Vudu Video Download Box Review

Vudu Information -
2980 Bowers Ave
Santa Clara, California 95051

Models: Vudu, Vudu XL (larger drive, more interface capability)
Hard Drive Size: 250GB, 1TB (Vudu XL)
Video Outputs: composite (480i), component (up to 1080i), HDMI (up to 1080p)

If you’ve never heard of the VUDU, it’s
about the coolest thing since sliced
, and I love bread! I’ve lived with it for quite a while now, and it really is
the best consumer electronics product from a pure enjoyment perspective
since the TiVO. The VUDU is a movie terminal that allows you to browse for
movies or TV episodes that the machine then automatically downloads from
the company’s server. In most cases, you can choose from either renting or
buying the content at prices ranging from .99 to $3.99 for 24hr rentals,
although some titles only allow one or the other.

There's one really important thing to realize about the way the Vudu functions;
you don't have to wait for the movie to download. That's right, almost from
the moment you press "confirm" and the download begins, you can start
watching, if you have a reliable broadband connection. You won't be able to
fast forward for a few minutes, but you can watch just fine. NOTE: The recently
released HDX movies will actually need some buffering unless you have a 10
meg connection, but the normal HD and SD selections play instantly.

From and end user perspective, it functions similarly to DVD servers such as
those that are available from Kleidascape, Fusion, AMX, and Axonix. The
difference is that the average person can actually afford a
VUDU, while the
dedicated servers are relegated to the realm of the wealthy video enthusiast.
That’s not to say the servers don’t have several advantages over the VUDU,
such as watching multiple video feeds from a single library, video quality on
large screens (now, with the Vudu HDX update you can get pristine 1080p on
large, front projection screens with no loss in quality at 1080p/24) , and the
ability to store multiple media types, but for the difference in price, (the VUDU
was $399, now
it’s dropped to only $149) they damn well should.

The VUDU was
extremely easy to install and configure. It took me all of 3-
1/2 minutes, including connecting the Ethernet cable to my home network, and
configuring the machine for network access. After the unit runs through the
configuration process, (very painless, that), you simply grab the RF remote
and pick one of the
over 5,000 (now about 13,000) movies or TV shows
you’d like to watch. As an added bonus it’s small and completely quiet, so you
can put it just about anywhere.

Initially I was very impressed with the ease of setup, but less than impressed
with the quantity of movies available. Sure, there were over 4,500 of them
(now there are over 10,000 movies available), but too many were of the
something- you’d-see-at 3:00am-Tuesday variety. In fact, I saw one of the very
worst films, not only that I’d ever seen, but that I imagine could be made, on
the VUDU.
Since my initial experience, they have steadily added
content, including HD programming, some great concerts, and TV

One of the very important additions, especially if you have kids, was Pixar
movies, such as CARS and last year’s hit, Ratatouille. I was disappointed by
the lack of Pixar films when I first started browsing, and I’m glad they quickly
added content in this area. I watched Wall-E in HDX the other day, and it
looked great. Not being able to find any Star Wars, Harry Potter, or Indiana
Jones titles was a downer, especially when I wanted to show my son the first
Indiana Jones film. They are still, along with one of my other favorite films,
Apocalypse Now, missing in action. You will however find such blockbuster
series as Spiderman and Pirates of the Caribbean. The other omission at the
beginning was HD content, but they have since added this as well. They are
over 200 HD titles to date, and their list grows every week or so.

Speaking of browsing for movies,
the Vudu's interface is really great, but
pales next to the ease with which the remote can be mastered
. With all
of 5 buttons and a scroll wheel, even my 5 and 6 year old kids have no
problems finding any movie they want. The most technologically inept or
phobic will love this thing! If you want to see more about the Vudu,
check out
some of the reviews on Amazon here:

Some of you may have heard the phrase “RF remote” and thought “Crap, now
I can’t add this to my smart remote.” Fear not, one of the changes they have
made is the addition of an IR code set and receiver to allow for just such
integration. This way it can be integrated into multi function remote controls. IR
control functionality requires an optional IR receiver from VUDU ($39).

A bigger problem for some people was the lack of support for HD over
component video. Even 1080i was not supported. Initially, If you had a display
or video switching device that lacked HDMI, or DVI with HDCP, you were be
shut out of the HD party, as VUDU restricted component video output to 480p.
It’s not bad, but it sure wasn't the 1080p/24 that the device is capable of
through the HDMI (1.1) connection.

Now the
 VUDU XLS-1 Software Package that includes HD over Component
and Basic Net Remote functionality at a cost of $99.00 through a Vudu dealer.
The unit will output HDMI and component HD simultaneously. That's great if
you want to use HDMI for your primary display and distribute component HD to
other rooms.

I had to make do with 480p at the beginning because my equipment location
had only a component video run to my display, a 46” Sharp 1080p LCD, and
Vudu hadn't released the update for HD over component yet. Although I have
a local disc player in the room with an HDMI connection, that location lacks the
Internet connection required by the VUDU. After running the requisite HDMI
cable (CL2 rated, of course) through the wall to the display, everything is so
much better. Now I’m able to take full advantage of the VUDU’s HD video.

