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Amazon Unbox Video Rental Experience

I noticed Amazon had a $0.99 sale on a couple of new movies I had been wanting to see (Ghost Rider, 300, Shooter) so I decided to give it a try – after all, no shipping, no tax, means you can’t beat the price.  My setup is Windows Vista Ultimate 64-bit and an Xbox 360 with wireless adapter (I stream the movies to the HDTV via the 360).  My initial impressions:

The Good
Install and movie purchase was quick and simple overall (however, it is a tiny bit less simple for 64-bit users…more on that later).  It was dead simple to stream to the 360 – if you already have the media center connection setup, then you’re ready to go.  The quality is on par with DVD – it’s certainly not HD, but I was watching on a 56″ HDTV and it looked as good as any DVD I have.

The Bad
When I first installed the software, I got a message saying something was wrong with my computer’s DRM configuration.  My only guess is that it has something to do with being on a 64-bit – but I really don’t know.  The Unbox software offers to help troubleshoot – so I did that and it found a patch to automatically install…after that, everything went fine.  The download speed is a bit slow – I rented 5 movies the first night (you can keep them for 30 days) at around 10pm.  By 8am or so the next morning, 4 of the 5 movies were downloaded.  The files are between 1.5GB – 3GB – so it’s certainly going to take a while to download them, but the speed could be just a tad better…but it’s not a huge issue – just realize that you’ll need to wait about an hour or so after you rent the movie before you can start playing it.  The biggest issue I have with Amazon’s Unbox service is the lack of 5.1 channel audio – the audio quality is decent, but it’s certainly not on the same level as a DVD and there is no true surround sound.

Conclusion
There’s no question that Unbox is a great deal if you find a movie you’d like to see for $0.99 – it’s the way to go at that price.  I’m not sure I’ll be using it for full price rentals though ($3.99) – for that price, I can get NetFlix or Blockbuster Online (and better sound quality).  If Amazon can drop the price to $1.99 for a one day rental, I’d be doing a lot more Unboxing.

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