9 Ways to Ditch Blu-ray

Vudu

Price: $299

Before the Roku Netflix Player came along, the Vudu box was the toast of the town. It lets you stream movies directly to your HDTV from the Vudu service and—much like your cable provider—sends new movies your way each month in an exceptionally well-designed package.

The only problem: Vudu’s competitors are pushing it out of the market as customers realize its service no longer makes much sense. The biggest concern is that once you pay $299 for the Vudu box, you have to pay even more to rent SD and HD movies.

And to make matters worse, the movie rentals cost $0.99 to $3.99 for SD and $3.99 to $5.99 for HD. TV episodes cost $1.00, and movie purchases run $4.99 to $19.99, depending on title popularity and release date.

Vudu does let you stream movies—thousands, in fact—to your HDTV, but many of these movies are films you probably wouldn’t want to watch. Vudu is currently promoting favorites like Baby Mama and The Love Guru, but what it fails to mention is the losers, such as 10.5 and 12 o’Clock.

As a concept, the Vudu box is compelling. But when compared with competitors, the Roku Netflix Player and cable boxes offering video-on-demand services, it quickly becomes apparent that Vudu is the least desirable of the bunch.

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  • shakumdown
    As the title suggest, this is all about the video capabilities of the devices in this article. Now as I review the opinion of the author on each of the devices, it appears certain elements are left out. These elements include information on things such as dependencies that some devices have on other computer devices. An example of this would be where some devices in this article have such a dependency and require the support of a PC with specific operating system requirements. These dependencies should also be reflect in this article and then included in the scoring charts.

    One additional device that I believe would be a huge contender is the TViX M-6500A/7000A. These devices are impressive, please consider including these devices for any future updates to this article.
  • plbyrd
    The pricing info on the XBOX 360 is all wrong.

    The XBOX 360 with the HD is $299. There is no charge for XBOX Live Silver, which is what is required for using the marketplace. You do not need any additional accessories for playing media on the XBOX 360 as the media software works just fine with the included wireless controller.
  • plbyrd
    Again, more dis-information! The Media Center PC has the most choices available, especially considering subscription services such as Netflix which stream video directly to the player, just like YouTube. Also, with the MCPC you can put media extenders throughout your house that all provide access to whatever content you can display on the MCPC itself.
  • plbyrd
    The Mac Mini and MCPC have EXACTLY THE SAME content available. The Mac Mini has no answer to the MCPC interface for viewing that content. I've had a Vista MCPC for 2 years and haven't had a SINGLE problem with it. Your bias against Microsoft is not becoming of your article. This should be considered a blog entry, not an authoritative and researched article.
  • Anonymous
    Where's the evaluation of video and audio quality? None of the above services come even close to approaching Blu-Ray in picture and audio quality.

    It is also misinformation to say you can "purchase" any thing through any of these services. The truth is you are paying a significant amount of money to RENT a DRM-infested title with less quality and convenience than physical media.
  • Anonymous
    I have to agree with plbyrd on a number of things here. But the one that stands out the most is that the XBox Marketplace does NOT require the subscription membership; you pay *ONLY* the rental fees. Another option that is available for the XBox and PS3 (and eventually the Wii) is PlayOn. Granted- it requires a networked computer to run the thin server app, but this application pulls content off of websites like Hulu, Netflix, and YouTube and streams it to your gaming console. Very easy to set up, and provides great content. I'm on the verge to canceling my cable subscription because of it.
  • Anonymous
    These options are fine if you can stand to watch SD content on your shiny HDTV, I know I can't. It sounds a bit like someone arguing over which has-been actor is "Still the best".

    Add to that the nice little perks you get with many of these options... like expiration dates (Sony's big on the 'Valid for one year' sales gimmick), limits on playback devices, risk of complete loss of 'purchased' media if your hdd crashes, and prices that are barely less than hard media costs.

    Blu-Ray quality video is not yet viable even if it's available - and won't be until you can stream BD bitrates with a reasonable chance of success (Years away at best unless you live in Japan).
  • radguy
    Umm first off the mac mini above everything else I disagree. First off the Mac mini as a 950 gma graphics chip. It can play anything? Sure it can handle movies even some HD. But handleing all the different formats at 1080p the way a descently built media center pc can. Not quite capable. Sure anything 720p off of Itunes might be ok but I would much rather go with a dell studio hybrid for a similar product. Not saything the mini is bad just not the top of the list.

    Also I think that Blu-ray is still the way to go when it comes to picture quality. Which isn't that why we love our hd tvs so much.

    One other note. Haven't we all been hearing about these online download limits comming. 250gb a month with movie downloads for a family of 4+ could become an issue with HD. I'm just saying the title is Time to Ditch the discs? bye bye blu ray. Sorry Not really buying it anytime soon.
  • plbyrd
    @Dave K

    I don't think you read the reviews very well. Several of the players include true HD video such as the XBOX 360, Apple TV and MCPC.
  • resonance451
    The growth of on-demand content has been stunted by and will continue to have difficulty thriving because of the greedy telecommunications companies. The slow speeds and download caps make things very difficult. Higher speeds are very possible, and common in some other countries, while we continue to languish at the bottom of the barrel. The bottom line is these companies want us to pay more when we're getting less, and if we want to enjoy content like this, we need to remove these pointless limitations set about by the "good ol' boys".
  • jivdis1x
    resonance451The growth of on-demand content has been stunted by and will continue to have difficulty thriving because of the greedy telecommunications companies. The slow speeds and download caps make things very difficult. Higher speeds are very possible, and common in some other countries, while we continue to languish at the bottom of the barrel. The bottom line is these companies want us to pay more when we're getting less, and if we want to enjoy content like this, we need to remove these pointless limitations set about by the "good ol' boys".


