Blockbuster OnDemand Not Ready For Prime Time

Dave Zatz —  December 3, 2008 — 14 Comments

As the title states, the Blockbuster OnDemand MediaPoint 2Wire box just isn’t ready for prime time. While the pricing is extremely reasonable ($99 for the hardware, including 25 movie rentals), the interface looks pleasant, and the content selection is solid… the device is in need of a software update before I can recommend it.

Blockbuster attempts to do more than the basic Roku Netflix box, such as couch-based content browsing, but the experience is largely flawed. What started as a minor annoyance has grown for me – many screens fill too slowly. I’m not sure if this is due to the hardware, software, or retrieving network content. Either way, it’s a turn off. (And a reason why I also tend to avoid TiVo’s Java-based network apps.) It peaked when the entire thing slowed down to an unusable state and the power button was ineffective, requiring an unplug. Speaking of unplugging the unit, each time I moved this box room to room it mysteriously forgot my WPA2 passphrase – tedious to repeatedly reenter those 19 characters. I’ve only rented one flick, the latest Indiana Jones installment. The initial download automatically restarted a few times while attempting to retrieve a license. During the download, video can be watched but transport controls (rewind, fast forward) are disabled – so I waited for the completed download watching. Later in the evening I was greeted by the above DRM error message, requiring a few hard reboots (and WPA2 key reentries). Who knows if there was an issue with the content or their licensing server. In the end it doesn’t matter, it just added to my frustration. The “DVD quality” video looked fine when it wasn’t marred by artifacts and stuttering, which was quite noticeable on four occasions. Additionally, at two points the audio and video lost synchronization – a pause/play toggle corrected it. So that’s my experience after one day with the box.

As it stands, I’m banishing the Blockbuster OnDemand unit (and my 24 remaining credits) to the closet until I learn of a firmware update. I have too many other, less frustrating, options available to me.

14 responses to Blockbuster OnDemand Not Ready For Prime Time

  1. As a rule I’m down on buying anything that only gives me the privilege to buy more things from the company. That said another fine idea trained wrecked by DRM, imagine that.

  2. I’m no hater of BB or Netflix fanboy (had BBO & Netflix, canceled Netflix), but it seems that the product is as lame as expected. Hope they fix it and enable some of the additional functionality that 2Wire boxes are supposed to have, but it might be too late then. Although, BB admitted that this was a limited test, so even they didn’t take this seriously.

  3. basically the bb box is a repackaged akimbo windows media box with progressive download.

  4. I don’t believe the box supports WPA2, despite what the manual states. I’d suggest you try WPA.

    I’m using one for movies and it’s working fine.

  5. I’m not going to change my network security (and everything attached to it) to support one new box which I don’t particularly care for. Also, the unit must support WPA2 because it did connect, allow me to browse the video library, and ultimately download the film. It’s mostly a binary thing – it either works or it doesn’t, and this box has connected. It’s inability to maintain my security key after pulling the plug is a mystery though. Also odd, the screen and virtual keyboard to reenter the key are different than the initial setup UI and is 2Wire branded.

  6. I installed my BB OnDemand box last night. I had the “delay” problems (wireless connection, high-speed Brighthouse Internet) you describe, only MUCH worse. It would be snappy for a minute or so, then take 30-90 seconds to respond to EACH button-press. Power-off and on (taking about 3 minutes) caused no improvement. Unplug/replug restored fast operation, but only for a minute or so. We’ll see if it is better tonight. One difference, I have never had to re-enter my 10-digit WEP key after power-off.
    I’m very curious to see what the so-called HD movies look like on the HDTV. Does anyone know yet? Are they same resolution and quality as HD movies from the cable box? (unit says it’s configured for 1080i, but I have never seen anything but 4:3 come out of it.

  7. I had the same slowdown as others have reported. There is a small reset button on the left front panel but it’s easy to miss. Holding that in for 5 or so seconds will reboot the unit and restore operation for a few hours.

    This unit is NOT ready for prime-time. In contrast, my Netflix box worked perfectly right out of the box and is still going strong months later.

    I’m contacting support to see WHEN a firmware upgrade will be available.

  8. I had the same problem. Two calls to BB finally brought force the acknowledgemnt that 2Wire has the same flaw in ALL of their boxes (it’s the software). They are working on a patch which will be automatically D/Ld when available — no timeframe given.

    In my case, the slowdown would always occur 5 minutes after each power cycle, which could only be initiated by pulling the plug. I believe the ‘reset’ button mentioned above is the faux ‘on/off’ switch on the front which just suspends the OS.

    After a factory reset (suggested by call #1), the OK time increased to 15-20 minutes before the box devolved to the 30 second action between remote button presses.

  9. Very frustrating setup to my wireless network despite the box being about 12 feet away. Tried two different TV’s, same problem. Finally etherneted the box directly. Set up alright. Replaced the TV on stand and connection problem resurfaced. 2Wire really made a junky box for Blockbuster. I was told by tech support (another fun experience) that my laptop had a much more powerful antenna. Given that this box is supposed to connect to one’s home wireless network, one would think 2Wire would employ a decent antenna. To sum it up, I don’t think that this will work for many people until 2Wire makes a better unit.

  10. I have not yet purchased one of these boxes, but I placed a call to Blockbuster tech support yesterday to clarify some questions that I had. After 45 minutes on hold I finally got someone with the knowledge to talk to me. I pressed him on the issue of the slowness of the box that I have been reading about and he said that last weekend 2wire pushed a firmware update to the boxes to resolve the issue. Is there any truth to this? It seems from what I am reading that the box is rather cheaply made, and I am so far not too impressed with Blockbuster tech support. The price of the box isn’t bad at $99 bucks including 25 rentals, but I’m wondering if I might be better off to wait for Blockbuster and 2wire to release a higher quality piece of hardware.

  11. New software is on my box. I have version 45 now.

  12. Version .46 is now available…very stable addresses most of the earlier issues.

  13. I pulled the box out of the closet over the weekend to see if it’s improved. It downloaded the .45 update. My wireless connectivity appears more stable, but I’m still seeing occasional random pauses while navigating the UI and experienced a reboot after it popped up a screen to call tech support during business hours. So it’s a bit better, but I’m putting it back into the closet for now. Perhaps the next update will improve the performance/stability even more. And maybe we’ll get some larger movie previews.

  14. The problem is not Blockbuster, because they are not the marker of software. It is 2Wire. From my experience with 2Wire’s boxes (including STBs for AT&T homezone customers), software flaws are plagued into all their systems. They just do not have the expertise to make a good quality product. If you try 2Wire boxes, it will simply add frustrations in your entertainment, just forget about 2Wire boxes, your life will be easier.

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