The Blockbuster set-top box has arrived

Editor’s Note: The following article is reprinted from the Today @ PC World blog at PCWorld.com.

Blockbuster has officially entered the "battle of the boxes" with the launch of its new set-top box Tuesday. The box will serve movies to TVs over the Internet and is going against Netflix's set-top box solutions (Xbox, Roku, and Tivo). Blockbuster's MediaPoint box allows users to watch thousands of movies without the need of a monthly subscription.

To get the MediaPoint player, made by 2Wire, Blockbuster subscribers will have to pay a one-off US$99 fee, which also includes 25 pre-paid movies. After that, users will have to pay between $1.99 and $3.99 for each DVD rented, without a monthly subscription fee. Netflix's box also costs $99, besides your chosen monthly subscription. But unlike Blockbuster's 2,500 "of the best, biggest and most current movies available", Netflix offers its whole 10,000 DVD collection for rental through its box.

The major difference between the MediaPoint box and Netflix's is that Blockbuster does "progressive playback" in comparison to Netflix's streaming, meaning that the video quality is independent of you broadband's connection speed. By progressively downloading the movie on the box (up to five movies storage capacity), Blockbuster's solution can offer a much more consistent video quality. In comparison, Netflix's service which can reduce the movie's quality if your Internet connection slows down.

Spec-wise, Blockbuster's MediaPoint can store up to five full length feature films (rented films must be viewed within 24 hours of downloading) and can connect to both SD and HD television sets. For the SD crowd, you can connect the MediaPoint to your TV with Composite A/V cables and if you have an HD TV you can use an HDMI cable. If none of the above matches you television set, you can use the box's Component Video and Line Audio connections.

In terms of Internet connectivity, the MediaPoint box can use both wireless and an Ethernet cable from your router. For the full specs, check out MediaPoint's user manual (PDF link).

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