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CinemaNow review:


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You're required to watch CinemaNow rentals within 24 hours. While the site usually has a section of rental movies that will play on portable video devices (namely Portable Media Centers), it was down at the time of this writing. The list of PMC-compatible titles was mostly C-rate anyway; hopefully, CinemaNow will relaunch portable-device support with new movies. Subscription service Vongo will be compatible with PMC devices later this spring.

On each movie's or show's information page, CinemaNow tells you its bit rate, which is typically either 700Kbps, 1,200Kbps, or 1,500Kbps. Sometimes you can choose between two rates, letting you opt for either a faster download or a higher-quality image. Most purchased movies are either 1,200Kbps or 1,500Kbps. To compare, DVD quality is between 3,500Kbps and 6,000Kbps. CinemaNow purchases offer a lower video quality, and while they look fine on a computer monitor, they won't look sharp on a large TV screen if you have a computer-to-TV hookup.

Our tests showed a huge range in download times. The first film we purchased and downloaded, a 139-minute movie, downloaded in a quick 50 minutes. But the second, a 135-minute title, started out fast but soon slowed to a trickle. That download took well more than 4 hours. With progressive downloading, we could begin watching before the movies had finished transferring.

Rent or purchase a movie on CinemaNow, and a pop-up window lets you know the status of your download.

CinemaNow has a subscription plan, and for a moment, we thought we had missed out on a competitor for Vongo. But no--CinemaNow's plan, which costs $29.95 per month and give you access to 1,500 members-only videos (low-budget info programs no one would pay for) is more about selling unlimited access to the site's adult content. A subscription doesn't buy access to the legit movies. It's kind of funny that Blockbuster, which won't allow NC-17 or unrated movies in its chain stores, is one of the principal investors.

CinemaNow has a large section of ad-supported free movies--mostly foreign titles--that you can watch online.

Support options are weak, as users are limited to reading through several FAQs or contacting a support rep through an e-mail form. Adding live support chat or, better yet, a toll-free number, would be a good step.

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