The Good Streams Blockbuster OnDemand video titles to your TV; price tag is essentially "free" ($99 box includes credit for 25 movies), with no monthly fees; built-in Ethernet and 802.11g Wi-Fi networking; titles can be searched and ordered onscreen; progressive downloading allows for movies to be downloaded then viewed on slower connections.
The Bad Tiny, cluttered remote; no HD viewing options; no subscription plan available; newer movies than Netflix, but still a small selection overall; can't fast-forward or rewind during initial download; yet another box under the TV; no WPA2 encryption support.
The Bottom Line While it falls short of competing options from Vudu, Apple, and Roku, the 2Wire Blockbuster OnDemand box offers basic on-demand movie streaming at an attractive price.
2Wire MediaPoint Digital Media Player w/ Blockbuster OnDemand
Blockbuster Video has had a rough transition to the 21st century, thanks in large part to Netflix. That flat-fee, subscription-based DVD-by-mail concern became the first major challenge to Blockbuster's once lucrative brick and mortar storefronts--a business model that was based largely on profits derived from late fees. Then, just as Blockbuster followed Netflix online with its own Internet-based DVD mailing plan, Netflix raised the bar again, adding online video streaming (albeit for a small portion of its overall catalog). Originally available only on Windows PCs, the Netflix "Watch Instantly" feature is now available on a rapidly growing number of living room-based consumer devices--Blu-ray players, TiVo DVRs, the Xbox 360, and the sub-$100 Roku Digital Video Player, with many more products coming in 2009 and beyond.
However, Blockbuster now has its own streaming video solution in the form of the 2Wire MediaPoint Digital Media Player. Unlike the Netflix devices, the "Blockbuster Box" doesn't require a monthly subscription fee. It also offers an array of more recent films closer to the date they're first released on DVD. Perhaps the biggest selling point, however, is that the $99 box includes a 25-movie rental credit, effectively making it free. Even with that final bullet point, though, we found the Blockbuster Box to be a rather middling experience. While it delivers on its basic mission, it's not really raising the bar versus the competing video-on-demand/pay-per-view options that are already available (Apple TV, Vudu, and the growing number of devices that support Amazon and Netflix). Whether its problems--which are more issues of software and service than of hardware--can be addressed with future firmware updates and content offerings remains to be seen.
The box itself isn't terribly different from rival products such as Apple TV or Vudu. The 8-inch square is just over an inch high and its entire rear quadrant is bristling with most of the audiovisual outputs you'll ever need. HDMI, component, and composite video connections ensure that it'll connect with nearly any TV, new or old; that's a nice step up from the Apple TV, which only works with HDTVs.