Hulu is a website that offers commercial-supported streaming video of TV shows and movies from NBC, Fox and a few other networks. Hulu is only available for residents of the United States (there is a workaround though) and uses Flash to encode and stream videos at resolutions up to 480p.
Recently, they released a desktop application designed specifically take advantage of viewing videos and movies on your large-screen TV. Using this application, aptly named Hulu Desktop, you can now watch all your favourite shows from Hulu without using a browser! Here, at MakeUseOf, we like to properly test applications before writing about them. After three days of testing, I examined how Hulu Desktop compares to other media solutions such as Boxee.
This standalone application offers better integration, including remote control support and a full-screen TV-friendly interface. Although it is still in beta, the application proved to be very reliable in my tests:
- The interface was responsive and fluid even on low-end laptop graphic cards. The frame rate was adequate and stable even for watching, even in close proximity to the screen.
- The stream was not interrupted even when browsing with a video playing in the background. All the thumbnails and descriptions appeared without a glitch.
- Minimizing and restoring the Hulu window did not have any adverse effects on the playback.
- Navigation is simple and intuitive, a slightly better implementation compared to Boxee. Browsing the Hulu catalog on the TV provided an adequate user experience.
- The same selection on the Hulu website is also available in the desktop application, you’re not missing anything.
Overall, I am impressed with the quality of this release ““ not even a single crash or bug in three days is quite a feat in my book. And believe me, I did my best to make this thing crash. I ran it every night for about 3 hours, testing all the functionality available.
Hulu Desktop is not a complete media center application yet. Unlike Boxee, you can’t use this application to view content stored on your computer, be it music, photos or videos. You’re also limited to Hulu’s catalog: no Jamendo, BBC, Netfllix, YouTube or Revision3. That doesn’t mean that Hulu is not worth having; Family Guy, Stargate, and The Simpsons are just a few of the top notch material available. The best thing you can do at the moment is install both Hulu and Boxee and switch between the two when necessary.
Linux users will have to stick just to Boxee for now because there’s no version available for the penguin lovers. Windows and Mac users can download Hulu Desktop for free from here. You can also choose to sign in to your account and view personalized recommendations and subscriptions. This service is only available in the US. If you are trying to access Hulu from another country, try reading our article on How To Watch Movies and Shows on Hulu & Sling from Abroad.
Hulu Desktop is all about the lean-back experience. It’s adapting the platform to compete directly with old distribution models such as cable. At this point, why would you want to pay $100 monthly for a service you can get for free? Granted your ISP doesn’t implement bandwidth caps, with Boxee and Hulu, you can enjoy more content than was ever available on cable TV, on demand and with less commercials, on your big screen TV in the living room.
I’d love to hear what you think about Hulu Desktop, Boxee and switching for cable TV? Are you happy with the selection and user interfaces? What needs to be changed? Have your say in the comments.
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