Sunday, September 19, 2010

Noisy Drive

One slight annoyance with the VBR231 is that you can hear the drive spinning when you are watching from a disk. Our previous DVD player was absolutely quiet. This is not a major issue, but it is a slightly bothersome.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Netflix vs. Vudu

I made an ad hoc comparison of the content available from Netflix and Vudu. We went through a whole bunch of Vudu titles, watched some trailers, and selected videos we might want to watch. I then went back to Netflix and selected these titles. I added those to my Instant Queue that were available from streaming and added the rest to my DVD queue.
  • We identified 35 videos that we were interested in.
  • Of these 35, 10 were available for streaming on Netflix.
  • We added 24 to our DVD queue
  • There was one video on Vudu that was not in the Netflix database. It was not even available to Save as a future request when the DVD becomes available.
The video that was not available on Netflix was a Japanese film called "Saiduweizu(Sideways)", which is a rmake of the U.S. film Sideways with Japanese characters. We watched it last night and enjoyed it. It had softer edges than the original film.

The advantage of Vudu is that it gives you streaming access to films that are available only via DVDs from Netflix. This is typical of a Video on Demand vs. a Subscription on Demand service. We like video, but there are plenty of interesting films available from Netflix. I expect that Netflix will be our mainstay and that we will use Vudu only on occasion.

Does AT&T Throttle Video Traffic

I am beginning to wonder if AT&T is throttling video traffic to manage congestion on its broadband network.

Last night we started a Vudu video about 6:30 PM. It kept interrupting the stream with the Buffering message. We finally gave up and tried a half hour TV video from Netflix. Netflix ran into the same problem. We gave up and went back to broadcast TV. Since this problem hit both Vudu and Netflix it was not likely to be a Vudu problem.

I went to my PC and checked what was happening on the network. There was nothing wrong with my WiFi network that I could find and there was no significant traffic on my broadband link. I could see nothing with the limited tools at my disposal that showed any problems on either.

About an hour later we went back and watched the streamed Netflix TV program. It worked OK with only one interruption for Buffering. After we finished the video, we went back to the Vudu film and were able to complete it. There were a lot of Buffering interruptions during the first half hour or so, but they stopped as time went by.

I am beginning to wonder if AT&T is throttling video traffic to maintain the quality of service for its broadband data and VoIP services. This makes sense from their point of view, but does not bode well for those of us who are depending on their Internet connection for TV programming.

I am going to watch this and would be interested in hearing if anybody else is having similar problems. If there enough of us, we should complain to the California Public Utilities Commission and the FCC.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Vudu Restart Works!

The first time that I tried to pause a Vudu film, the VBR231 hung and I had to power cycle it to get it working again. In that case, Vudu did not remember where I was in the film and I had to search to get there.

Yesterday, Vudu said that it could not continue showing the film. The VBR231 did not crash. When I went back to Vudu, it remembered where I was and restarted the film at that point.

It appears that the Vudu restart works as long as the VBR231 behaves itself.

Network Problems

Yesterday evening I had problems with the WiFi network connection to the VBR231. At first I could not establish a connection. After some fiddling I got a connection but Vudu would not work due to a network connection problem. Vudu started working, but I started to get "buffering" messages and finally Vudu gave up.

I then went to Netflix and watched a half hour TV program with no problems. I then went back to Vudu and restarted the movie that was interrupted earlier and was able to watch it without further problems.

I don't know what the problem was. I guess that it was a problem with my WiFi. The signal in the room with the VBR231 is not strong, and maybe something happened that brought it below an operational threshold.

Problems like this will turn less technically inclined people off to this service. It would help if the VBR231 would tell the user when the WiFi is getting weak or even make a recommendation to move to powerline Ethernet.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Vudu vs. Netflix

We have now used both Netflix streaming and Vudu and have been talking about our strategy for using both of these services. Netflix is a subscription on demand service, so we can stream as many films as we want for a fixed monthly price. Vudu is a video on demand service, so we have to pay for each film that we watch.

Vudu seems to have newer releases available than Netflix, however, I think that all of the films available by streaming from Vudu are available as disks (delivered through the mail) from Netflix. It appears that the Netflix streaming content is older or less popular.

The one thing we liked on Vudu was the ability to view trailers to get a feel for the movie before selecting it. We may use the Vudu trailers to help us select movies for our Netflix queue.

We think that we will use Netflix as our primary content provider and supplement it from time to time with Vudu. There are plenty of interesting films available for streaming on Netflix. Netflix's fixed monthly price makes it more cost effective than Vudu, at least for us.


We watched Vudu for the first time. We have about two weeks to go to use up our free credit of $15.

Neither the HDX (1080p) or HD levels of content would work for me. I have a 6 mbps AT&T ADSL connection that was not up to the task. HDX requires 4.5 mbps to 9 mbps. The DVD player started buffering content a few seconds into the film and started buffering again after showing only a few seconds more. At the HD level, we got about 1min.50 secs. into the two minute free test period before it started buffering.

We went to the SD level and had no further problems. The SD level is less expensive than the HD or HDX levels, so we saved some money. The quality was certainly adequate and did not detract from the film. My guess is that Vudu's SD quality is a bit better than Netflix streaming quality.

The Blu-ray player lost its WiFi connection during the movie. It reconnected in less than one minute and there was enough buffering that it did not interrupt the showing of the film. This was the only time that I have seen the Blu-ray player lose its WiFi connection once it has been established for any content.

We did have one problem. We paused the film using the pause button on the Blu-ray player. We then saw a message on the TV saying that it had lost contact with Vudu. We could not restart the movie. I powered the Blu-ray player off and powered it back on. I went back to Vudu and reselected the film. The film did not restart at the point where it was stopped (as Netflix does, at least most of the time). I skipped forward until I found the point where we paused the film and then restarted it.

We did like the ability that Vudu gives you to watch trailers. This is a nice tool for selecting films.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Ratings for the Vizio VBR231 Blu-ray Player

Here are my current thoughts on how the Vizio VBR231 stacks up:

  • Playing Blu-ray disks: quality very good, but there is no display showing how long the disk has played.
  • Playing DVDs: quality good, but there is no display showing how long the disk has played.
  • Network setup: D due to requirement to support Shared WEP
  • Network operation: B+ connects immediately except when running a file backup across the WiFi network.
  • Service Availability: B+ due to limited set of applications supported; however Netflix streaming and Pandora are very good.
  • Service set up: A very easy
  • Service operation: A easy to use
Over all I am very happy with the unit , especially at the $150 price point that includes WiFi. I think that Vizio has some work to do on the WiFi support so that it fits more easily into home networks. At a minimum, Vizio should support Open WEP.

We are watching or listening to streamed content nearly every day. It is a great supplement when we cannot find anything interesting the broadcast channels. I think that Internet streaming to the TV will become an important outlet for video content over time. It will be something that the Pay TV providers have to include in their offering. I think that Internet streaming to the TV will bring the cost of Pay TV down as more people "cut the cord" as I have done and replace Pay TV services with a combination of broadcast and Internet streaming content.