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


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: 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).

  • howard

    I like it but the navigation is not all that friendly, particularly once you start watching a show.

  • I agree with Howard. I have a HTPC and installed this as soon as I’d heard about it. The claim that it works with a MC remote is slightly exaggerated. You can use the navigation buttons and volume seems to still work, but very few of the other buttons work. For example, Pause does not pause the video, you have to use the Ok button.

    That being said, since my wife and daughter were sick, we watched it for about 7-8 hours over the weekend without significant issue. It was a bit choppy, but that’s because we watched in high quality most of the time. It wasn’t anything that was particularly annoying, though (AND I had some large downloads going on on another machine in the house). All-in-all, though, we ditched cable entirely last week prior to finding out about this…now we’re glad we did. Now all I need to do is set it up to launch from an icon on Media Center and I’ll be all set! 🙂

  • Nice tool

    Thanks for posting

  • Unfortunately, Hulu Desktop, as well as, is available only for US users. There are workarounds, like Hotspot Shield,but I would prefer to watch it at full speed.

  • Old Man Dotes

    When this story first hit the blogs, I thought, “Great!” I’ll install Hulu Desktop on my HTPC this weekend. However, now that Hulu May Begin Charging for Content, I no longer see any reason to continue watching Hulu video, which is inferior in both quality and delivery to the streaming Netflix I also watch.

    • Samer

      @ Old Man Dotes: as of this writing Hulu does not charge for content. What I heard was that they might charge for an ad-free or souped-up experience. I doubt very much that they will start charging for the same thing that they have so far offered for free.

  • Mike Green

    I won’t touch Hulu. I’m indignant at the idea of being forced to use using video-stream size bandwidth to watch commercials. I would MUCH rather simply have the still ads around the image.