So much for a day of vacation recovery… UPS just arrived with the new Blockbuster OnDemand movie rental box, by 2Wire. If you recall, $99 gets you the box and 25 video rental credits. Once those have been consumed, content begins at $1.99 a pop.
Packaging is Blockbuster branded, though there’s absolutely no mention of “Blockbuster” on the 2Wire MediaPoint unit. (Then again, the competing Roku box is also devoid of “Netflix” branding.) The AppleTV-shaped hardware feels somewhat plasticy, but it’s more attractive and has more personality than the Roku box.
Setup didn’t start so smoothly when the 2Wire box just hung (repeatedly) when using an Ethernet connection. However, I was successful going wireless by punching in my SSID and WPA2 security key. Once connected, I was prompted to set my television resolution and link to a Blockbuster web account – where I provided my billing info. The remote control works fine and the interface is pretty straight forward, though some screens fill in slower than I’d like. Unlike the Netflix streaming experience, Blockbuster permits you to browse their entire catalog from the couch… although they charge per rental, like typical video on demand services. Which raises the question: Why pick up this unit if you’ve got a (cable, gaming, or TiVo) box that already offers VOD?
The big surprise for me is that Blockbuster OnDemand is not purely a streaming service. Video can be played back while streaming, without transport controls, and/or once the download has completed. I assume this is why they’re beginning (?) with only “DVD quality” content, since it’s being queued up on an internal 8GB USB stick. (Which has some implications on the sort of Blu-ray players Blockbuster will support…) Speaking of storage, I haven’t yet tried inserting anything into the SD slot on the front. And while I’ve started to download the new Indiana Jones flick, I haven’t tested video playback yet. In addition to checking out the quality and playback controls, I’m curious to see how (if) the device manages storage. Stay tuned.
21 pictures follow: