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Eye on Demand | November 17, 2017

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Vudu Review

Vudu Review

Review Overview

Quality of Video Stream
9
User Interface
7
Content on Offer
9
Device Availability
5
Value for Money
5
7

Vast HD Library

If you want a great PAYG video on-demand service, there are plenty of alternatives to iTunes out there, but none are larger than Vudu. Never heard of them? Not surprising if you live outside of the US, but with the world’s largest HD library on offer, maybe it’s worth a try?

Flag US SmallOriginally a maker of their own set-top-boxes and now owned by Walmat, Vudu is one of the largest VOD streaming services in the United States, offering an expansive range of HD movies on a wide range of platforms.

One thing to keep in mind, is that Vudu is a PAYG service more akin to Apple’s iTunes rather than subscription services like Netflix or Amazon Instant Prime. This means viewers must pay for each movie or television series as they are viewed, rather than the smorgasbord available via the subscription services.

Why pay-as-you-go?

The advantages of this are the availability of a far greater range of titles. Vudu’s selling point is that if a film is available on DVD within the United States, it is generally also available for streaming via their service. Movies arrive on the Vudu platform usually the same day they are released on DVD or Blu-Ray – at least for purchasing, and many are also available for renting, though sometimes at a later stage.

And why not?

This doesn’t of course come without a few gotchas.

  • Costs can mount up quickly, even when renting when compared to the flat rate many alternative subscription services offer.
  • Not everything is available for rent. Many new releases are only able to be purchased which can become quite expensive.

Prices vary by movie and video quality but generally rentals start at US$2 for a 30 day holding window which drops to 48 hours after playback begins. Although some specials exist for 99cents, prices can also be as high as US$5.99. Like any brick and mortar video store, expect new releases to be considerably more expensive than older films.

Purchasing also varies, with new releases anywhere between US$13.99 and US$22.99 depending on streaming quality, with older movies considerably cheaper. It is worth noting that unless the movie is downloaded, there is always the risk that content purchased my no longer be available if Vudu cease to trade in the future or change their licensing policy. That said, not all platforms offer this download service.

Vudu is currently only officially available for the US market. Within this region, no VPNs or DNS services are required to access content, all supported platforms are easily accessible and payment is comparatively a breeze. Outside of the US, a good VPN or Smart DNS service is required and hardware support is more limited, but with the right supporting services, Vudu can still be a worthwhile alternative.

Quality ButtonVideo quality varies depending on the resolution delivered. SD streams in at around 1000kbps, 720p HD at 2250kbps and 1080p HD movies and television shows are up to 4500kbps. Keep in mind however it is generally recommended to have double the bandwidth which is required to ensure smooth playback without buffering issues.

 

  • www.vudu.com

    The Vudu home page looks exactly as you would expect from a online video delivery service, with film Posters and categories or other browsing options dominating the home page.

    All the usual browsing options can be found here, where you can view by curated collections or via genre drilling. What I especially liked was the way to change the sorting order from Most Watched to Top Picks, A-Z, Release Date and even by Tomatometer. But if all that fails, just hit the search button.

    The real interesting stuff happens when you click onto a film itself. In most cases you will have easy access to a trailer (something Netflix could learn from) and although there is only the one trailer on offer, Vudu also include a completely pointless two minute preview. Instead of a gripping two minutes chosen to hook you into the film, it’s generally the first moments of the movie that often have little more than opening credits and ending in mid-sentence.

    That said, the rest of the information is quite extensive, with extra tabs offering info on the cast & crew along with viewer reviews.

    Pricing is also clear and comprehensive, with both rental and purchasing details for each resolution showing along the left-hand side. Some particularly new content is still only up for sale until it reaches the next pay-window stage, but you can always add it easily to your watchlist and check back at a later date.

    My VUDU is where you will find any owned or rented content, with the rental period clearly visible and counting down by the day or hour. You can playback the content you have rented or purchased and you can even download purchased copies to your hard disk for offline viewing. This will force the installation of a separate application which manages downloads, splitting them from the normal website. A bit of a pity, but at least the option is available and should not only be useful for travel purposes, but also as a backup to ensure ownership is retained.

    Platform Pros:

    • Offline download option.
    • Easy access to trailers and additional information.
    • Comprehensive website and easy to navigate.
    • Forum for users to ask questions.
    • Support for HDX 1080p videos.

    Platform Cons:

    • Not the most sofa-friendly environment.
    • Splitting of web browser and download applications.
    • No offline downloads for rentals.
    • No easy way to find and backup downloaded films and TV shows.

    (Accessing Vudu outside of the US may require a good Smart DNS or VPN service)

    This service is geographically unblocked on this platform by the following Smart DNS providers:

    [pro_ad_display_adzone id=”16940″]

  • Unfortunately, since iOS7 there have been a few problems working with the Vudu iOS app, and I am unable to accurately complete this section of the review. Please check back at a later stage for this iOS review

    Keep Calm iPad

  • Best Choice StampWatching 1080p movies on the largest screen in the home tends to be most people’s goal, and as should be expected, Roku provides an outstanding platform to achieve this. It does so with full 1080p support, Dolby Digital Plus 7.1 surround sound, direct renting or purchasing from the app and a great user interface.

