Initial Vudu Thoughts and Unboxing Pics

Dave Zatz —  December 24, 2007 — 9 Comments

p1030835.jpg

As you can see from the pics below, I’ve gotten the Vudu review unit unpacked and hooked up. The out-of-box-experience (OOBE) is decent and the Vudu build quality looks and feels very nice.

The movie selection is quite large, though they don’t offer enough current blockbusters. Not to mention… Like other services, some films are available as rentals, some as purchases, some as both. We can’t pin this one on Vudu – blame the studios.

I’ve already developed a love-hate relationship with the remote control. It’s unique shape is quite comfortable and the scroll wheel makes quick work of navigating lists. However, the remote utilizes RF. I can live without adding Vudu as a Harmony activity, but I would have appreciated IR for TV volume buttons.

The interface is fairly simple and mostly logical. However, the remote’s scroll wheel makes navigation much more efficient than finding movies on the Xbox 360 and (recently departed) Moviebeam. Interacting with Vudu is also very responsive – partially due to that scroll wheel and, generally speaking, most modern STBs seem quick compared to TiVo’s UI. Given the large catalog of movies, I appreciate the Wish List bookmarking feature.

We’ve watched three movies (Memento, Reno 911: Miami, Simpson’s) on the 30″ bedroom HDTV. Playback of the SD flicks was instantaneous – in addition to the P2P functionality Vudu touts, I suspect some initial film content is pre-loaded to assist with that quick start. Video quality looked good, on par with Xbox SD movies – meaning: better looking than Amazon Unbox on TiVo.

So, is the Vudu worth $400 plus per movie rental or purchase fees? As solid as it seems, given the market I’m still not convinced a single-function box will succeed at $400. For comparison, an Xbox 360 with movie downloads (including HD) or a PS3 with integrated Blu-ray playback also come in at $400. Not to mention many folks get their VOD fix via cheap-to-free cable or satellite boxes. For a period of time, Vudu was selling the box to technology evangelists for $99. At $99, I have no problems recommending Vudu. For someone who always wants a large selection of movies on hand and is willing to pay, I’d even endorse the Vudu at $200-$250 – once more flicks are offered in offered in HD and with 5.1 audio. However, as an Xbox 360, TiVo, and HD DVD player owner I wouldn’t pay more than $100-$150 for a device like this.

I’ll continue to explore the Vudu, get it hooked up to the larger living room plasma, take video of the interface, etc… So, stay tuned.

Click the thumbnails for a larger view:

Disclosure: I’m not participating in the Vudu Evangelist program. This unit is a loaner from Vudu’s PR agency.

9 responses to Initial Vudu Thoughts and Unboxing Pics

  1. Dave

    Great unbiased review! Vudu is certainly a product worth watching. I have had a box for a few months and have seen its upside. While it is not without its faults (pricing being one IMHO) I can see the potential with what could be a simple device that does exactly what is asked and no more. Certainly combo devices exhibit a certain value proposition, but vudu offers quality video in a simple easy to use format. What is also exciting is that the device evolves as you use it. While some companies will patch software every couple of months, I have seen vudu be proactive by constantly fixing bugs and upgrading software – a somewhat refreshing take on focusing on its installed and future user base. Only time will tell for vudu and their success, but for now I will enjoy the product and see where the ride takes me.

  2. Great review. As you pointed out, with the PS3 and the XBOX 360 (which I have) at around the same price, I just can’t see Vudu being successful, epically with all of the limitations. I also think that any service of this kind will have a tough road with the current pricing schemes. Until Vudu can match netflix/blockbuster’s monthly subscription based fees, people will stick with the dvd’s.

  3. Aside from the price, I’m not thrilled with the fact that you can’t move purchases off the box — seems it can fill up fairly quickly. Any word on external storage?

    As for MovieBeam, since the service never reached my area after all, my box is still… well, in the box. Is there any other use for it?

  4. Another drawback to
    single-function boxes – just how many HD inputs do most TVs have? Mine has 2, which are taken up by my Fios box and DVD player.

  5. David, if I were using real money I wouldn’t be making purchases for exactly that reason. Storage is limited and the movies are locked to the device. Amazon Unbox is somewhat better in that you can re-download your purchases at any time and to multiple PCs or TiVos. Digital movie purchases (as opposed to music) don’t make much sense to me anyway – you can’t share it like an optical disc.

    As far as the Moviebeam goes, the box is impossible to open making the parts worthless. I dumped mine. I also trashed the Akimbo, though I pulled the drive out first.

    Eric, good point. Supposedly the Vudu component outputs are only good for 480p. To get higher resolutions, you need HDMI. While I did have extra power and networking in the bedroom, that HDTV has only one HDMI input… So I’ve been swapping it with the TiVo HD.

  6. I might buy it at $99. Will be interested in the d/l time for HD content.

    C’mon people though, get an HDMI switch from monoprice. They are like $40 (get some cables while you at it, so you don’t get reemed by a brick and mortar store).

  7. AnotherDave, The Bourne Ultimatum info screen says the HD download will take at least 4 hours. I’ll experiment later and report back.

  8. Download time may be about 4 hours, but do remember that a connection to the Internet at over 2mb or so allows almost instant playback.

  9. I think the instant playback feature may be specific to SD content. I’ve watched 4 flicks now, and all began immediately. However, SD content on the Xbox 360 plays back nearly immediately as well. I’ll give Bourne a test run later this week and see if I can watch during download, and how long it takes to build a suitable buffer.

    By the way, I also endorse Monoprice. Great selection and prices, with quick shipping. I’m contemplating replacing most of my cables with shorter cables to clean up some of my mess.

Leave a Reply

*

Text formatting is available via select HTML.

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>