Samsung Internet@TV AceTrax app hands-on
AceTrax has arrived on Samsung's Internet@TV portal and brings with it 1000 DVD-quality movies to rent or buy; all are instantly accessible through the manufacturer's connected TV user interface and streamed via the Internet.
And, excitingly, they are to be joined at some time in the near future by HD and 3D content.
Video streaming is not new to Internet@TV, with BBC iPlayer and Lovefilm both having made their mark on the platform. However, unlike the Lovefilm application, you don't have to subscribe to AceTrax - this is a strictly pay as you play video-on-demand service.
And it costs nothing to sign up. Better still, at the moment, when you activate your account for the first time, either online by computer or through the TV app itself, you're credited with £3.49 - enough for a latest release rental.
Astute Samsung TV owners will have noticed that, after a system and firmware update, the AceTrax app actually appeared on the application user interface on 17 November. But, the company is keen to stress that it was only a soft launch in that instance, and that the real action starts now. After all, a VoD service is only as good as the content it offers, and it is only now that there is a plentiful supply of titles to watch.
That's not to say that all of them are rentable though. Due to some studio-enforced constraints, a few of the titles are available to buy only (and, indeed, some solely for rental), but there are many that offer both options, and the prices are reasonable either way; between £1.99 and £3.49 for rental, £3.49 to £10.99 to buy.
Pocket-lint has also been assured that, eventually, every movie (or TV show) that's accessible via the PC version of the service (at www.acetrax.com) will also be so on Internet@TV.
And that will include HD and 3D content too. It has long been thought that it is the state of the UK's broadband infrastructure that has prevented high definition movies hitting TV streaming services. Not so, says AceTrax: "The studios completely control everything", Leslie Golding, CMO of the company exclusively tells Pocket-lint. "Like with 5.1 audio, it's down to the studios. It's whatever they deliver us. If they want to deliver us high quality HD or 3D in future..."
Certainly, AceTrax is ready for a change of policy at studio-level, and anticipates that it could be sooner rather than later: "We've already had the price list come through, so it's going to be a pound more for each one. A pound more for HD and a pound more [on top] for 3D".
Also, it must be said that the standard definition image quality is above what we expect from a digital video streaming service anyway: "This is using, literally, the latest VC-1 codecs", says Golding. "Even BBC iPlayer is using last year's technologies".
And it's immediate, or as near as damn it. After the rent or buy buttons are clicked, the title is ready for viewing instantly, although that doesn't mean you have to. A rented movie can be started anytime within 30 days, and once started for the first time, can be watched as many times as you like within 24 hours. A bought movie is, obviously, available whenever you like - even though it's stored in the cloud.
Another (pleasant) surprise comes with trailers. Every film has one, and they are also immediately accessible. The surprise comes with their quality. They only appear in a small box, but they are pin sharp and superbly rendered, even if the movie has aged. In fact, some trailers, such as the one for the Clint Eastwood vehicle Firefox, are as much fun as the film itself. And you don't need to commit to purchasing anything to watch the trailers.
One word of warning to parents with small children, though, all of the trailers are available without the need to input a pin number - that is only required during log in and purchasing - so if you don't want little Johnny watching clips of 30 Days of Night: Dark Days, albeit tame ones, don't give them run of the remote.
It's a minor niggle though, and easily outweighed by the new app's convenience and the fact that you don't have to spend any money with it if you don't want to.
Perhaps its strongest facet, though, is that there is no obligation to rent or buy. Just a growing compulsion to do so when you see what it's capable of.
Is streaming from the cloud the future of video rental and/or ownership? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below...