Revo HTPC
18Feb/101

Hulu Desktop Review on Revo Round 2

Hulu-Desktop

Update: This is a new review of Hulu Desktop. The major difference here is that I got some recommendations to go back to beta 1 of Flash 10.1. In the original review I had beta 2 installed and saw pretty bad performance with Hulu and flash in general. After going back I saw a major difference. Here is the break down.

Initial Impression:
When I launched Hulu Desktop with beta 1 installed I was greeted again with the Shutter Island  trailer, and to my surprise it wasn't very choppy when compared to what I saw in the earlier review. The trailer played till completion and wasn't in full screen mode, but so far it was looking good.

Menu:
Hulu Desktop menu system is very simple and plain. It is gray text on a black background and all the menus scroll to the left and right. Navigation is pretty simple and there is plenty of content to go through. Menus were still sluggish however and with so much content and menus to go through it got a little annoying having them cycle slowly. This can be fixed by adding your shows to you Netflixish queue so you don't have to scroll through all of them. Overall I was pleased with the menu, however they are not as smooth as Media Center, but I could live with them.

Watching Programs:
I went back to my original test which was the latest episode of The Office, full screen, and at high quality. Where as before the video was completely choppy and unwatchable this time it was actually smooth with very few hiccups. I was extremely surprised and happy to see this. The overall quality of the video was comparable to any of the silverlight streaming inside of WMC. I decided to test some other shows including Family Guy, The Colbert Report, and The Daily Show. Family Guy was flawless at high quality, but I did a tiny bit of stutter with the other shows. If I adjusted the quality down to medium everything was extremely smooth, and the quality difference was negligible. I decided that the very few stutters didn't both me too much and I adjusted it back to high quality.

Additional Content:
Hulu not only offers TV shows, but they also offer movies and trailers as well. I decided to see how this performed and started up Blues Brothers 2000 at high quality, and again the video playback was just great and on par with Netflix streaming in WMC. Going through trailers was great as well as Hulu has a huge assortment of movie trailers. I went through all three trailers for Toy Story 3 and while I did notice some stutter at high quality, it was very watchable.

CPU Usage:
Flash 10.1 is supposed to push processing onto the GPU which is what allows Hulu and other Flash videos to work on an Atom chip. I monitored the CPU usage when playing high quality video and it was pretty high, normally around 70-80% usage. I didn't have any recordings or anything else going on when I did my testing, but in my early testing of tuner performance of the Revo they didn't use very much CPU usage.

Summary:
The only difference between this review and the last is the difference in Flash 10.1 betas. I am not sure what happened between the 2 versions, but the original beta worked much better. It is no longer available through the official website, so I will post a download link in the Revo setup page. A few days ago I turned my back on Flash on the Revo and said never again. However, after some suggestions and going back to 10.1 beta 1 I can say that everything is great now. While, Hulu Desktop's UI is a bit sluggish on the Revo, I now have to recommend it. Video play back was great and there is so much content on there you will never get through it all.

To read my original review with beta 2 follow the jump:

So this is the original review with Flash 10.1 beta 2 installed:

In my full written review of the Revo I commented on the performance of Hulu.com with Flash 10.1 beta2. While standard definition content performed just fine inside of the browser when I jumped up to 480p it was completely unwatchable. So today I wanted to do a full install of Hulu Desktop and see how it performs and if it is any different than in the browser.

Initial Impression:
After launching Hulu Desktop I was greeted with a nice trailer for Shutter Island which I am very excited for. The video wasn't even full screen and it was already choppy, so my first impression is not a good one.

Menu:
The main menu if Hulu Desktop is very plain, grey text on a black background. In the upper left corner trailers of movies play in a tiny screen. This playback seems just fine, but of course it is absolutely tiny. Scrolling through Hulu content is somewhat snappy. When you select a category a large amount of thumbnails will load, and this only takes a second or two. A big issue is a when you do a constant scroll up or down. You can tell that Hulu Desktop is working hard and it is pretty laggy. After selecting a TV series you go into a special menu just for that show. Transitions between screens are a bit slow, but not horrible. Overall the menu system is sluggish compared to Windows Media Center. I think that you could live with it, but it is a bit annoying.

Watching Programs
By default when you launch a program to watch, in this case the latest Office episode, it will go straight to full screen and in high quality. Audio playback is just fine, however the video is completely choppy and unwatchable just like in the browser. Adjusting the video down to Medium quality has the same effect, and moving it down to Low quality doesn't get any better at all. The only way that I could get the video playback to not be choppy was to take Hulu out of full screen mode and watch it in a smaller window. At low quality in this mode it doesn't look horrible, but why bother at this point.

After Adjustments:
I went ahead and decided to make some adjustments to see if this would have any effect. I lowered my screen resolution down to 1280x720. I started up the latest Family Guy in full screen mode at high quality, and playback seemed to be great. There are very few hiccups to the video and it looks great. Pushing the video down to Medium you could see the difference in quality and the video playback seemed to be exactly the same. Returning to the menu to attempt to get to The Office was still slow and the transitions seemed to be the same. I wanted to test The Office again to see if lower the resolution had helped this content as well. The video playback seemed much improved, however there was still some choppiness at Medium quality. Down to Low quality improved playback even more, still not perfect but very close to watchable.

Summary:
One thing that does work great with Hulu is my Harmony remote with my media center IR receiver. I tested Hulu desktop with no active recordings, and nothing else running in the background. I was hoping for better results, but I feel that the overall quality and performance was sub-par. After seeing how the non-flash Internet TV in media center performs this is where streaming services like Hulu will have to move to if they want it to perform well on lower specification systems. Overall I can't endorse Hulu Desktop on the Revo due to its choppiness at the full resolution as the last thing you would want to do is switch back and forth your screen resolutions.

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  1. You may want to try running the p1 version of flash along with the older Nvidia drivers for better performance. You can download them from this site: http://www.pauljroberts.com/flash-beta-10-1-1p-files-for-revo-ion


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