Hulu Plus on Xbox 360 Reviewed

It’s been almost a full week since Xbox Live Gold’s newest feature, Hulu Plus, went live and most people have had a chance to try it, thanks to a complimentary week of the service. So now that we’ve had time with it, is this going to be another feather in the fancy headdress that is Xbox Live, or is it another feature that will soon be neglected?

The service itself will feel very familiar to many Xbox users. The interface is more or less ripped directly from the Netflix service also provided on the system. This comes with a little bit of good news and bad news. The good news being that the latest version of Netflix on the Xbox is very easy to use and very visual, both of which are very important factors when trying to migrate an experience from a computer browser to a video game console.

The bad news is that Hulu’s service doesn’t quite work the same as Netflix and it can sometimes be hard to find what you’re looking for. Instead of adding a whole show or an individual season, you’re forced to add episodes one at a time to your queue. Luckily, this frustration is slightly alleviated with the ability to select a show’s season with a couple of extra button presses, but I would prefer to just have the choice to add “Entire Series” or “Season X” on the show’s selection page.

The video quality of the service is really spectacular. Many shows are available in 720p, which is actually the highest resolution that ABC and FOX broadcast in, so there is little difference from watching it via your local affiliate. The standard definition programming won’t win any awards, but still tends to look better than watching them through your cable or satellite service.

While the selection for the service is pretty good, there is still a lot of room for improvement. Many of the offerings from NBC, ABC, and FOX are available within a day of originally airing and include the entirety of the current season. Some programs, such as 30 Rock or Family Guy, will even have all previous seasons accessible, making it possible to catch up on your favorite new shows. The selection is possibly weakest in shows that are still currently on the air (seriously, BBC America? no streaming Doctor Who?), but really shines in its collection of older shows. Spaced, Lost, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Buffy, and many more have made their way gloriously into the digital realm ready to be discovered by future fans.  One other negative for the service is that some of the shows, episodes, or clips that are part of Hulu Plus on the computer aren’t cleared for viewing on televisions or mobile devices, so you won’t be able to completely free yourself from your monitor.

Hulu Plus on the Xbox 360 requires both a subscription to Hulu Plus and an Xbox Live Gold Membership. Many people that have an Xbox 360 connected online will already have a Gold Membership, and Hulu Plus is rather affordable at $7.99 a month, but some people might not be happy that they’re paying for a service, then being forced to watch thirty second commercials. This really wasn’t a problem for me personally as the breaks are still shorter than the time it takes to fast-forward through an typical commercial break during a show that you might have recorded on your DVR.

With Hulu Plus costing the same as Netflix’s recently introduced streaming-only service, some people might wonder which is the greater value. In my opinion, Netflix is clearly a better value and offers more content. That being said, the two really go together like peanut butter and jelly. Between Netflix’s amazing back-catalog and Hulu Plus’ great selection of current shows, many Xbox 360 users may now be able to completely discontinue their cable or satellite services.

In the end, Hulu Plus on the Xbox 360 isn’t perfect, but it shows a lot of promise. As more shows become available and they tweak the interface, Hulu Plus might be something that everyone who owns an Xbox should invest in, but for now, be sure to check the program listing on Hulu’s website to make sure it has content that you’re interested in.

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