Hulu+ PS3 Preview
So, I plopped down my $9.99 and decided to check out what you get with the Hulu+ service. As we already know, you get a supposedly expanded movie and TV show delivery service that will always be there, will always cost $9.99 a month, and will still require you to sit through one or two 30 second ads every 7-15 minutes.
So, what else can you expect?
1. Does the service include all the typical Hulu TV shows/movies?
No. It doesn't. In fact, there are TV shows you can watch on the Hulu Web site right now, for free, that you can't find using the Hulu+ service at all. Some of the ones not included in Hulu+ from my queue and typical weekly viewing at the moment include Burn Notice, Psych, White Collar, Louie, Fullmetal Alchemist (though Brotherhood is available), and many UK offerings such as Last Enemy and Ultimate Force.
2. Do they really include all of the seasons of certain shows?
Yes and no. It's rare to find a show that isn't canceled that will show every season. 24 and Castle only show the latest seasons, for example. Luckily you can find all seasons of TV shows that have been available in their entirely for many years online, such as Buffy, Highlander, and similar TV shows that are typically available via Netflix as well.
3. Do they show every episode from the latest season for the shows available?
For the most part, yes, but there are some instances of shows missing from a season, no explanation provided. One example is the lack of episode 7 from the latest season of Castle. Another is Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood, which is missing the latest 4 episodes which are available for free online from the Hulu Web site. But, this is nothing compared to the latest 48 episodes of Naruto Shippuden that are missing from the Hulu+ service, but available along with every single other episode of the series via the Web.
4. Are all shows provided in HD format?
No. The majority of the shows are from the 90s or before and are not available in HD. Those filmed in widescreen and in the 90s or later aren't as bad, but are very noticeable in their SD format on larger TV sets. Not so bad that they can't be enjoyed, but definitely not as good as one would expect from a subscription service like this. Older and lower budget shows in SD that aren't in widescreen look the worst, though, and will likely hurt the eyes of viewers on larger screens, making it a painful experience and not an enjoyable one.
Note: there were a lot of artifacting issues when viewing all SD videos. It lasted from 2-10 seconds when it did happen, but it happened quite a bit even on my 20Mb/s wired connection.
5. Is it easy to navigate the user interface?
Very much so. There are a lot of options for finding the shows/movies you want to watch, including navigating your queue. Rating shows and episodes is extremely easy as well, though there is no commenting/full review capability, only the standard 5 star ratings. Searching is done by a few options, but there currently isn't a way to do a text search for a show, movie, or episode.
At its current state, Hulu+ isn't really a good alternative to your typical Web-based Hulu experience. If you must have past seasons or the current full season of a show, you are likely to be sad to find out that it's likely not available on Hulu+. Especially if it's on a cable-provided network like USA or TNT. I'm not sure why they wouldn't provide all of the shows currently available via the Web on Hulu+ as well, but it's the biggest problem with the service overall since it destroys any convenience one might get out of not having to use a computer to see the week's latest.
Tack on the subscription fee along with ads? I'm just not sure what Hulu is trying to do other than milk some money out of those people who are too attached to the service already. This isn't to say that the service could improve, or in some cases 'fix' the problems it has, but right now it's just not worth it over a service like Netflix for the PS3.
To give an idea of what I mean about certain shows being Web-only and others being available on the PS3, I took a page shot of my queue. If you look on the right-hand side, you can see the columns that list whether a show is available on the Web, TV, or Mobile. Notice that a lot of the shows are available only on the Web.
IMHO, if you're paying for the service, you should see it all. This is the key issue I have with the service, even above that of having to view ads and pay a subscription fee.