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Tuesday, January 03, 2006

My Experience with Vongo

I went ahead and tried out Vongo today, a $9.95/month service for legally downloading and watching movies. You can watch as many movies as you like each month from their main selections, or download pay-per-view titles for 3.99. It also includes a live feed of the Starz! channel.

The software installation was simple, and as far as I can tell, the Vongo player and interface use Flash for pretty much everything. It worked smoothly, registration was trouble-free, but I decided to pass on the monthly until I could watch something. I would recommend Vongo make some kind of demo video available to test quality and convince people to sign up.

The selection of movies was a little slim, but I'd expect fast improvement here, so I wasn't too upset. There were 3 or 4 movies I definitely wanted to see right away. However, I was a little hesitant to sign up for the monthly service, thought I'd be watching 3 Ninjas before too long.

I went with a pay-per-view so I could find out, and I watched Infernal Affairs. Not bad except I hate dubbed movies. The download process took less than 20 minutes on my cable modem, which was surprisingly good I thought. The player worked nicely, the quality of static screens was excellent, and looked great full screen on my projector.

So far, so good. But the movie I watched had a lot of horizontal panning. Either the codec itself, or the quality of the encoding led to a fairly jittery sideways pan. My computer was far beyond the minimum requirements, so I don't believe the problem was on my end. To me it was extremely distracting, enough so that unless something changes, I wouldn't watch again. I did finish the movie, but I was aware of the problem all the way through.

Again, it could have been that specific movie, but without some demonstration video to show off the codec without paying, I am left with the impression that the service is a very slick one, with a very attractive price level, but also with a slight quality problem that makes it unacceptable for me.

On the positive side, if there were a few more movies and the quality improved a little, I would subscribe without hesitation.

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