Two recent events have put the video download Battle Royale on hold… 1) Ben wants his Apple TV back – and who can blame him, I’ve been sitting on it for months. 2) Sony finally entered the fray with a Playstation video store, and I don’t own a PS3. Maybe I’ll get to it, maybe not.
But here’s what I will tell you: Today, the most enjoyable set-top box movie download experience is provided by Vudu ($300). The interface has a few quirks, but it’s quite efficient at navigating their large selection of nice-looking content and playback is often instantaneous. And for awhile, the software updates were fast and furious – which I appreciate. I believe Apple TV offers more HD content and makes it available perhaps sooner than Vudu. Apple TV is also cheaper ($230) and provides a variety of functionality (photos, music, video podcasts) plus iTunes beats everyone in the amount of television content available (for purchase). But for whatever reasons (probably starting with the remote), I just don’t like it. Meanwhile my Netflix box ($100) sits in the closet, waiting for a day when more current releases and/or high(er) def movies are available – via Netflix, or someone else.
My ideal solution would see TiVo and Amazon (or CinemaNow) pull the trigger on HD video rentals. I’d rather use my primary television accessory for the majority of my television viewing functions. Which is why these guys largely compete with the cable companies (PPV/VOD), rather than each other for mindshare (and revenue). And for a large percentage of the population, price is a factor – an existing cable box is much more economical than a Vudu.
I’m only bummed I couldn’t deliver on providing the much-requested head-to-head HD video quality comparison. In many cases the differences are subtle and difficult to definitively identify by swapping cables on the same television. (Not to mention, it’d be different cables – my Xbox 360 predates HDMI support.) I was hopeful of doing some side-by-side comparisons at my old office where they’ve got some Westinghouse flat panels lined up. But the timing hasn’t worked out. The downside of a day job (mostly on the other coast). Perhaps CNET‘s John Falcone can round up a few folks on his team to pull together a professional and comprehensive comparison for us?