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Sony announced on Tuesday that that they would begin offering movies and TV shows for download to the Playstation 3 through the Playstation store. Movies are available from Disney, Fox and Warner Bros in addition to the obvious inclusion of Sony Pictures titles. The system is setup much like Vudu and AppleTV, new release movies can be rented for $3.99 in standard def and $5.99 in high definition or purchased in SD for $14.99. Older titles are available for rent for $2.99 for SD, $4.50 for HD and $9.99 for purchase. So the big question is, "How does Sony's offering stack up against Vudu or AppleTV?"

Playstation Movie Downloads
Being an avid Vudu fan, Braden was eager to jump into the Playstation store and browse around. Just getting into the store required a firmware update to the PS3, but that was relatively quick and painless and we were into the store. You now have a toggle at the store to switch between game content and video content. Keeping the two separate is nice. It helps navigation a bit. Since Vudu and AppleTV don't do games, we'll switch the Playstation store over to video mode and start our comparison. Braden has both the PS3 and a Vudu, so we'll ignore the AppleTV for today and let those two duel it out.

Pricing. As we already mentioned, pricing is nearly identical. You have the option to rent or purchase movies, and have the option to choose between SD and HD. So far we're it's a tie.

Content. The Playstation store is still pretty sparse. There's no telling how quickly they'll be able to add new movies, but when we checked it only 53 movies were available for HD download. While Vudu has more movies, it also has more TV content, and that TV content is available in HD. The Playstation store doesn't offer any TV content in HD, even when the shows are new and were shot and broadcast in HD. Clear advantage to Vudu.

Quality. We downloaded 10,000 B.C. from the Playstation store in high definition. It looked good, along the same lines as what we've seen before. Not at all bad, but certainly not HD. It falls into the DVD+ bucket with the rest of these services. Audio was only Dolby ProLogic II, not Dolby Digital. Overall the viewing experience was very comparable between the PS3 and Vudu. Tie.

Basic Features. Of all the movies we looked at in the Playstation store, we were only able to find 2 that actual had previews available. All movies, as far as we could tell, on Vudu have previews. This is huge. Often times when your just browsing around looking for something to watch, you have no idea what half the movies are so you have to rely on previews to find out if they're worth renting. Plus to Vudu.

Speed. Vudu is available to watch as soon as you confirm your purchase. The PS3 took about a minute before the movie started. Slight edge to Vudu, but so minor it could almost be considered a tie.

Interface. Both interfaces are easy to navigate and easy to find what you're looking for. Here the Playstation store really benefited from not having too much content. Vudu has some very sophisticated search features that allow you to filter by Genre, MPAA rating, year of release, etc. and also offers some great "similar movies" and "also in" features that are really slick. When the Playstation store starts to get a larger library of titles, these features will be a must have. But for now, when you only have two dozen titles at most for each letter of the alphabet, just categorizing by letter works fine. Advantage Vudu.

Other features.
The Playstation store offers the unique benefit of allowing purchased content to be transferred to the PSP so you can take the movies or TV shows with you. This sound like an easy feature add for the AppleTV and the iPod, but Vudu doesn't have any way to match it. As to our dream of being able to "download it once and play it anywhere," this feature sure gets a lot closer. Big advantage to Playstation store.

Conclusion. Overall the Playstation store is still in its infancy, and that shows. There's still a long way to go. It could grow up into a killer application that puts Vudu and AppleTV to shame, but it sure isn't there now. Other than the cool PSP portability feature, Vudu is still the way to go.

Posted by The HT Guys, July 17, 2008 11:37 PM

About The HT Guys

The HT Guys, Ara Derderian and Braden Russell, are Engineers who formerly worked for the Advanced Digital Systems Group (ADSG) of Sony Pictures Entertainment. ADSG was the R&D unit of the sound department producing products for movie theaters and movie studios.

Two of the products they worked on include the DCP-1000 and DADR-5000. The DCP is a digital cinema processor used in movie theaters around the world. The DADR-5000 is a disk-based audio dubber used on Hollywood sound stages.

ADSG was awarded a Technical Academy Award by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 2000 for the development of the DADR-5000. Ara holds three patents for his development work in Digital Cinema and Digital Audio Recording.

Every week they put together a podcast about High Definition TV and Home Theater. Each episode brings news from the A/V world, helpful product reviews and insights and help in demystifying and simplifying HDTV and home theater.