Netflix vs NAS

I suppose I have taken it as an article of faith that my own rips will be better in terms of sound quality over streamed movies, and for the most part I think that has been true over the past five years, but I am revaluating it.

One of my favourite westerns is ‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly’ and I chose to stream this from Netflix. This proved interesting for three reasons:

  1. The picture quality was much better than my DVD rip;
  2. The sound quality was also better; and
  3. The film included ADDITIONAL material I had never seen before.

One of the additional moments followed Tuco recruits the three ne’erdowells who enter Blondie’s hotel room to be gunned down by his re-assembled revolver. This scene adds nothing of importance BUT, it is a good test of your AV as at one point the vocals go hard left before coming back to the centre; and the added bits are of interest if, like me, you enjoy the film.

I am starting to buy more BluRays as the quality is that bit better, and does maintain a gap with the streaming services. However, the world is moving on.

We’ve gone from DVD to Blu-ray but have only just subscribed to Netflix. We’ve been pleasantly surprised by the quality of both picture and sound quality. Admittedly, the sound isn’t quite up to Blu-ray but it’s too bad at all.

FWIW I have cleared my NAS out of purchased video and I stream HD/4k video via AppleTV, Amazon Prime, iPlayer and Netflix. My NAS now only contains my home videos.
I now don’t bother with Blu-ray, but occasionally use DVD for very niche material (that is not on Blu-ray or available to stream).
I have found that the video streaming clients have improved over the last 24 months with improvement to colour gamut, 12 bit colour, HDR, Dolby Vision etc… it also helps to have a TV than can run at multiples of 25 and 30 Hz and auto switch to ensure no video judder.

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I wouldn’t go this far. I pay for Amazon and my eldest for Netflix, but both contain massive swathes of films that have little attraction for me. I just wish one of them would have a decent collection of older films.

True, it’s AppleTV where many of my purchased movies are, and I now stream them rather than locally store.

I don’t worry about sound quality with video, not plugging through the hifi but having a dedicated surround system (medium to low budget. Likewise I’m not that bothered with video resolution - I watch on a large screaam (12ft wide, viewed from 11ft away, and prefer hi res, but in reality with moving images even that isn’t essential if it is a good film. I’ve never seen 4k, and imagine it would be great with my size screen, but the cost was prohibitive when I bought a projector - maybe next time.

But what does really, really bug me is any interruption or stuttering of the image, just as it does with audio. Netflix is usually OK with my internet collection, so I am happy to use it - and, unlike music, with a few exceptions I rarely watch films over and over again.

If you have any stuttering or jerking, you have something wrong in your video replay chain… possibly you’re trying to decode 30/60Hz video with fixed 25/50Hz projector/STB or vica versa…and frames are having to be dropped to fit.
Also hidef isn’t just about resolution, it also the colour definition and reduced compression artefacts. At least 10 bit colour and 4.2.2 chroma sub sampling makes a big difference with suitably encoded hidef video… it help moving images look real and vibrant without looking artificially garish or lacking and subdued especially in lower intensity scenes and lighting… lighting is a key part of screen play and low definition simply dumbs it down … kind of like listening to low bit rate mp3s.

I don’t disagree, just I am pretty non-critical about video if a film is good enough. Regarding stuttering, I don’t suffer from it very often, but typically it occurs occasionally with online sources like Netflix or BBC iPlayer, when sometimes they pause, which is pretty irritating…

Ok strange… I have never seen pausing or stuttering video from the likes of iplayer, Netflix, amazon prime, sky online, Apple etc… for me I would consider that a fault with a component in my replay chain.
Perhaps there is a bandwidth limit somewhere in your player decoder…anyway if it’s not too bad and not bugging you too much …

Yes, watching “His dark materials” now on BBC iPlayer, twice it has paused for a couple of seconds, evidently rebuffering.

Assuming your connection is rock solid, then the answer is still “it depends”.

I have a mixture of content ripped to MKV served over Plex from my NAS and online services like Netflix, Prime, and Hulu served to a FireHD 4K (box, not the stick). But I also have a UPnP enabled old Denon BlueRay transport which is able to communicate with Plex direct. Rather than feeding to stereo, I have a dedicated AV receiver and speakers. I have a lot of content to compare here. Some 600 old 480p DVDs and 200 BRDs.


  • Online Services to FireHD 4K: It’s pretty darn good for what it is. Generally Dolby Digital or simply discreet 5.1 channel AAC is what I get and I don’t have any major issues with it other than the occasional slip where dialogue is noticeably out of sync.
  • UPnP to FireHD 4K: Depends on the source content. In the case of playback of ripped BRD, then the full DTS-MA or Dolby-TruHD stream is passed through as-is to the receiver. And quite frankly, the audio streams on online services are not close to DTS-MA 7.1. For playback of ripped DVDs the gap is significantly narrower. Though the tracks for some DVDs still far outstrips the stream over something like Netflix.
  • UPnP to High-end BRD transport: This again shows the benefits of a decent source. The Denon, with it’s audio only HDMI link and dedicated master clock sync cable is a noticeably cleaner sound than the same NAS stream coming from the FireHD 4K box. No surprises here. We don’t question that digital transports make a difference and sure enough it’s fairly obvious within the first few seconds.