    Once you have installed and fired up the Vudu channel on your Roku device, there is very little need to ever access the web platform again. Pretty much everything you need can be found via this excellent portal. You can browse by Genre, Collections, Television Networks in various orders including Most Watched or even Tomatometer. If a movie is only available for purchase, you can easily add it to your Watchlist to keep track for when it finally becomes available for rent.

    The Roku platform also offers the same easy links to trailers as well as cast & crew information or reviews, and I especially like the way pressing the play button over a movie poster will immediately begin playing the trailer, whilst the OK button provides more information and where you can purchase, rent or play the film.

    Unfortunately, there are no download options for the Roku channel which would come in handy especially for HDX films in a low bandwidth environment.

    The closest I can really come to criticism on this platform would be with fast-forward and rewinding. It is not quite as smooth and intuitive as with the Hulu Plus or Netflix Roku channels, although it probably is an improvement still over iTunes on an Apple TV. There are thumbnail previews to its credit, but buffer levels take a little too long to continue with playback, especially for HDX streams and compared to other services it is a little difficult to control precisely.

    And finally, I did find the text to be slightly on the small side, which could cause a few issues for those with smaller screens or seated further away than Vudu would like, but it was not a deal breaker in any sense.

    Warning for International Users: The Vudu Roku channel is only available on a US bought Roku device. If you own a Roku box purchased in another country, the firmware will not support the Vudu channel. However, it is still possible to add the channel to a US Roku box and rent or purchase content outside the US with a good Smart DNS service.
    Platform Pros:

    • Amazing 1080p HDX streams.
    • Excellent, well designed UI.
    • Can purchase or rent directly from Roku.
    • Many films include easy-to-access trailers.
    • Cross-platform compatible.
    • Handy Internet speed tester.

    Platform Cons:

    • No offline downloads for setups with poor WiFi or Broadband.
    • Text a little too small for some television models or those seated far from the screen.
    • FFW & REW a tad clunky.

    This service is geographically unblocked on this platform by the following Smart DNS providers:

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  • If there is any downside to Vudu, it is the unnecessary complications to signing up. Still, once it is all done and complete, it should be rather easy to continue renting and purchasing Vudu content.

    1) First of all, you will need to create a Vudu account. The easiest place to do this is at www.vudu.com

    2) However, to pay for purchases you will need to create a Walmart account as well. www.walmart.com

    3) You then need to assign a US credit-card to the Walmart account. (see below if you don’t have one)

    4) Once you have completed these steps, you must then link your Walmart and Vudu accounts.

    5) To watch videos, you then log back into the Vudu account with your Vudu credentials.

    6) Just to complicate matters a bit further, you will also have to create and link an UltraViolet account to enable cross-platform support and access your cloud library.

     

    Note: Your Walmart account may require a US postal address, and Walmart often stipulate a US credit-card.

    An alternative virtual credit-card that also works with Vudu and which can be created from outside the US is Entropay (Virtual Visa)

    Don’t forget, Vudu will only work within the United States unless you are visiting via a good Smart DNS or VPN service.

     

    This service is geographically unblocked on this platform by the following Smart DNS providers:

    [pro_ad_display_adzone id=”16998″]

  • Granted, if you already own an Apple TV, the iTunes store offers a very similar service delivering high quality movies and TV shows to your television, and complete with a global perspective. But not everyone owns an Apple TV nor do they wish to.

    Vudu is without doubt iTunes largest competitor in the US and there are many reasons to choose this over Apple’s offerings. Vudu covers a much wider range of platforms than Apple, with more comprehensive cross-platform support and a claimed larger range of HD content.

    If you are after a pay-as-you-go service that doesn’t require an Apple TV, and you don’t mind the long-winded process to initially create an account, there will be few other places on the Internet where you could find so many films for immediate, on-demand playback.

    Naturally, it is far easier to sign up when inside the US, but accessing outside with the right DNS provider is not that much more complex, but do be aware that not all of Vudu’s supported platforms may work.

    Pros:

    • Fantastic quality 1080p streams on the right platforms.
    • Great UI on Roku.
    • Ability to download owned content for offline viewing.
    • Cross-platform support.
    • Very good range of hardware options.

    Cons:

    • Only AirPlay mirroring supported on iOS (and poor iOS app in general)
    • Rental content can not be downloaded for offline viewing.
    • Needlessly complex signing up procedure.

    Technical Details:

    • Supported Platforms in the US include the Xbox 360, iOS, Selected Android, Selected Smart TVs, PC/Mac, Playstation 3 and Roku US.
    • (480p) SD quality in stereo with max bitrate of 1000kbps.
    • (720p) HD quality in 7.1 stereo with max bitrate of 2225kbps.
    • (1080p) HDX quality in 7.1 stereo with max bitrate of 4500kbps.
    • Rentals have a 30day window to begin, then 48 hours to complete watching.
    • Within a rental’s 48 hour period, it can be watched on any device as many times as you like, but only on one device at a time.
    • Owned material can be watched on multiple devices at the same time.

    Log:

    18.10.2013: Review published: Score 7 – Vast HD library.