    You paying more because the majority of the internet subscriber only use to surf and email-less damand. The growth of streaming content is still in it's infancy-little content. If the content is not there, pitching a 20mbps connection is pointless. Anyways, consumer broadband service started with the cable company. The telecommunication company is playing catch-up. They're losing their customer and the means to recover is upgrading the network. There are many factors that causes the USA broadband to be behind: lack of content, less demand, less competition. It's not greed that slowing it down. Company is out there to make money-greed is driving force.

    The term speed cap doesn't apply to DSL(telecommunication). They will try to sell you the highest speed possible. The line is dedicate. The max speed is determined by your distance from the CO and the age of the DSL switch equipment. When DSL 1st came out in the US it was 128kbps and max at 1.0Mbps-now it's 768kbps and max 10Mbps. In order to get the max-you have to be next door to the CO. 22awg copper can do so much. That is why they went with fibre optic. There is speed cap with the cable company. Connection is shared-the equipment also has set limitation. They also use copper wire but at 12awg - 16 awg. In order for everyone to get even connection, each point has to be allocated evenly ie cap.
  • shadowmaster625
    It costs only $15 for an 8GB SDHC flash card. In 6 months it will cost $10. So who really needs a boo-ray drive? They are obsolete. 8GB is enough space for a typical 2 hour movie. When compressed properly, no one would be able to tell the difference. For movies that require more space, there is always the 16GB option for a few bucks more. By the middle of next year, 16GB flash cards will cost under $20. I am waiting for the day when Netflix starts sending out SDHC cards with movies on them, instead of discs that are unreliable. I want HD movies, but refuse to tolerate the trouble that is a blu-ray drive.
  • Anonymous
    I'll keep my VUDU for its instant HD streaming. "On Demand" should really mean "on demand".

    And if I want to wait a couple of hours to get the highest quality version, I can make that choice.
  • Ivan Y
    This article is a hodge-podge of information about services/devices not in the same category and has blatant misinformation. Here are some things others have not mentioned yet:
    (1) MacMini -- not only is it just like any other HTPC, it CAN output HD resolutions over DVI and VGA.

    (2) Popcorn Hour -- nice device but it offers nowhere near the experience of AppleTV (or VUDU, 360, PS3 or most other dedicated VOD devices).

    (3) VUDU -- wow, are we a little biased about VUDU or what? It has hands-down the largest MOVIE catalog (not so great on TV show front yet) so why is it being penalized for including non-top tier content in addition to popular new releases? Furthermore, the catalog gets updated every WEEK (and not month), TV episodes are $1 only for first episode of a show (industry-standard $1.99 after that), and it also offers highest-quality rentals yet (new HDX format). On top of it all, you get $200 in credits after buying it from Best Buy, so it's only $99 for you.

    (4) Windows Media PC -- you fall over yourself praising Mac Mini and diss a much-more customizable (not to mention, powerful) MPC? Wow, it's really sad to see the site go even lower than SSD fiasco.
  • Anonymous
    I think the big mistake here is that the mac mini will use itunes and itunes will not allow HD content unless it's being downloaded to an apple TV. I would rate the apple TV over he mac mini for image quality. Definitely the two are not the same in content!!!

    - Dave
  • d_kuhn
    @plbyrd: There are two ways to offer "HD" content online. The first is to download full hd content to the local machine then play locally. This would work if you could stand the day or so it'd take to download the 30+ gig file before you could watch it (assuming you've got a fairly fast broadband connection).

    The second is to compress the living crap out of the full hd movie and download or stream that. While this format can CLAIM to be full HD because it's encoded from 720p or 1080p content... it's not, it's a poor surrogate that allows them to play their marketing games (We've got HD videos!!! YIPEEE!).

    So no... you are not going to see FULL Blu-Ray quality 1080p, Uncompressed 7 channel audio HD content coming to you over the internet any time soon. If you don't like compromising when there's a fully acceptable solution available... then Blu-Ray is the only game in town and will be for years to come.

    Eventually we will see downloadable content match hard media, but at this point ISP's are slowly rolling BACKWARDS on the performance side (adding surcharges for heavy users). What's the likelyhood of HD downloads when ONE download could blow your entire months bandwidth allotment? Well since I'm a helpful guy I'll tell you: ZIP!
  • ravenware
    Netflix for streaming sucks. The video quality is decent enough but the majority of the titles they have to view are bargain basement trash that no one will want to watch. This is why I canceled my membership.
  • Pei-chen
    So how do I lend my movie to friends?

    Copy onto a blu-ray disc.

    Thanks.
  • Takewe
    Thank you D_Kuhn. That explaination goes for shadowmaster as well. Full BD quality on an 8GB SD card (or even a 16GB)?!!? Not even close. When you compress an 8GB DVD to 4GB there's quite a difference in resolution on a decent sized display, so why would one think a 30-50GB file compressed to 8-16GB would be considered even close to appropriate (unless you're in need of Coke bottle prescription glasses)? Just face it, articles (blogs) like this just help the dumbing down of quality like mp3 did for Audio. And this is essentially raving about content that compresses both Audio and Video. How I long for the days when people understood the difference between quality and everything else below it.
  • fuser
    ravenwareNetflix for streaming sucks. The video quality is decent enough but the majority of the titles they have to view are bargain basement trash that no one will want to watch. This is why I canceled my membership.

    The netflix service is a free add-on to their dvd rental service. It will get better, and you don't pay anything for it now. :-p