How to watch Netflix on TV – CNET


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Netflix is the most popular subscription video service in the world, and chances are you’ll find something there you really want to watch. Yes, you can stream Netflix on your phone, tablet or computer, but to fully enjoy it, especially with friends and family, you’ll want it on the biggest screen available: your TV.

The options for getting Netflix on TV vary depending on your existing equipment, but the basics are the same.

Things you’ll need before you start

  • Netflix subscription. Plans start at $8.99 per month, a price that restricts you to a single screen at a time (TV, phone or whatever) and relatively low video quality (standard-definition, or SD). Netflix’s most popular plan costs $13 a month, which enables you to stream in HD to two screens at once. If you have a 4K TV or want to watch on up to four screens at once, you’ll want the $16 subscription.
  • Netflix username and password. Once you sign up for a plan, you’ll need to enter your Netflix login (username and password) to watch on a TV. Tip: Confirm the details on a computer or phone before you try on your TV. That’s because logging in multiple times with a TV remote control can be a real chore.
  • Broadband internet for your TV device. While you could watch Netflix with a slow dial-up or ISDN account, the experience will be frustrating at best, if not unwatchable. Netflix recommends a minimum connection speed of 1.5Mbps. Most broadband services can achieve this, but if you’re unsure try visiting SpeedTest to measure your speed. You’ll also need some way to connect the Internet directly to the device that streams Netflix. Depending on that device you may use a wired Ethernet connection or, more commonly, Wi-Fi. To connect that device to Wi-Fi you’ll need to make sure you know your Wi-Fi name and password.
  • A Television. As long as your TV wasn’t made before the early ’80s you should be able to watch Netflix on it. Some TVs have Netflix apps built-in, but most people watch Netflix on TV using a separate device. Most of the Netflix devices we’ll mention below use HDMI connections, but there is at least one which uses AV-out (red, yellow and white analog cables) that suits older models.
  • Netflix app on a TV device. Just like on your phone, there’s an app for Netflix designed specifically for TV devices like smart TVs, media streamers and game consoles. The app is free, but of course you’ll need to install it on the device and sign in using your Netflix credentials to watch. Speaking of devices…

TV devices you can use to watch Netflix

Once you’ve got all that stuff squared away you’ll need to figure out what device you’ll actually use to watch Netflix. Here’s your main choices in ascending order of price.

Smart TV, game console or Blu-ray player you already own

LG's Smart TV user interface, right side

A 2011 LG smart TV interface featuring Netflix.

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If you have a flatscreen TV manufactured in the last 10 years you can probably watch Netflix on it. Modern TVs integrate streaming services like Netflix into an interface known as “smart TV.”

Of course, the app may be older, slower and not as slick as the modern version, but if you want to access Netflix right now, it should still work. Wikipedia has a list of all of the possible platforms, but the most important older systems are Samsung Smart TV, Sony Internet TV, Panasonic Viera Cast and LG Netcast. While some TVs have a dedicated Netflix button on the remote, most compatible models have a smart TV button which should let you access the streaming apps available.

Likewise your Blu-ray player or gaming console might have a Netflix app. If you have a relatively recent console — from the Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3 and up — then you’ll be able to access Netflix on it.

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Gaming consoles, media streamer and smart TVs can all deliver Netflix to your TV.

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New media streamer

While your current smart TV, game console or Blu-ray player with Netflix is the cheapest option, it might not have aged well. If you have an older device, you may find its Netflix app to be sluggish or unreliable. You also miss out on interface improvements or new features, such as the ability to watch the excellent Black Mirror special Bandersnatch (though it’s not guaranteed). Or maybe you’d rather use a real remote instead of your console’s controller.

The best way to access an up-to-date Netflix is via a new streaming device. Prices start at $30 with the Roku Express. Meanwhile the $35 Roku Express Plus offers analog AV out, making it perfect for older TVs (see below). 

Just plug one of these devices into a spare port on your current TV and follow the onscreen prompts. Many streamers include Netflix by default, but each device (except Chromecast) also has a Streaming Channels list or App Store for downloading the app for free. 

Here are some of our picks.

Best for old TVs

Roku Express Plus ($35)

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The Roku Express Plus is not only one of the most affordable streaming devices, it’s the only one on the market with red, yellow and white analog AV outputs. It’s perfect for older TVs that don’t have HDMI.

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Read CNET’s review

Best for the phone-centric

Chromecast ($35)

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If you live on your phone, the Chromecast might be for you. It gets Netflix onto a TV without you needing to keep track of a remote control or even look at a menu on a TV. Instead, you control everything using the Netflix app on your phone.

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Read CNET’s review

Best for 4K TVs

Roku Streaming Stick Plus ($50)

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Our favorite steamer for 4K TVs is this Roku stick. It combines Roku’s simple interface with the improved image quality of 4K and HDR — both of which are available on Netflix if you get the most expensive plan. 

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Read CNET’s review

For a more comprehensive list of media players, check out CNET’s best streaming devices of 2019 or our Roku versus Amazon Fire TV head-to-head.

New Smart TV

If you’re going to buy a new TV anyway, chances are it will have an up-to-date Smart TV system. Our favorite is Roku TV. It’s easy to use and it offers the most comprehensive selection of streaming services out there.

Best small, affordable smart TV

TCL 325 Series Roku TV (starting at $150)

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While it’s not the best picture you can buy, the Roku TV offers excellent value and a fantastic user interface with quick access to Netflix. No other devices required!

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Read CNET’s review

If you’re looking for better picture quality, check out our list of Best TVs. All of them are Smart TVs with Netflix built-in.

Happy streaming!