While Hulu.com isn't the only game in town if you want to watch streaming versions of the latest TV episodes, it's both very comprehensive and free. Generally, the five or so most recent episodes of current series from most U.S. broadcasters (CBS and TNT are among the notable exceptions) are available. You can also find full seasons of some classic programs and short-lived series as well. There's also a selection of full-length movies to watch, though nothing that comes close to other streaming video services such as Netflix (*Est. $8 per month). That said, movie buffs might enjoy the rotating selection of Criterion Collection films available.
Hulu.com is designed to be viewed only on a computer. You can view through your web browser or through the Hulu Desktop, which simplifies navigation and control; versions are available for Windows, Mac and Linux. Ideal for those with a home-theater PC (HTPC) setup, Hulu Desktop works with Windows Media Center or Apple remote controls. Though Hulu does not officially support streaming to a TV, it can be done if you have certain streaming-capable home entertainment gear and run certain media server software -- such as MediaMall Technology's PlayOn video server software (*Est. $30 per year) or TVersity Pro (*Est. $40 per year) -- on your PC. Like all streaming services, video quality will depend on your Internet connection, but it is exclusively standard definition (480p).
That might be fine for the tech savvy, and those that have the right gear, but Hulu.com has also offers a subscription based version, Hulu Plus (*Est. $8 per month), that makes streaming to Internet-connected TVs, Blu-ray players, video game consoles, digital media players and more much easier. Hulu Plus doesn't have as broad a lineup of content as Hulu.com, but it does offer the entire season of those programs it carries and better, in 720p video quality. Hulu Plus also offers the complete library of Criterion Collection titles. Netflix also has lots of TV programs -- many of which are in high definition -- but typically only their previous seasons. Amazon Instant Video does have current episodes but you must purchase those at a cost of *Est. $3 each in HD or *Est. $2 each in SD. iTunes has a similar lineup of current shows, and episodes sell for the same price (*Est. $2 each in SD, $3 each in HD).
We found several good reviews of Hulu. It is included in a comparison of four services at NotebookReview.com. Additional information can be found at PCMag.com and About.com.
1. Notebook Review.com
While Hulu Plus gets top billing here, this review at NotebookReview.com actually spends more time evaluating the state of Hulu.com. While there's lots of excitement over Hulu Plus, Hulu.com along with Netflix provide enough content and value to let you leave your cable provider and iTunes account behind. Though video quality and commercial interruptions are negatives, both are called "minor annoyances" given the wealth of content.
Review: Hulu Online Video 2010 Review, Dustin Sklavos, Oct. 19, 2010
Hulu.com is not without its limitations, PCMag.com reports -- notably the ability to view only the last five episodes of current TV programs. Still, the reviewers say that it can't be beat for TV shows and award it a 4-star rating.
Review: Hulu (Summer 2011), Jeffrey L. Wilson and Errol Pierre-Louis, June 17, 2011
This older review dates from when Hulu first debuted but still offers some useful insights. "Forget downloading from iTunes; forget signing up for a Netflix account," Gretchen Siegchrist writes. "Hulu TV shows and movies are free and easy to watch." (Note: ConsumerSearch is owned by About.com, but the two don't share an editorial affiliation.)
Review: Hulu TV Offers Exclusive Access to Premium Content , Gretchen Siegchrist