With its ability to deliver on-demand movies to your TV via a broadband Internet connection, the Vudu was one of the more promising home theater gadgets of 2007. The company is building on that momentum by adding a second, step-up model to its lineup: the Vudu XL. Physically, it's a near doppelganger of the original model--which remains available--but it ups the internal hard disk to 1 terabyte of storage. That's 4 times the size of the current version, and--according to Vudu--enough to store up to 500 standard-definition movies. The XL is also designed to be more friendly for home installation, thanks to the inclusion of an IR dongle. That'll allow the XL to be controlled by standard universal remote controls unlike the current RF-only Vudu, (Alas, there are no plans to make the USB dongle available to owners of the standard Vudu box.) Look for the Vudu XL to be available from home installers and high-end AV retailers in February for $1,000.
Separately, Vudu also announced that its slate of HD movies is expanding to 70 by the end of this month. Unlike the company's earlier experimentation with the HD movies--it had offered just the three Bourne movies in high-def last fall--the new slate of movies will be available for rental: $5.99 for new releases and $3.99 for older catalog titles. Vudu isn't touting its studio partners, but a quick look at some of the promised titles--including Blades of Glory, A Mighty Heart, the Star Trek movies, and Hostel: Part II--indicates that Paramount and Lionsgate are on board. For customers with a 4-megabit or faster broadband connection, Vudu is pledging the same instant-start feature for HD movies that's available on all its standard-definition content. Those with slower connections, meanwhile, will need to wait a bit while enough of the bandwidth-intensive HD video queues up for uninterrupted viewing.