The vudu is an elegant black box that promises to keep you far away from any DVD rental store. It is a “movie on demand” box for which the prices range from $.99 to $3.99. There is also an option to buy movies, which can cost as much as $19.99. The number of movies that you can own is determined by the storage space available on the vudu.
Technically, the vudu is a small computer that is specialized in streaming/downloading movies to display them on TV, in High Definition or not. The box can be updated to the most recent vudu software. So, is this the “vudu magic” of on-demand TV? We put the vudu box to the test.
Physically, the Vudu is a small box that is comparable to a mac mini. On the back, it has plenty of audio and video outputs that make it compatible with virtually every TV. It connects to the network via a wired Ethernet connection (the documentation does mention the possibility of using a USB Wi-Fi dongle, but we did not have a compatible USB key). The box is very silent and you can either display it or hide somewhere in your AV furniture. Fortunately, the vudu does not get hot enough to cause software instability or shutdowns.
The radio frequency (RF) remote control works very well. RF is better an infrared (IR) remote because it works regardless of where the remote is pointing. The remote has only five buttons, and that includes the scrolling wheel and that means that it is easy to use. The only potential downside that I found is that a RF remote is not compatible with universal remotes that mostly use infrared.
- 5 Mbps DSL
- Wired ethernet 100Mbps (60′ cable)
- 50″, 720p/1080i TV
User Interface The user interface is very straightforward. On the homepage there is a list of featured movies – the ones that vudu is promoting. On the top of the screen, you can see five menus:
- Find Movies (search by name, genre, date)
- New On Vudu
- My Movies (movies that you own/rent)
- My Wish List (boomarks for upcoming movies)
- Info and Settings (parental controls, )
Overall, the user interface is very easy to use. I have seen some people searching for where to buy/rent the first time they do it, but this is not a big issue. The movie categorization is also not always optimal (movie are sometimes filed in an odd category), but it is usable. Instant watch
Video on demand means that you do not have to wait for a lengthy download before you watching your show. The vudu delivers: standard definition movies can be watched immediately and even HD movies can be watched right away if your internet connection is fast enough (>3Mbps). That is a lot better than Amazon Unbox (speed) or Netflix Instant Movies (quality), believe me – I use both as well.
Streaming video is often associated with a compromise in the quality (like Netflix). Again, the vudu does very well. On our 50-inch test TV, standard definition quality is indistinguishable from a DVD disc. In HD, the resolution is noticeably sharper and it “feels” like an HD movie, but have not compared it frame per frame with a Blu-Ray player. Overall, the video quality is very good. Note that Vudu uses a proprietary compression format that is key to the fast downloads and the video quality.
With 5000 movies available, it looks like a reasonable number, but selection is vudu’s Achilles heel. To be fair, most of the new movies make it there, but the current selection is still relatively slim, compared to large DVD libraries like Netflix. To see if the selection is good enough for you, go to the movies section on vudu.com.
The library grows in size every week, so in the long term this should not be a problem. It just takes time to acquire the license and convert movies to vudu’s format.
The vudu is a brilliant on-demand solution. It is everything that we would like to have in such a device: it is easy to use, small, quiet, stable, low-maintenance and the remote even looks good. Take a look at the movie list and at the pricing. If that fits your budget, we warmly recommend the vudu box.