While the Blu-ray v. HD DVD battle made headlines (HD DVD lost, in case you weren’t paying attention), it probably didn’t matter. The idea that movies have to be delivered on a piece of plastic is about as forward thinking as making a better buggy whip to compete with the automobile 100 years ago.
The Vudu set-top box gives you high-definition access (up to 1080p) to thousands of movies on demand, something cable companies can only dream of. Using broadband technology, you can purchase and rent a movie on a moment’s notice – and start to watch it almost immediately. The secret behind Vudu is that it stores the first few minutes of popular films on the hard drive to avoid any delays; other films may take a few minutes and the speed of your Internet connection will impact your experience.
Setup was simple: plug in broadband, power, and TV. The box’s drive can store 100 hours of movies (you don’t have to watch the movies immediately). The vertical scroll bar on the Vudu remote is quite intuitive and simplifies the Vudu experience. Once you start a movie, it can be paused, rewound, and fast-forwarded. If you stop viewing a movie, it restarts where you left off.
The video quality is equivalent to the best DVD players; the sound (dependent on your setup, of course) is superb. Another benefit is the absence of (annoying) pre-film trailers (I recently counted eight on one DVD). It also works with older televisions via its composite and S-Video outputs.
Lack of built-in Wi-Fi, rentals limited to a 24-hour viewing period, and a smaller selection than Netflix are areas that could use improvement.
Now if only it made popcorn…
www.vudu.com, $299 (includes $200 movie credit if purchased from Best Buy), movies rent from for $1-6
–Jonathan B. Spira is the Editor of Executive Road Warrior and Chief Analyst at Basex, a knowledge economy research firm.