Vudu BX100 Online Receiver Real-World Experience
No matter how slick the device, content is king, and Vudu has about the best selection available thanks to its negotiations with all the major studios, including Warner, Disney, Lionsgate, Fox, Sony, Paramount, and Universal, in addition to dozens of independents. As of this writing, Vudu claims a library of 13,000+ movie titles with over 1400 in HD. New movies about to be released show their availability dates that, in some cases, appear to be on or around the DVD/Blu-ray release dates. Additionally, Vudu offers about 50 TV series, mostly in SD.
Unfortunately, new movies are not automatically available in HD or HDX. My friends and I wanted to watch Wall-E, but it was only available in SD. At some point in time, I'm sure the movie will be available in HD/HDX. I suspect that each movie's availability is contingent on various negotiations with the studios, who undoubtedly want to make a few bucks on the physical-media releases before they make it available for (cheaper) download.
HDX is surely the best quality stream available from any source, but it's not Blu-ray, and Vudu doesn't claim that it is. Without question, it's better than the 720p content on Apple TV or Microsoft's Xbox 360 Marketplace, or even the 1080i content from DirecTV. The key to HDX is the increased bit rate and its proprietary encoding and transmission processes. I think it's fair to say that Vudu has made a reasonable compromise between file size and image quality. The only thing missing for me lossless audio soundtracks.
That doesn't mean the audio was bad. Far from it—the HD streams are as good as anything you find on standard DVDs. The HDX streams are somewhat more robust, with an improved soundstage due to the increased bit rate.
Basically, the overall audio performance is as good as your audio gear, which would be the same situation no matter what Dolby Digital source device you put into your system. It just so happens I was also reviewing the Denon AVP-A1HDC1 and POA-A1HDC1 separates at the same time as Vudu. Since just about everything sounds better with those puppies, I had no complaints at all with the audio accompanying the HD and HDX streams.
On Journey to the Center of the Earth, I was impressed by both the HD and HDX versions. The HD stream is probably better than what most people are used to from sources other than Blu-ray, and they will likely be very satisfied with Instant HD. That said, HDX is noticeably better with greater contrast and sharpness, slightly more vibrant color saturation, and increased shadow detail. I found this to be generally true with the HDX films I viewed, which included Sex and The City, The Happening, and the aforementioned Journey to the Center of the Earth.
Both the HD and HDX video streams are in 1080p/24 format to preserve the movie's native frame rate, which is wonderful if you have a projector or flat panel compatible with this format. Unfortunately, the Vudu box doesn't let you change the frame rate to 60fps, so if you don't have a HD display that can handle 24fps material, you have to change the Vudu's output resolution to 1080i.