From the main Akimbo for Media Center window, you can browse your library of downloaded content, go through available shows by channel or theme or search for a specific program. Setup options are sparse, limited to management for premium content subscriptions and setting parental controls.
In addition to the $9.99 monthly subscription, many of the more interesting programs require an additional fee, usually a buck or two per show. Once you download them, most of these programs are available for only a set viewing window, from 2 days to 30 days. Other content will remain viewable for an indefinite period of time.
We downloaded a variety of programs, shows included in the standard monthly subscription and add-on premium content. Most feature films, including hard-to-find foreign films, were available for an additional $1.99, with a 48-hour viewing window. Basic cable staples, such as episodes of Dog the Bounty Hunter or History Channel shows such as Extreme History with Roger Daltry, cost 99 cents for a 30-day rental. Oddities abound, from random 1970s Doctor Who episodes on the BBC channel (included in the basic subscription, 30-day viewing period) to an unwatchably graphic The Learning Channel (TLC) special called 101 Things Removed from the Human Body ($1.99 for 7 days).
Just like cable TV, adding a few specialty subscriptions can quickly drive up the price. On top pf the $9.99 base subscription, you can add a subscription to condensed versions of Major League Baseball games. Akimbo is currently offering this season's MLB subscription free for Akimbo customers, but the official price tag is $3.99 per month off-season and $5.99 per month in-season. Other channels, such as Anime Nation, are a more straight-ahead $9.99 per month for access.
Akimbo recently touted a deal with HDNet to bring high-definition content to Akimbo for Media Center subscribers. We were disappointed to find an extremely small number of HD programs on the service, currently limited to a single music program and a handful of episodes from two salacious reality shows. While it may lack compelling HD content, Akimbo offers more than its share of programming to appeal to your prurient interests. Besides late-night-cable-quality skin flicks, you can subscribe to the Naked News feed (available in male and female flavors) for an additional $9.99 per month. Basic parental control options are available to keep the kiddies away from adult content.
The image quality for standard-definition programming varied during testing but was certainly watchable. On our 32-inch Dell LCD, there were some minor compression artifacts, but not more than you'd see from standard digital cable through a set-top box. The high-definition content we sampled was quite good, second only to sticking an antenna out of the window and pulling in an over-the-air HD signal with an HD TV tuner card.
In the end, Akimbo for Media Center doesn't offer much that you can't already find through your cable box. At $9.99 a month, it's hard to justify a subscription if your cable provider already offers content such as the History Channel, TLC, and BBC America. Where the service really shines, however, is in providing a platform for hard-to-find content, especially foreign language programming and lifestyle offerings such as the Yoga and Tai-Chi channels. If one or more of those specialty channels is a must-have, Akimbo might offer you enough to justify its monthly cost.