Netflix Showdown: Windows 8 Modern App Vs. Desktop Version

Skye Hudson 31-12-2013

Netflix is a fantastic service, but users on Windows 8 have multiple options for enjoying it. Should you go with the modern-styled Windows 8 app, or the desktop version accessible in the browser?


Well, both have their pros and cons. For the most part, the Windows 8 app will be a simpler, dumbed down version of Netflix on the desktop, with larger buttons that are better for a touchscreen. The Web version, on the other hand, has more features and options, but isn’t as aesthetically pleasing and is difficult to navigate with a touchscreen.

If you’re running Windows 8, there’s a good chance that you have a touchscreen 5 Ways to Add Touch to a Windows 8 Computer Windows 8's Start screen and "Modern" apps can feel awkward to use on a non-touch PC, but they really start to make sense when paired with a touch PC. If you're not ready to go... Read More , but also want a lot of features, so let’s look at how these two versions of Netflix compare.

Windows 8 Modern App

The Netflix app for Windows 8 uses the typical styling you would expect from any other Windows 8 app. When you open it up, you’re presented with some of the auto-generated categories that Netflix creates that scroll horizontally, and the red bar shown below that allows access to the different genres will roll up and out of the way as you scroll. In the top right, you can also see that the Windows 8 app supports multiple profiles, allowing you to have multiple people on one Netflix account.

A small problem I have with the main screen is that it doesn’t show My List like the Web version does, meaning that I have to search for every show or movie I want to watch manually, unless it was the last thing I was watching, in which case a Continue watching category appears. There’s also no way to add any show to My List from the app.



You can search by hitting the circular search icon in the top right, or if you’re in any other app, you can swipe in from the right to access the Charms menu, press search, and choose to search within Netflix. You’re presented with a similar horizontal scrolling interface for your search results.


If you click on a show, you’re presented with the description, a drop-down menu for choosing the season, and a horizontal scrolling list of the episodes with a picture to distinguish them. The names of the genres, creators, and main actors are also clickable so that you can search for more in that genre or by that creator or actor.



Once you decide to play something, it immediately shoots out into full-screen mode. You have a volume button in the lower left, and the lower right has options for next episode, viewing a list of episodes in the season, or changing the language/subtitles.


That’s about all there is for the modern app. In my usage (which is more than I’d like to admit), it works quickly and gets the job done for instant streaming. However, for anything DVD-related, as well as some other features we’ll discuss later, you’ll need to turn to the desktop version.

If you’re determined to stay on the modern side of Windows 8, though, there is a $1.49 app called YourQueue which allows you to access your Netflix DVD queue.


Desktop Web Version

The Web version of Netflix trades in the horizontal scrolling and black background of the Windows 8 app for a generic, rather boring white background and vertical scrolling. Although you can see more movies/shows in any category by hovering your mouse over the far right until an arrow appears, it certainly isn’t made for touch screens.


Under the Watch Instantly tab you have a few more options than you do in the modern app, including looking up shows in HD or shows with specific subtitles. There’s also a Just For Kids section that doesn’t appear in the modern app.



Under the Personalize section, you have the ability to answer a few questions to be able to get more personalized results.
This is a pretty neat feature for discovering TV shows or movies you would’ve never otherwise heard of.


The interface for specific shows or movies once you click on them looks boring compared to the Windows 8 app. Below is the How I Met Your Mother screen.


In my opinion, this page just looks dated. However, the ability to add shows to My List is a huge plus for the Web version here.


Scrolling down, you get the list of episodes without a description or image like in the Windows 8 app, but you still have the clickable Creators, Cast, and Genres.


Even further down, you reach the reviews section, which is notably absent from the Windows 8 app, although you can still give star ratings to shows from within the app. If you’re looking for reviews of any show or movie, you’ll need the Web version.


