Home Theater Review

 

Hulu

hulu-logo.gifHulu is an online video store with a strong emphasis on TV content, although some movies are available (primarily documentaries and smaller, independent films). Through a Web browser, you can access the basic, free Hulu site to stream the most recent episodes of popular TV shows, as well as show clips, cast interviews, and other promotional content. Stepping up to the premium Hulu Plus service ($7.99/month) gives you access to the full episode list for current and past seasons of your favorite shows. The Hulu Plus subscription service is available through many networkable HDTVs, Blu-ray players, streaming media players, and other A/V devices, as well as iOS/Android mobile devices.

Hulu's content partners include FOX, NBCUniversal, ABC, The CW, Comedy Central, PBS, FX, USA Network, A&E, MTV, Miramax, Criterion, and more. The most notable omission is CBS; the basic Hulu site will link you to episodes of popular CBS shows being offered free through CBS.com, but the Hulu Plus app does not provide direct access to current CBS shows. You can check out some of the shows available via the free Hulu site here, and you can check out the complete show list for the Hulu Plus subscription service here.

Hulu Plus streams content at a 720p HD video resolution with stereo audio only (no Dolby Digital 5.1 or better). Hulu recommends a broadband speed of at least 1.5 Mbps for streaming. The free Hulu site relies on Flash and allows you to choose between four quality levels: Low, Medium, High, and Auto. The Auto setting will automatically give you the best quality that your broadband speed can support. The High quality setting is currently limited to 480p.

The main competitors for Hulu Plus in the subscription streaming-video category are Netflix and Amazon Instant Video. Both services offer unlimited streaming of movies and TV shows, Netflix for $7.99/month and Amazon Instant Video for $79/year (the service is included in your annual Amazon Prime membership). Netflix and Amazon have more movies in their streaming catalogs, but Hulu Plus has more current episodes of hit TV shows. Netflix and Amazon are ad-free, while TV content on Hulu and Hulu Plus includes short commercial breaks. Like Netflix, Hulu produces some exclusive content that's only available via Hulu, including shows like Misfits, Endgame, Larry King Now, and Spoilers with Kevin Smith.

For a list of devices that include the Hulu Plus app, click here.