Product review: Vongo movie downloading service

Wednesday, April 19, 2006 by: Ben Kage
Tags: vongo, downloadable movies, health news

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Peer to peer networks have stirred up quite a hornet's nest on the internet, as people share copyrighted files of every nature without paying a dime. Although I'm not about to publicly cast a vote for or against such a practice, movie buffs now have a legal alternative called Vongo.

Although the name is somewhat unconventional, which has garnered it some small criticisms, it is probably the best way to get noticed on the internet these days, and the idea itself is sound: Download the free Vongo software (about 10 megabytes) from vongo.com, then get access to more than 1,000 movies (and concerts, TV shows, sports shows and even bonus materials), the Starz channel and a pay-per-view option, all from the relative comfort of your computer chair.

I know what you're thinking: "A movie file is huge. How can I download a bunch of my favorite movies on one hard drive?" Well, my movie-loving friend, the Vongo software translates a movie file that is roughly 500 to 700 megabytes, and translates it pretty well. The picture and sound quality of Vongo's files are okay -- roughly on par with watching a DVD on your computer -- and, if you can hook your computer up to a TV, you can watch your movies that way, too.

The other "way to Vongo" taps into the increasingly popular portable media player craze that is spreading via gadgets like the iRiver PMP. Downloading your Vongo files to these devices is, obviously, a little more complicated than just downloading it to your computer, but since your Vongo account allows you to download files to up to three different devices, you can do both. The only places you can't yet download your Vongo movies are to anywhere outside the United States or to a Macintosh.

A broadband or DSL connection is required to use Vongo, and 500 to 700 megabytes is not going to take an incredibly long time to download at the broadband/DSL average of 2 megabits a second, but for those who desire instant gratification, you don't have to wait until the file is finished downloading to begin watching the movie. It is certainly not as long as you might have to wait for someone to be done with a movie at your local video store, especially with the "no late fees" and "unlimited rentals with monthly payment" features that are currently en vogue.

After you download the Vongo software, you have a choice of becoming a Vongo member, and/or partaking of the pay-per-view option that the company offers. As a Vongo member, you pay a $9.99 monthly fee and can then download any movie from Vongo's current library for a predetermined amount of time. When the time limit is up, the file disappears from your hard drive. This, of course, does split users down the middle between those who would watch so many movies in a month that $9.99 is a pittance, and those who may feel obligated to watch more movies than normal to get their money's worth. Although it's not a perfect solution, whether you are a member or not, you can use the pay-per-view option to pay a single fee to download individual movie files that last 24 hours. That 24-hour period begins from the time you click "play" rather than the time you click "download," although it should be noted that, if the pay-per-view movie you download is scheduled for deletion from Vongo's playlist, the file will delete from your hard drive at that time regardless of when you click play.

Some people will find the pay-per-view option attractive simply because it does not require them to give any personal information to Vongo. However, those who are (rightly) paranoid about giving out personal information (for fear of spam or worse) can take heart. Vongo's user-friendly privacy policy includes a special feature in its member area that allows you to "opt-out" of Vongo tracking your account specifically, and have it track your activities anonymously instead.

Perhaps one of Vongo's best features is one that allows you to resume downloading a file if your computer gets disconnected for any reason. This feature is becoming more common at download sites and in browsers, just in time for the majority of internet users to switch to high-speed services that seldom lose a connection, but at least it means you don't have to restart the download when your microwave trips your circuit breaker.

Although the company's humorous commercials show people "Vongoing" in all manner of places, it should be pointed out that NaturalNews.com specifically does not condone watching movies at work; a fact that was politely explained to me when I attempted to watch a movie at my desk (for review purposes only, you understand). The brief free movie clip at the website, however, was enough to convince me of the service's status as a great way to watch movies.

Vongo System/Account Requirements:

  • U.S-based internet address
  • Broadband connection with a download speed of 100 kilobytes per second or higher for Pay Per View, 300 kilobytes per second or higher for Vongo Membership
  • Windows Media Player 9 or higher
  • One gigabyte of available hard drive space (3 gigabytes recommended)
  • 700 MHz Intel Pentium III processor or greater (supports simultaneous record/playback features) 128MB of RAM
  • Full Duplex sound card and speakers
  • 16-bit sound card and speakers
  • 65,000-color video display card set to display at 1024 X 764 or higher
  • Windows 2000 with Service Pack 4 or later, or Windows XP
Portable Media Device Requirements:
  • Portable Media Device with Windows Portable Media Center (PMC) V.2

Note: Neither this author nor Truth Publishing was paid anything by the company mentioned here to write this product review. Read our Declaration of Journalistic Independence to learn how we adhere to a higher ethical standard than most newspapers, magazines and online media.

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