Hulu Desktop: high quality, browser-free videos optimized for a “Media Center” style experience

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Hulu desktop is a free desktop client for Windows and Mac that connects to the Hulu service and plays Hulu videos and programs within a sleek, feature-rich interface, without the need for an internet browser.

It features a spectacular look-and-feel, high-definition video, and offers the ability to resume partially watched shows. It also supports standard Windows Media Center or Apple IR remote controls.

Hulu, if you’re unfamiliar with it, is a web site set up by a group of TV networks in order to publish their programming in high quality, as a means to keep their content under their control and as an alternative to video sharing sites like YouTube.

You might ask: why watch programs on the Hulu desktop client rather than in the browser? The answer simply is that Hulu desktop manages to offer a user experience that is simply excellent, and is far better than the desktop experience.

Hulu desktop screenshot5Hulu desktop screenshot6

Here’s a rundown of some of its features.

  • Quality: unlike the web version, Hulu desktop displays high quality streaming video by default. Very nice indeed. For slow connection low-bandwidth situations you can lower the quality to “medium” or low.
  • Control using IR Remote: for those who use their PC as a media center and/or like to use a physical remote control device, Hulu desktop offers full IR support support for both PC and Mac.
  • Navigate: the player can display full video unencumbered by controls until you hover with the mouse. Can navigate using the keyboard, mouse, or remote (or combos). Navigation feels very sleek and professional: press Ctrl+F for fullscreen then use the keyboard arrows, mouse and mousewheel for zooming. Breadcrumb-style browsing history makes it easy to retrace your steps and find your way around.
  • Ads: Hulu desktop will display some ads in the programming itself (much like watching TV), but it comes without the display ads that are featured on most websites (including the Hulu site).
  • Resume shows: at the moment where you last left them. Very cool.
  • Personalize: once your register an account and log in you save videos of interest in your queue, you can subscribe to certain channels or programs, rate programs, and look at your viewing history (note: you can do all of this in the website version as well).

Cons: issues that can be addressed to make this a better product

  • Memory consumption: is very high at around 250 megs on my machine. It is actually less resrouce intesive to watch Hulu in Firefox3 (apprx 150); surely it should be the other way around? I am hoping that resource consumption is improved once this is out of beta.
  • Bugs: this is beta software and in my testing of it had a couple of hiccups where it became strangely unresponsive, but went back to normal after a few seconds. I am assuming these will be eventually ironed out post-beta.

The verdict: a very impressive viewer that will surely become the preferred vehicle for accessing Hulu videos for all but the very casual Hulu users. If you’re an avid Hulu viewer you should check it out immediately; if you are an occasional Hulu user … you should also do the same ;).

Version tested: 0.9.3.1 BETA

Compatibility: Windows XP or later; Mac OSX10.4 or later. Requires Intel Pentium Core Duo 1.8GHz (Windows), at least 2.0 GB of RAM, a 2 Mbps Internet connection, and Flash 9.0.124

Go to the Hulu Desktop page to download the latestr version (approx 866K).