The VUDU video streaming service has finally arrived on the Roku. The VUDU app for the Roku has been anticipated ever since the Roku became available for sale at Walmart in June 2011. Walmart owns the VUDU streaming service. Apparently, there was a technical piece of the puzzle missing as there was a recent firmware upgrade to the Roku that paved the way for the channel. VUDU has been the only major premium streaming service missing from the Roku. The implementation of VUDU on the Roku is solid.
The Roku version is a full featured version of the VUDU app with support for HDX video. VUDU’s HDX format provides 1080P video and Dolby Digital Plus surround sound at a high bitrate. Testing has confirmed that the app does provide Dolby Digital Plus (as does Netflix on the Roku). I did my test drive on a Roku 2 XS. I’ll assume that the Roku LT and HD don’t have access to the HDX format as their video resolution maxes out at 720P.
All of the other VUDU features are there as well. There’s support for parental controls that are must be set on individually on each VUDU device. The addition of VUDU also gives the Roku an app with access to movies stored in Ultraviolet or previously purchased through VUDU.
The user interface on the Roku appears identical to the current VUDU version on Blu-ray players and the Sony Playstation3. The interface feels fairly responsive when you’re browsing titles. By pressing the down arrow on the Roku remote, the player controls appear. There’s a button on the botton to display and select chapters within a title. You can also chose between streaming qualities (SD, HD, HDX) while watching a title.
If you activate VUDU on your Roku, you will receive a $5.99 credit regardless if you are a new customer or an existing one. The only feature is missing on the Roku’s VUDU player is the ability to control “overscan” settings which I’ve seen on the Panasonic DMP-BDT220.
It’s been a busy last few weeks for the Roku. In addition to the VUDU app, Roku also launched a new iOS and Android mobile app that streams photos and music. I also recently discovered that the HBO GO was upgraded and now streams Dolby Digital surround sound.
To finish, the only other box I can think of that offers Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon Instant Video and HBO GO is the Xbox. However, the Xbox requires a yearly Xbox Live subscription to access these services. The Roku also had the edge in audio and video quality. Many of the aforementioned streaming services are limited to 720P and Dolby Digital on the Xbox whereas as the Roku 2 XS and XD offer 1080P and Dolby Digital Plus. Update: VUDU now offers 1080P on the Xbox but it’s still limited to regular DD (thanks @Starkenator ). Then add in the low price point of the Roku as well as its ease of use. Given all this, it looks like the Roku boxes are well poised for the Christmas season.
Roku is currently offering free shipping on all new Roku players (and is offering an addition $10 of the XS and XD)