If you have a home theater, you’re probably just a bit interested in sound. After
all that’s at least half the fun. Well, I’m happy to report that yes, the VUDU
does indeed have sound. Sometimes, it’s really very good, too. Other times it’s
not quite so good, especially if you have a really nice surround setup. For
some, that’s probably a deal breaker, but
 VUDU has been working diligently to
improve the sound quality of the more sonicy challenged titles. Now there are
virtually no problems with the audio. Ah, the wonder of software and firmware
updates. The
new Vudu HDX movie updates improve things even
further, to pristine digital audio with a 40% higher bitrate than standard
Dolby Digital.

One feature that the VUDU allows that’s really cool is the ability to add
external drives to allow additional storage
. Out of the box my review unit
had a 250G drive, sufficient for about 50 average length SD downloads, such
as what you can purchase. This 50 movie limit does not include rentals, only
the movies you’ve purchased. Start buying HD movies, and you could run out
of capacity in a hurry. VUDU has promised that external drive capability will be
forthcoming to allow for additional storage capacity. The new Vudu XL is not
only larger, but will give you expansion capacity.

Here is an example of the  HD rental movies added in just the month this
review was written:
A Real Friend HD
American Gigolo HD
Another Cinderella Story
Assault On Precinct 13
Big Top Pee Wee HD
Black Rain HD
Chinatown HD
Hitch HD
I See You HD
King of California HD
Love Story HD
Scooby-Doo! Pirates Ahoy
Scorpion King 2
Spectre HD
Street Kings
The Fifth Element HD
To Let HD
Vantage Point HD
Witless Protection HD
Nim’s Island
Erin Brockovich (HD)
Eyes Wide Shut
The Bad News Bears (HD)
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (HD)
Night Shift
The First Wives Club
The Jerk (HD)
Flashback (HD)
What Women Want (HD)
Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey (HD)
Boomerang (HD)
Death Wish (HD)
The Truth About Charlie

High School Musical: The Concert
Sex in the City: Extended Version
The Neighbor

For those of you who have greater demands from their entertainment systems,
VUDU has just released the VUDU XL. It uses the same easy to operate
interface, but addresses some of the shortcomings of the original, especially
with regards to the custom installation market. The new box has a
full 1TB of
storage onboard
. With the XL they’ve even added IP control and
feedback to allow for complete integration with 3rd party control
systems from the likes of AMX and Crestron
. VUDU is now a Crestron
certified partner. In addition, they have partnered with Netstreams, Control4,
Nevo, and Phillips Pronto for advanced control capabilities. The newer XL box
retails for $999.

In short, the VUDU is a supremely easy to use A/V entertainment portal that
delivers on the promise of easy movies and TV episodes from the Internet. It
does have some flaws, but the folks at VUDU have so far been pretty darn
good about providing updates on a regular basis.
Once you have a Vudu,
it's hard to go back.
It really is like having a giant library in your home. You’ll
need a stout broadband connection to feed it, though. My Comcast connection
proved just fine.

Weather the Vudu will compete with the plethora of other download services,
such as Amazon Unboxed, Cinema Now, and of course Apple TV in the long
term remains to be seen, but for the present, it’s a very strong contender in
the race to push the neighborhood video store over the cliff of obsolescence.
Even better, it doesn’t make you use your computer to do it. Add that to the
availability of the
best quality audio and video available from any video
download box
(as of this review, see below), and it looks like it will be a

In October of 2008,
Vudu added the Vudu HDX update. This dramatically
expands the performance and functionality offered by the Vudu box and it
should be a popular update indeed. Here is what the Vudu HDX includes:

Vudu HDX Update

True Cinematic Experience — HDX movies are displayed in 1080p at 24
frames per second, the true cinematic gold standard
Immersive High Resolution Sound — HDX technology delivers the best
available surround sound quality for Internet delivered movies with immersive,
high resolution sound at a 40% higher bit-rate than standard surround sound
Optimized for Larger HDTVs — VUDU's unique TruFilm™ technology optimizes
the encoding, transmission and display of HDX movies on 40-inch HDTVs and
larger Home Theater screens.
Cost —
HDX movies cost the same as standard HD titles.
Delivery Times — Depending upon the movie, delivery times are expected to
take a few hours.
Ordering — There are two ways to order HDX movies. Directly from your VUDU
box, or remotely by going to
2X the Resolution — Ultra-detailed and virtually artifact free on any size of TV
HDX movies are displayed at twice the resolution of other
Internet HD video formats

Julie Jacobsen of CE Pro said this about HDX -
“Ideal for large-screen TVs, new format features super-high bit rates that might
turn Blu-ray faithful into nearly-on-demand users.”
Do I agree? Well, for the most part, you betcha! So far my experience with the
Vudu HDX has been limited to my Sharp 46" LCD, but look for a review with a
(much) larger screen soon.

Update - Now you can get YouTube videos and play games on the Vudu
Vudu Movie Download Box Review
and Information
Copyright 2008
All rights reserved
The Vudu GUI you'll see on your TV
VUDU Set Top Box
To see actual customer reviews of the Vudu at click here:
VUDU Set Top Box