Once you actually get to watching shows, the experience is nearly the same. There’s still volume in the lower left, and next episode, episode list, and language/subtitle buttons in the lower right, plus a full-screen button since it doesn’t automatically full-screen. Unfortunately, you’ll need Microsoft Silverlight for the desktop version to run. Netflix will be switching to HTML5, but that’ll take a while.


Personally, I like to stick to the Windows 8 app for just consuming content and the Web version if I need to do anything more involved than that. Like an 8-hour HIMYM marathon would definitely happen in the Windows 8 app, but finding similar shows to HIMYM would most likely happen on the desktop.

If you’re not always at your computer, you might want to check out our review of Netflix for iPhone Netflix For iPhone: One Of The Best Apps For Movies & Shows On The Go [iPhone] Having movies and television shows on your iPhone isn't anything new, but with Netflix, it's a whole lot easier. Whether you're with friends, on the road, or having to wait somewhere, the app is perfect... Read More , and no matter what device you’re using, there are always ways to improve your streaming quality How To Improve Netflix Streaming On Any Device A few months ago I was playing games on my Nintendo Wii (thanks to the loss of my Xbox 360) and even getting fitter in the process – until I stumbled across the news that... Read More .

What do you think? How do you watch Netflix on your Windows 8 device? Let us know in the comments.

Related topics: Netflix, Windows 8.

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  1. Sandy
    June 15, 2014 at 4:26 am

    I really miss the review section in the app! I like to read the reviews before I watch a movie, the stars are pretty much meaningless for me. I hope Netflix will add the reviews to the app at one point.

  2. rur 42
    April 16, 2014 at 1:00 pm

    I have Netflix apps on a Win8 tablet (10") and on an android tablet (7"). Problems with both. Mainly in the way they mishandle or lose captions -- which I need since I am hard of hearing -- have a problem even with hearing aids. Some times when I stream using the apps, captions will show as they are expected to show. But if I pause and restart, captions no longer work -- and no amont of twaeking with get them back. My solution is to use firefox to stream movies on my Win8 tablet. No problem with captions

  3. Pam
    February 15, 2014 at 11:41 am

    The desktop aloso tells what has been watched recently and when in much greater detail. As a parent I really appreciate this feature (helps me know if they are watching tv or doing their homework! It also tells me what content they are watching... a 2 minute look is one thing... a 20 minute look is another!

    I alo lie to read the reviews - which I cannot with the app.

    All that said, my system will let me use netflix to look around... but it will NOT let me play anything on the desktop. I hate that.

    I also feel like this is a privacy and data farming ploy, as all apps are attached to my email- ergo microsoft knows everything I watch on my computer (and targets me accordingly.)

  4. JD
    January 25, 2014 at 9:54 pm

    One glaring omission in this comparison is that with the Windows 8 App you get Super HD and 5.1 sound. Although it's hard to tell a big difference on my laptop screen I see a small improvement in picture quality. If you are going to hook it up to a home theater the app version is the only way to go with the 5.1 sound. Even if you are not going to do that you can download RAZER SURROUND (free for now, turns stereo headsets into virtual surround headsets, works well) and still get the surround effect from your headphones.

    Unless I'm missing something and there is a way to get this from the browser version. If there is somebody please let me know.

  5. Kannon Y
    January 1, 2014 at 6:30 am

    Great article!

    Have you gotten a chance to play around with Windows Home Media Center? It has a Netflix add-on that I installed. GREAT app. The interface is very fluid, unlike the clunky feel of the website.

    I recently switched over to it, but it has its problems. I've been considering heading on over to Windows 8 for the app, but wanted to read a teardown. Thanks for writing this. I'll probably just stick with the WHMC plug-in.

  6. Gary D
    January 1, 2014 at 6:24 am

    FYI my list does show in my netflix app, and the add to my list button is there next to every title i click, may be an issue on your system only. I like you prefer the web version, but the conveniece of the app ususally wins out for me when i already know what i want to see.