ongoing war in Ukraine.

Netflix review: Design

The Netflix apps set the standard for the best streaming services, but they've never been truly perfect. For example, Netflix would always auto-play audio when you hovered over a selection for too long. Settings to fix this were eventually provided.

The Netflix home screen

(Image credit: Netflix)

The Netflix app is simple, organizing content into five main sections: Home, TV Shows, Movies, New & Popular and the self-curated My List. That said, trying to find something new and digging up a hidden gem can be tricky. Sure, the TV and movies sections promote the best shows on Netflix and the best Netflix movies, and they do sort things by genre, but discovery continues to be a problem for Netflix customers.

This is why we've got our roundups of the best family movies on Netflix, which helps separate the neon-drenched chaff from the high-quality wheat. Netflix, to its credit, is always trying to figure out a new way to help, but its randomizing Play Something shuffle feature went away and nothing has come back to replace it.

Netflix review: Shows

When it's time to find a great new show to watch, the folks at Netflix keep delivering options — even though some may seem too weird to watch. The service's range is almost untouchable, as it goes from the dramatic true crime stories of Bad Vegan to the bonkers animated video game adaptation that is The Cuphead Show. 

But originals aren't the only thing Netflix has. Among the best Netflix comedies, you'll find licensed must-see shows such as 30 Rock and Community, which you would think belong on Peacock

Simone Ashley as Kate Sharma, Jonathan Bailey as Anthony Bridgerton in Bridgerton season 2

(Image credit: Netflix)

And while we might get annoyed with the big red streaming machine — I canceled my Netflix account for a month to save money when they lost Halt and Catch Fire, which I had to get AMC Plus for — everyone eventually comes back. When a streaming service can drop new batches of Bridgerton, Formula 1: Drive to Survive, Better Call Saul, Russian Doll and Grace & Frankie in the span of a month and a half? It's hard to stay away forever.

That said, Netflix has always seemed too eager to cancel shows before they had a chance to say goodbye. Fans of Glow, Dark, Mindhunter and many other Netflix Originals will tell you — often without provocation — how Netflix did them wrong. In fact, another Netflix show just got canceled after only one season. Check out our big list of canceled shows to see what else is getting the axe soon.

Netflix review: Movies

Movies aren't anything new, but it definitely feels like Netflix discovered their true importance over the last three years. Now, we've got Oscar nominations for big Netflix Original films such as The Power of the Dog and Don't Look Up, while more populist fare such as Red Notice and The Old Guard earn slots in our list of the best action movies on Netflix

The list of the best horror movies on Netflix has some great scares, but it feels like this is one category where the likes of Shudder, Peacock and HBO Max are drinking Netflix's milkshake. Even Paramount Plus has its own sets of horror franchises (Scream and Paranormal Activity), while Netflix's only franchises arrive and depart. 

Benedict Cumberbatch stars in The Power of the Dog

(Image credit: NETFLIX)

So while Disney Plus streams most of Marvel movies in order and the Star Wars movies as well, Netflix doesn't quite have a series of films that can go toe-to-toe. Netflix's history of building franchises has mostly stuck within TV shows, with its own Originals such as Stranger Things and The Crown. 

And this is where we see how other services fight to survive. HBO Max, for example, has Friends, the DC movies and all the Sex & The City and Gossip Girl revival seasons they can pump out. Netflix's constantly changing library of licensed properties means you can only expect them to have their own shows and films. 

a battered and bruised Ryan Gosling talking into a phone in The Gray Man

(Image credit: Netflix via YouTube)

And if you need help finding more films to stream on Netflix, our lists of the best Netflix war movies and the best Netflix documentaries will keep you sated whether you're looking for flashy explosions or gritty true stories.

Netflix review: Supported devices

The Netflix app on a TV, laptop, tablet and phone

(Image credit: Netflix)

Netflix is available everywhere. If it has a screen — unless we're talking about so-called non-smart dumb TVs, which can connect to the best streaming devices — it can probably stream Stranger Things. Here is a list of the many kinds of devices that support Netflix:

  • Web browsers on PC and Mac
  • iOS mobile devices 
  • Android mobile devices
  • Apple TV
  • Amazon Fire TV and Fire tablets
  • Roku
  • Chromecast
  • Smart TVs (most manufacturers)
  • Game consoles (Xbox, PlayStation, Nintendo, etc.)
  • Set-top cable boxes (check with your provider)
  • Blu-ray players (most manufacturers)

Netflix review: Bottom line

While we may pull a Ross and go "on a break" from Netflix now and again, it's one of our top best streaming services for a reason: it always pulls you back in. Sure, you might be upset be a price hike today, or a canceled show from last year, but Netflix knows you'll come crawling back.

Netflix produces so much compelling programming — I was able to write this entire Netflix review and not mention Tiger King or Squid Game until the conclusion — that many people just think of it as a necessary utility. And who are we to argue?

Henry is a senior editor at Tom’s Guide covering streaming media, laptops and all things Apple, reviewing devices and services for the past seven years. Prior to joining Tom's Guide, he reviewed software and hardware for TechRadar Pro, and interviewed artists for Patek Philippe International Magazine. He's also covered the wild world of professional wrestling for Cageside Seats, interviewing athletes and other industry veterans.