Tech Review: VUDU To Go

VUDU logoIt seems like more and more companies are loading on to the digital movie bandwagon. I’m still rather skeptical on the whole thing (for a number of reasons that will merit a post of their own), but I’m certainly interested in checking out the phenomenon. VUDU is Walmart’s foray into the field, an UltraViolet-compatible service; Walmart even offers a “disc to digital” service in store whereby you take a DVD in to them, and for a small surcharge they give you access to the UltraViolet version of the movie. I can’t picture going that route — the “combo pack” mentality makes more sense to me if one wants a UV film — but thanks to a sign-up offer that VUDU has (involving ten free movies to own), I can still try out the software and service.

The Windows PC version of the software is titled “VUDU To Go”, which is somewhat amusing in light of the fact that I’ve using it on my rather unwieldy desktop computer. It’s a full tower and outweighs my dogs, it’s not going anywhere without a good reason. But I digress.

When you install VUDU To Go, it gives you the choice of where to install the program. It does not, however, give you a choice on where to download the movie files automatically storing them on your primary hard drive. If, like me, you are running low on space there, you will have to do some maneuvering to keep it from filling up. The movies can be found in your Application Data\com.vudu.air.Downloader\Local Store folder, and if you move them to another hard drive, they can be moved back there and played properly without trouble. Movies moved out of the storage folder will show up with blank icons unless you replace the movie poster image (I dummied up some “in storage” images for myself). Of course, with today’s growing hard drives, all of this is probably a minor concern for most people, but I do still appreciate the option of choosing where to download files when it’s made available. Amazon Unbox does it, CinemaNow’s player does it, and even Flixster figured it out eventually.

When you start up VUDU To Go, you will be prompted to log into your VUDU account (this is separate from your UltraViolet account, but linked to it through their websites). Be careful if you have more than one VUDU user in the household; logging into a different account will result in deleting all downloaded movies, which is hardly convenient. Once you’ve logged in, you will be presented with a screen of already-downloaded movies, which may be deleted or played. In another tab are those UltraViolet movies that you have purchased (or been given) which you have not yet downloaded. I was pleased to note that most of the UltraViolet films I was given through Flixster promotions showed up without trouble (with the ones that don’t, it’s unclear whether this is Flixster’s fault or VUDU’s.) The titles are displayed haphazardly; I have not found any means of sorting them.

VUDUscreen

When you start downloading a movie, you are given a progress indicator. Unlike some services, there is not an option to start watching the movie before it’s fully downloaded. You may pause the download and resume it, and if the download is interrupted (say, by a faulty internet connection), there is also an option to “retry”, which will resume from the point it left off. It will also resume any downloads in progress when you restart the program. I have noticed that sometimes clicking the download button doesn’t trigger the download; restarting the program seems to solve this glitch.

Clicking “Play” will open the movie in a separate window. This window has only rudimentary control features, including volume control, pause, and a position slider. You may also put the window in full screen mode, and leaving the mouse alone for a few seconds will cause the controls to fade away. Pretty standard stuff, nothing that isn’t working well or which is unusually convenient. The video quality is pretty good, at DVD level (at least on SD movies; one presumes HD movies are better). Playback is smooth and consistent, taking only a few seconds to load initially and then continuing without interruption, as it should. The program may be just slightly resource-intensive — I had to lower the priority of my screen capture program when watching videos for reviews to prevent some choppiness — but this is an issue most people aren’t likely to encounter. I’d additionally like to note that although not all my gifted films from Flixster show up in the list, those that do all play properly — none of that “License Error” stuff that plagued me with Flixster Desktop. If VUDU says it’s there, it plays. (This is how I finally got to see Dog Day Afternoon after struggling with it for so long.)

The program runs on the Adobe AIR platform. This is seamless to the user except when it’s time for updates — and even then it’s pretty painless. The program checks for updates regularly, and when it finds one it gives you the choice of downloading the update immediately or waiting for a later date. If you choose to download it immediately, it’s a quick process, and then it gives you the choice of installing immediately or waiting until the next time you restart the software. The installation is also pretty quick. Either way, the software giving you the choice means that you aren’t put in the position of waiting to watch your movie while the software updates. It’s a nice touch.

VUDU To Go has some minor flaws, some of which are its own and some are simply endemic to the UltraViolet platform as it currently exists. These don’t do much to limit its usefulness, however; at least when compared to other digital services, VUDU To Go is a reasonable contender.

Rating: 4 Stars

About Morgan R. Lewis

Fan of movies and other media
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27 Responses to Tech Review: VUDU To Go

  1. Thanks for this, Morgan. I have very little knowledge of VUDU but every so often I have a customer that talks about it and I wonder just how great it is since I don’t use it. You give me a reason to possibly say something good about UltraViolet (of which I’m not a fan of).

    • It’s worth noting that my rating here is still “in terms of UltraViolet players” — I’m pretty firmly in the “solid media” fanbase personally. This works well for what it is, but give me a DVD any day.

  2. Bubbawheat says:

    10 free movies, no big downfalls, I’m sold. Been curious about it for a long while, but I’ve got plenty of space on my laptop and this might be a nice little way to make use of some of that and maybe get a few movies in on the train as well since it has no DVD drive. Thanks for the review.