  • Online Services to FireHD 4K: This should be the easy one. 4K content is available from Prime and Netflix and there is good overlap with my ripped library. Not only that, but my ripped library is 480p or 1080p. There is no 4K content there and the Denon BRD transport predates 4K so it also doesn’t have 4K playback. So as expected the picture quality of 4K streamed is pretty good. But it is at the mercy of the box you stream it on. I find that the image looks a little dry and on a big 4K screen, you can see some lack a gradient smoothness in things like blue sky or dark near black areas.The 4K content seems to lose some colour definition too. Up close, dithering-like effects are visible where colours meet and overall, the picture is slightly soft. This is a known way to reduce visible compression blocking when using higher compression ratios.
  • UPnP to FireHD 4K: Right away, without 4K content on my NAS, this should lose out. But it doesn’t. The output is still a bit lacking with subtle colour gradations like online steaming, but the image doesn’t have the same dithering effect around edges and despite the much lower resolution, looks sharper on a large screen. Where it really falls down is older 480P content. The video capability in these 4K boxes is quite reliant on decent resolution feeds that require little in-raster processing. Some ripped DVDs off the NAS fare worse than others and some are so blocky they are nearly unwatchable.
  • UPnP to High-end BRD transport: Again, no 4K here but a supremely capable transport for the time it was made. And it shows. The hands down winner. When I got this Denon unit, it replaced a Sony BDP-S350 which was already a fairly decent player. But the sheer quality of the video output is stunning. Streaming ripped 480p content looks nearly as good as 1080p content did on the old player. And comparing to streaming on the FireHD 4K, wins in every video category. Older lower resolution content is superb with no blocking. And what really shows the superiority is that every single ripped 1080p disc from the NAS looks miles (absolutely miles) better than equivalent online 4K versions. Colour gradients, sharpness, contrast just blow a 4K box out of the water.

Why this long winded comparison? Well, to me, if you are serious about home theatre, then streaming from a NAS is far from dead. Generally because the 4K boxes available come no where near the level of sophistication in video output to high end UPnP enabled transports - even non 4K ones. So much was compared using the same ripped content from NAS that this shows a large part of why streaming from a NAS is still better, is down to the fact the set-top 4K boxes are cheap ‘n’ cheerful devices for mass market. Less to do with online vs NAS and more to do with the fact that UPnP equipped high end BRD players are so much more capable in terms of getting the best out of the source material.

It’s a bit like why a CD555 with it’s limited 44.1/16 audio trounces a hi-res iPod Touch. It’s not what it does it’s how it does it.

I expect this gap to close eventually. As more high end video streamers come to market the gap may close a bit but I suspect Netflix are a long way off from feeling that a market need exists to reduce video compression or pump DTS-MA 7.1 down the line. 99.9% of the market isn’t interested in that.


I run Apple TV and Netflix through a 65" OLED TV and 4K Bluray through a Cambridge Audio CXUHD player. I find 4K or Dolby Vision internet streamed video content to be pretty close to in terms of picture quality, but audio is significantly better when played from disk.

CDs and music bluray from the CXUHD is very good, I’ve found.

I also have ripped music DVDs to my Mac, so I can stream from there. This is fine for convince, but not as good as playing the disks directly in the 4K player.

For me the change I hadn’t really considered is that the streaming services are getting better quality versions of my older SD rips. Not just better video but also with additional material.

BUT, their catalogues are just SOOOOO limited.

I would love to work my way through all the David Lean or Kathrine Hepburn & Spencer Tracy films, for instance; but they do not feature.

The problem with GREAT sound quality is that it can lead to questionable film purchases, such as Tron Legacy. A poor film with STONKING soundtrack.

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I agree… one reason I use AppleTV to stream … but can only use for purchased content as opposed to OnDemand services…

As far as sound… I feed the audio as twin channel PCM into my Naim 552 system via Toslink and it sounds pretty enjoyable to me…
Sure all consumer available video is lossy compressed as far as I am aware… so will never be the same as lossless audio but not bad.

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I have Plex for my own content from dvd, bluray and 4k. But the majority is from Netflix, Amazon, Google play when they have offers and iPlayer for regular TV. Picture from Netflix is generally very good although Dolby Vision I find is a bit hit and miss, prefer hdr10 content myself.

You might find that is based on how your TV is setup or the software in your TV. I got my TV calibrated and Dolby Vision works every time… effectively dynamically adjusting the dynamic range so as to be optimised for lossy encodings… I find giving more consistent colours and colour definition in low lights

My tv is calibrated thanks.I just find HDR10 works better most of the time and generally feels more natural and DV is more artificial. DV can be awesome but a lot of the time it’s not, most Netflix content goes for too much contrast rather than using HDR effectively. I work with HDR content day to day so I can judge when it’s done right and most things unfortunately are not. This also goes for any HDR not just DV as a lot is just fudged or they really don’t know how to use it to its best, especially when most users are viewing in less then advantageous conditions to make HDR of any benefit.

Yeah I find HDR can be more variable, and with HDR10 it is statically defined for the full media (as far as I am aware) rather than being dynamic… which given the nature of lossy mpeg encodings can result in noticeable losses/artefacts on high dynamic content.

Not sure lossy codecs comes in to it, the dynamic metadata gives content creators control to ensure it looks as it should on each set. The peak brightness,etc which is contained in the metadata on a frame or scence level can then be adjusted dynamically based on the capabilities of the set. However if done badly it can have a more detriemental effect I have found. Also depending on how’s it’s implemented on the set, hardware decoder vs the newer software it can get caught out and suffer lag and brightness can get changed at wrong times or just look too crushed. I have experienced both of these from time to time with DV.

Yeah it does, the way MPEG2 works less data is used to encode darker colours and so in dark, low contrast dark scenes , the resolution can reduce significantly. The same applies to colour spaces.
On a good monitor/TV on non optimised video this can be quite apparent, but on lesser equipment this is not so… but clearly when some of us were working with first generation MPEG streaming implementations in the 90s (though we called it VoD back then), where many of the core lossy video encoding protocols were developed, the resolution and dynamic range of TV was hugely different to what it is now.
But totally agree, bad mastering into lossy distribution media can look woeful. I really do leave significant lossy compression to the last stage.