If you recall, MovieBeam is the movie rental device and service spun off from Disney and backed by Cisco. Unlike Akimbo’s internet downloads, MovieBeam contracts local broadcasters to distribute films over the air. The box supposedly holds 100 movie rentals at any given time, including several offered in HD.
A few weeks ago, MovieBeam lowered the hardware fee to $200, soon followed by a $50 blogosphere deal. At $200, I felt the device was still too expensive given per movie rental expenses ($1.99 – $4.99). However, $50 seemed reasonable and I decided to join in (though they ultimately gave me the box). I figured in the worst case scenario I could cannibalize MovieBeam for the 160GB hard drive.
Overall, I’ve been relatively pleased with MovieBeam. While I have no control over the movies in the library, the selection is quite broad covering a variety of genres with both recent and classic films. Movies do not appear on the box until they’ve been downloaded; therefore, rental playback is immediate. Rented flicks remain available for 24 hours and typical in-movie VCR controls are offered. I found standard definition films upscaled from 480p (using a HDMI cable) to look and sound very good. Those without a cable/satellite box offering PPV or not conveniently located near a Blockbuster will appreciate MovieBeam for spontaneous movie rentals.
So how does MovieBeam perform with true HD? I have no idea — my box only has a few HD films in stock, the most recent being Bubble followed by Kill Bill, Volume 2. Because of a poor selection and being connected to a 30″ HDTV (not large enough to perform a reasonable analysis of HD picture quality), I chose to pass. Though others whom I respect have chimed in… Ben feels HD quality is poor and Jeremy opined while it isn’t Comcast HD, it is better than DVD-quality. The good news is that MovieBeam can most likely improve HD quality in the future by simply using less compression.
Two minor annoyances to consider before purchase: 1. MovieBeam needs a landline to periodically dial in for billing purposes. I have it working through my Vonage box, which is inconveniently located in another room. 2. Service is not offered in all regions. Even in my supported area, the flat antenna needed to be precisely placed on a window sill with good visibility for download reception.
And now for something entirely different (and hopefully useful) on ZNF… I present a MovieBeam video overview.