    • You’re welcome, Bubbawheat. I’ll warn you the movies are pre-selected, and they ain’t all winners. 😀

      • Bubbawheat says:

        The ones I got were: Behind Enemy Lines, Never Been Kissed, Ghost, Lethal Weapon, Paranormal Activity, The Perfect Storm, The Producers, Valentine’s Day, Wrong Turn 2, and Psycho (yay! Never seen it before… the Gus Van Sant version, crap)

        • Interesting. Just slightly different than the ones I got. I got The Siege and Big Trouble in Little China instead of Ghost and Paranormal Activity. Also don’t necessary assume you got the Van Sant version on Psycho… the poster they show is in color, but the film is Hitchcock’s black and white (at least, mine is).

  3. Morgan, I use vudu via my xbox. They sometimes have films prior to or while still at the theaters in addition to as soon as it is out on DVD. On occasion I will watch a film on there but not that regularly. It’s funny cause they charge for a lot of films you could stream on netflix, amazon or hulu for free. I did not get 10 free movies when i started using it with my xbox but i have not tried downloading the desktop version.

    Say did you hop on the Redbox beta? 4 free rentals and a month of streaming for free. However, the streaming selection seemed very limited.

    • I’m not surprised they charge for films that you could stream for free on Netflix/Prime/Hulu…. just seems to be a slightly different model, renting vs. fee for streaming (which is how I view Hulu even though I only use the free service; they so clearly want people on Plus).

      I haven’t tried the Redbox beta… I looked into it, and it sounded like it was one of those “must cancel before it expires or you get charged” deals. It might be just me being cantankerous, but I never like to sign up for something that’s “free” if I have to give them my credit card info or have to watch it like a hawk to avoid charges.

  4. Hmm, didn’t know about this VUDU version. I use VUDU on my PS3 sometimes, but I might have to give this one a shot just to see what my 10 free films would be.

    • I don’t know for certain you’ll get the free movies (unless you sign up for a whole new account, which you may not want to) since you already have one. I think what I did was to create a new UltraViolet account and then merged them afterward. If you do get the free movies, I suspect you’d probably get the same ones Bubbawheat did; it sounds like they change them every few weeks.

  5. zanedrake says:

    could some one tell me the place vudu to go saves the movies on my HDD I had to reset my computer back to factory settings. I didn’t know and still don’t know where vudu stores the movies you download, I know its in appdata wheres that ? please I would like to know just incase I have to do a factory reset again! can some one email me because I am not likely to find this site again

    • (Replied on-site and via email)

      To find appdata, first open any folder on your computer. Then, in the location bar, type %appdata% and hit enter. On most systems that will take you to it. If it doesn’t, try %USERPROFILE%\Application Data (if using Windows XP or ME) or %USERPROFILE%\AppData\Roaming (if using Windows Vista, 7, 8).

      VUDU’s files, once downloaded, will be located under appdata, in com.vudu.air.Downloader\Local Store. If you have done a factory reset on your computer, you will need to first re-download the files through VUDU.

  6. Sheimdal says:

    Where does Vudu store my files on a Mac (OSX 10)? Thanks.

  7. Brandon says:

    once I find them what is the best video format to use to view them when I transfer them to my external hdd?

  8. Brandon K. says:

    Is there a ripping software that I can get so that I can transfer them to an external hdd?

  9. Daniel says:

    What is the Box with a what seems to look like Wifi Signal bars progressively larger on the bottom left corner of the little box, this Icon is to the left of the (SD,HD,HDX) ratings mean? and how do i use it?

  10. Pingback: A Walk-Through of the iRulu WalknBook (Review) - Dragon Blogger Technology

  11. smsdavis says:

    You might WARN people that Vudu WILL DELETE EVERYTHING YOU HAVE DOWNLOADED. There seems to be no rhyme or reason it does this. I had movie that I’ve downloaded months ago. Sometimes one will delete and tell me it’s “rights” have caused it to be removed from my system. However, YESTERDAY it just up and deleted EVERY MOVIE I had downloaded and claimed “rights” violations for everyone. Even movies that I just downloaded a couple hours before the rights violation appeared. I have sent an email to Vudu to ask WHY they arbitrarily deleted everything I’ve downloaded

    If you are looking for a way to save all your digital movies in one place. Vudu is great if you have unlimited internet always available but DO NOT USE THEM if you want to KEEP DOWNLOADED COPIES of all your movies to use off line. You will be disappointed when all your work is trashed by their “rights” violation issue.

    • Did you log in from a different account? If so, I did mention that in my review. Otherwise… I can only mention things I’ve seen personally, or confirmed from multiple sources, and right now that’s not going to be anything at all. The current version of VUDU is no longer compatible with my creaking old system, so I can’t test any further with it (this review is close to three years old at this point). I can say that when it was compatible, I never had a problem with it randomly deleting things, and my internet connection is down more often than it’s up, so I doubt your problem is simply a matter of your internet service.

  12. Gayla Johnson says:

    When I watch a movie that I’ve purchased on VUDU a msg sometimes interrupts the movie saying ” you must have a ultra violet acct to watch this movie” I press ok then resume the movie it’s frustrating to have to do this every time I watch VUDU I already have a ultraviolet acct. Is someone trying to get into my acct.

    • I’m no expert — I’m just an average guy who reviewed the software a couple years ago — but it doesn’t sound like somebody’s trying to get into your account. It sounds like VUDU is losing its connection to your UV account. You should probably contact VUDU tech support to investigate the problem.

  13. aelf66 says:

    I tried to copy the files to a hard drive then back to the C: drive, nothing changed?

    • If you move them away and then move them back, nothing should change. The purpose of moving them away is to save space on your C: drive. Keep them on the other drive until you want to play them, and only move back what you want to play. That way you can play the movies when you need to, and when you aren’t playing them they’re taking up space on your other drive instead of your C: drive.

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