Of all the streaming platforms, Netflix is by far the most prolific, with beloved classic movies and shows such as Friends to unmissable originals such as The Witcher.
Unlike many other rivals, Netflix offers four main types of plans to cater to different budgets and needs. But what’s the best plan for you? We’ve compared Netflix Basic with Ads, Netflix Basic, Netflix Standard and Netflix Premium and categorised them into whose best suited for what. You can sign up now on the Netflix website.
The first thing to be aware of is that Netflix no longer offers a 30-day free trial. Instead, there’s sometimes a chance to have a free upgrade to a higher plan during your first month when you sign up.
Therefore if you’re joining Netflix for the first time and aren’t sure about going for a pricier plan, sign up on one of the lower plans and take advantage of the upgrade without having to pay extra for 30 days. When your trial ends, you’ll be given the option of staying on your current plan or switching to the higher one.
You can only register one payment option to your account, but if you’re happy to do so you can share your email address and password with family and friends so they can make their own profiles. Make sure that the information you share isn’t sensitive – such as using the same password for your internet banking.
If you want to split payment for your account, then you can either get people to set up a simple standing order, pay via PayPal and split the cost through here, or use something such as Monzo. You can create up to five profiles across all of the plans, but the type of subscription that you have will affect things such as simultaneous streaming.
Keep in mind however that Netflix is cracking down on password sharing among multiple households.
If cost is your main concern, we’ve also totted up what a monthly subscription will cost you per year. However, keep in mind that you can only pay for Netflix monthly – no annual plans are offered. You can cancel a monthly rolling subscription at any time.
Some TV packages such as Virgin and Sky also offer Netflix as an add-on in their bundles, so if you plan on going with these for your entertainment needs you can put it together with your TV bill and have everything go out at once.
Is Netflix Basic with Ads for me?
Cost: £4.99/US$6.99 per month (adds up to £59.88 or US$83.88 per year)
Best for: Those who want to spend as little as possible and don’t plan on sharing Netflix
Netflix Basic with Ads is the newest tier from the streaming giant. Whilst its the cheapest tier on the list, there are many restrictions to keep in mind.
The number of ads depends on the content you’re watching, but typically there will be a couple of pre-roll ads, and then either one or two mid-roll ad breaks. The ads themselves can last anywhere between 30 seconds and 75 seconds – though they aren’t as intrusive as some other ad-supported streaming platforms.
The main downside of this Netflix tier is that it is missing some major third-party shows and films, including The Office, The Good Place, Arrested Development and Skyfall – the content missing will depend on your region. You can find out more with our hands-on of Netflix Basic with Ads.
The quality of the streaming is HD (720p), and there are no simultaneous streams or downloads available – so we recommend this tier for individuals only, really.
Is Netflix Basic for me?
Cost: £6.99/US$9.99 per month (adds up to £83.88 or US$119.88 per year)
Best for: Cost-conscious individuals or pairs, those with older TVs
Even on Netflix Basic, you still gain access to the entire library of TV shows and movies, so you’re not missing out when it comes to content. The main restrictions are down to the resolutions you can stream in and the number of simultaneous streams.
Netflix Basic now offers streaming in high definition (HD), which is 720p. This applies across any device – your TV, phone and laptop. If you’re watching Netflix on an older TV that isn’t capable of higher definitions, then this won’t be a real sticking point for you.
Though Netflix allows you to make up to five profiles across all plans, the Basic version only allows one stream at a time, which means no simultaneous streaming. Therefore if you want to get Basic, you’ll have to be content with it either being exclusive to one device in your household or be very good at juggling your watching habits with your family or friends.
You’re also only allowed to download content on one phone or tablet, so this is something to keep in mind if you like to stream on the go.
Cost: £10.99/US$15.49 per month (adds up to £131.88 or US$185.88 per year)
Best for: Those looking for a balance of cost and perks, small groups
The most popular plan on Netflix is the all-rounder Standard account. The step-ups from the Basic plan include two simultaneous streams, two devices to register for downloads and a nice boost when it comes to your resolution.
On Netflix Standard, you’ll be able to stream up to 1080p. This is the average across most devices on sale, so your picture quality will be reasonably good for whatever you’re streaming on.
Double the simultaneous streams make this account good for friends who watch Netflix around the same time as you, or multiple family members who like to tune in from different parts of the house. But again, this plan still doesn’t give you the max amount of screens that you can have.
Consider who you’ll be sharing your plan with, and what’s the maximum amount of dosh you want to fork out each month.
Is Netflix Premium for me?
Cost: £15.99/US$19.99 (adds up to £191.88 or US$239.88 per year)
Best for: Large groups and tech whizzes
If cost is no concern – or you’re sharing your account with a big number of people – then it’s worth considering Netflix Premium.
If you want to get the most out of your 4K telly or laptop, then the Premium tier of Netflix offers Ultra High Definition (UHD), which is 4K streaming. Of course, be aware that not every single show and film on the platform is available in 4K – it’s mostly newer releases and they’ll be labelled as such (find out more in our guide to watching Netflix in 4K).
Large groups and big families will also be happy to take advantage of Netflix Premium, as it includes four simultaneous streams and four devices to store downloads on, making it the easiest account for sharing by far if that’s your main goal.
Of course, if all these streams are taking place in one household (and all are in 4K), keep in mind that you’ll need a fast broadband connection to avoid any buffering issues.
So, which Netflix plan is the best?
Honestly, that comes down to you and your watching habits.
If you just plan on streaming the odd thing here and there and are only watching on one device, then you can save some cash with either Basic with Ads or Basic. If you’re at the other end of the scale and want the best picture quality, plan on streaming a lot and splitting your account with friends, go for Premium. Or alternatively, get the best of both worlds when it comes to price and perks and stick with Standard.
Consider who you want to split the account with, the effect this will have on cost, and the type of devices that you can watch your content on – there’s no point in 4K streaming if you don’t have a 4K device! And remember – you can always switch between accounts until you find the one that’s just right.
Hannah Cowton is a Senior Staff Writer at Tech Advisor and Macworld, working across entertainment, consumer technology and lifestyle. Her interests and specialities lie in streaming services, film and television reviews and rumours, gaming, wearables and smart home products. She's also the creator of The London Geek, a geek culture and lifestyle blog.