Vudu Labs eyes-on: ugly video-on-demand, but auspicious beginning

We told you about video streaming set-top box Vudu's new update yesterday, adding 120 on-demand TV channels, photo sites Flickr and Picasa, YouTube, a few games, and the promise of more applications to be developed. We gave the new "Vudu Labs" additions a try last night, and the results were not good.

Vudu's YouTube streaming looks about like it always does — murky — but unfortunately, the video quality on the on-demand TV channels was nearly unwatchable. It appears that even though the Vudu is capable of streaming respectable HD video, most of the TV shows here look like 15 frames per second and with resolution that appears to be like YouTube's standard 320 x 240. There were a scant few HD offerings, including a Hubble Space Telescope video, a still screen shot of which you can see in our gallery below.

Worse, even with our fast 28Mbit/sec. broadband connection, the menus lagged so far behind our selections that they were unusable most of the time. To be fair, the interface was a bit more responsive in our testing today.

This is frustrating because the vast selection of videos is so enticing. But the Vudu Labs features bode well for the future, because when all this stuff is available in HD, it'll be a dream come true. Until then, consider this debut experimental.