Make no mistake — the idea of a single set-top box capable of pumping out tons of newly released content sounds great. Unfortunately, giants like Apple (and small fries like Vudu) have shown that smoothly delivering such a service is sort of a fever dream (for now).
But that doesn’t stop companies like Blockbuster from trying. The flailing brick-and-mortar movie-rental company is crying, “hey we can do streaming too” with the MediaPoint set-top box. Just like every other movie-renting box, this device sounds; awesome on paper. However, after a couple weeks of renting flicks, it quickly established itself as one of the worst.
So, here’s how it comes together: the 2Wire-built MediaPoint is ‘free’ with the “advance rental of 25 first-run movies” for $100. After the 25-movie limit is reached, users can rent content a la carte for anywhere between $2 and $4. Possessive types also have the option of purchasing titles outright at a higher cost. Seems simple enough, right?
Well, the devil relishes in details. Though setting up the system is easy enough (it runs independent of Blockbuster’s in-store subscription service), everything else pretty much sucks. After sitting through the MediaPoint’s lengthy boot time, we were greeted with a terrible menu system, horrendously low-res cover art, and a laughably small catalog of content (a little over 1,700 titles at the time of review).
You’d think the MediaPoint would allow Blockbuster to beat competitors like Netflix, Vudu and even Apple TV to the punch when it comes to new releases. But when it came to downloading widely available new releases like Hellboy 2 and Wanted we had to wait weeks for their release on the service. Sure, Blockbuster isn’t the only movies-over-broadband provider to hit this roadblock, but given that we could literally walk into a Blockbuster store and snag these titles in less time, it’s kind of ridiculous.
A software update for the box recently became available. Hoping that it would solve some of our quibbles, we performed the dead simple download and install but were left disappointed. Bitrate, image quality, and UI were not improved. Even the issue it was supposed to solve — speeding up the performance of the on demand service — was not rectified.
On the bright side, playback was relatively straightforward. Content loaded at a brisk pace and was easily accessible for repeated playback on the 8-GB box. However, that’s hardly enough to redeem this otherwise underwhelming device. Between the lacking catalog of titles and half-baked execution, the last thing we want to do is “make it a Blockbuster night.”