Sport & Auto
- About Future
- Digital Future
- Cookies Policy
- Terms & Conditions
- Investor Relations
- Contact Future
(Almost) just like renting from the video store…except you don’t have to be wearing pants.
We’ve long been fans of Netflix, partially because of the convenience, and because well…recently all the video stores in our neighborhood have died of mysterious causes. But waiting for the mail sucks, and our Netflix queue has the annoying tendency of not magically knowing exactly what we want to watch on a given day. Which is precisely what the Vudu excels at: instant gratification. A compact box that hooks up to your (standard or hi-def) TV, the Vudu Box delivers streaming movies in several resolutions directly to your living room, with no late fees, discs, or trips to the video store--or the mailbox.
Connecting the Vudu to your video gear couldn’t be easier. Connect AC power, and to your home network by Ethernet, or the optional Vudu WiFi Kit. Vudu outputs to your TV by (included!) HDMI, Component, Composite, or S-Video, and features analog RCA, or digital Optical or Coax outs. Put simply, unlike the Apple TV, Vudu easily connects to just about any standard or HD TV. Vudu also includes a somewhat bulbous but innovative scrollwheel remote, comfortable for left- or right-handed use. And the remote operates over RF, so the Vudu Box can be hidden away in a cabinet--no direct line of sight required.
Movies on Vudu are available for purchase or rental. New releases rent for $3.99 for standard-definition and $5.99 for HD or Vudu’s higher-quality HDX format. Older titles can be rented for as little as 99 cents, but most are in the $2.99 to $3.99 range. You can also buy movies for viewing anytime, with prices comparable to those you’d find for DVDs, although so far only standard-definition content is available for purchase. Like other on-demand rentals, the movie studios have stupidly limited rentals to a rather punitive 24-hour window--if you start a movie Thursday at 7 p.m., you can’t finish up the last 20 minutes Friday at 8:30 without paying again. Luckily, Vudu offers the ability to re-up your rental for another day, for less than the cost of a second rental.
In our tests, the Vudu performed well, and we only had trouble with one of the films we rented. HD and HDX versions looked significantly better than the less expensive SD versions on our 1080p TV, but even HDX isn’t the same as what you’d see from Blu-Ray. But HD versions come at a price (besides the upcharge of a few bucks). SD titles start instantly, but HD and HDX titles can require a few hours of downloading time before you can start watching--somewhat mitigated by the ability to initiate movie downloads to your Vudu from your iPhone or any Web browser. And, if you’re interested, the Vudu also features adult content, which is disabled by default, and must be activated via Web browser before the option shows up on your Vudu Box. And there’s even a Dad “panic button” to take you quickly out of the adult section if your mom/kid/spouse/clergyman comes into the room unexpectedly.
If your ISP imposes a bandwidth cap on your Internet access, be warned that Vudu uses a closed peer-to-peer system for downloads, so you’re serving files, in addition to downloading your movies. For heavy users of Vudu’s HD formats, there is a risk of running afoul of your ISP with normal use. Vudu was cagey when asked about file sizes for the various movie formats, but it’s a factor that heavy Internet users may need to be wary of.
We loved the simple setup, and extras like YouTube and Flickr were nice. Unfortunately, Vudu remains locked into its own proprietary video universe. There’s neither an option to play back your own video files on the device, nor to stream them from computers on your local network. And while titles are often available the same day the DVD gets released, some are only available for purchase on that date--you’re forced to wait a few weeks in order to rent a title rather than buy it. Vagaries like this make us a little apprehensive about movie-download services, including Vudu. They’re still reliant on the movie studios for content, which means that titles available today might be gone tomorrow. Vudu assures us that any content you purchase is yours to keep, even if your Vudu never again connects to the Internet or Vudu’s servers--if they were to go out of business, for example. And since there’s no way to back up your purchases locally, you only own purchased content for as long as your Vudu box is operating. Vudu says they’ll replace content if your drive dies, but they’ll have to be in business in order to do that. At least with DVDs you own a physical product that isn’t dependent on a proprietary device to remain functional.
For avid movie renters, Vudu is a great solution, provided you can put up with the painfully short 24-hour rental window and arbitrary rental availability imposed by movie studios. Purchasing content is a leap of faith in both the longevity of your hardware, and the company itself, and true film buffs are probably better off purchasing hard media.
PRICE: $149; $79 for optional Wi-Fi kit
REQUIREMENTS: Broadband Internet access, Ethernet or Wi-Fi network, standard or HD television
Rent or buy videos without going to the video store. RF remote works without line-of-sight and is simple to use. Can order movies via iPhone App or Web interface.
Occasional video problems. HD titles require lead-time to download. No option for streaming or playback of your own video files. TV selection is lacking. Catalog search is limited to registered owners.