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Home » Featured, Previews

Hands on with the Hulu Plus Preview

Submitted by on Friday, 30 July 2010One Comment

Hulu Plus for the PlayStation 3 has landed here in the States… or at least a preview version of it has.

In doing so, it has set out to bring a ‘premium’ version of the standard Hulu service you can currently get on your PC’s called ‘Hulu Plus’ – or at least, premium, is what they’d have you believe.

Regardless, going up against the juggernaut that is Netflix when it comes to instant streaming is no easy task, and we recently got some hands-on time with this new service.

We’ll start by telling you there’s not many new things added to this service as far as content goes.  From what we can tell, the preview service offers only things you can get on and nothing more.  That includes a variety of TV shows and a small selection of movies.

The selection of television shows is actually quite good and un-like the majority of shows on Netflix, a lot of these shows are brand new or at least include brand new episodes that just recently aired.  For some shows – like Grey’s Anatomy for example – the entire series is available.

As impressed as we were with the TV section, it’s unfortunate we can’t say the same for the movies.  While it certainly appears that the assortment is diverse, there’s very little here that we’ve even heard of before, let alone actually want to watch.  There are what appears to be documentaries, action flicks, suspense, horror, etc., but the vast majority seems B-grade at best.

The interface that Hulu uses is actually quite good.  This is the one leg up that Hulu has over Netflix – it doesn’t require a disc.  You can download the app right from the PlayStation Store and it shows up under the video icon on the XMB.  The app even allows you to stay signed in to the PlayStation Network while you watch.

The dashboard that runs this new service is extremely slick and very easy to navigate with your standard controller.  The titles are first separated by TV and Movies – and then alphabetically.  Beyond that, you can search for individual content to make things a little easier when looking for something specific.

The architecture of Hulu Plus is probably the best thing about it.  Selecting and starting an episode was very easy, as was pausing and resuming playback.  You can even select the video quality you prefer after the show starts.

The downside of the playback is two-fold.

For one, this service was meant to work with the standard controller and as of now, keyboard support is not available.  Not only that, but the first-party media remote also doesn’t function properly.  The ‘select’ button on the remote backs you out of whatever you were trying to do, forcing you to use the actual ‘x’ key on the remote to move forward.

Secondly, the streaming itself seems choppy and sometimes hindered our enjoyment of the show/movie.  During a 22 minute TV episode, it seemed to happen 4 or 5 times.  The screen would either freeze or pixilate for about 3-5 seconds.  The program and the audio would continue but it took the image a short while to catch up.

Perhaps the worst thing about Hulu Plus is the inclusion of advertisements.  We were apparently being far too greedy when we assumed that this new service that we’re forced to pay for would come without adverts, because there’s plenty of them.

When you go to start a show, a 15-30 second ad plays.  Your video begins immediately after, but where every commercial break on an actual show would be, there’s another string of ads present.

These advertisements are diverse and would usually only last 30-60 seconds, but you have to pay for this service.  Last time we checked, commercials were usually used to fund a service or program.  Not only are we forced to watch them on our PS3’s but they come at the same length and rate that they do on the PC-based service.

All-in-all there is some good to be found here.  The interface is good, the fact that we have a newer supply of TV shows available to stream is good and Netflix finally getting some competition on the PS3 is good.

But we’re forced to use the word competition with extreme sensitivity, as it doesn’t appear Hulu Plus will be putting up much of a fight in our hearts.

The fact that it looks like they threw together some real no-name movies just to be able to say that they have ‘movies’ is a real draw – as is the issues with playback.  But the real obstacle here is the appearance of the ads.  We’re paying for the service, the same service we already have on PC’s (minus the HD part), but we’re forced to pay for the convenience of streaming it to consoles without any additional incentive?  No dice.

Granted, an important thing to note is that this is just the preview version.  There’s plenty of time for them to fix the playback issues, and they could even remove the ads at a moment’s notice.  However, they seem pretty adamant about that price tag, which makes this a hard sell.

Hulu Plus will obviously appeal to some, but for our money, this service just can’t beat what we’ve already got with Netflix.  If you’re on the fence about whether or not to get this package, we’d highly recommend waiting to see if it evolves between now and its actual launch.