So today I was happy to see my Joost Beta invite in my inbox. I decided to install it and take a run around. I now use a Mac, so my experience is solely Mac-based, no Windows here. I have a MacBook Pro Intel Core 2 Duo 2.33Ghz with 2GB of memory, connected to my network at 1Gbps, and my Internet connection is Verizon FIOS at 30Mbps down, 5Mbps up. My MBP is connected to an external Dell 24” widescreen monitor at 1920×1200.
The download took about 15 seconds for the 17MB dmg download, Firefox reporting a download speed of 1045Kbps, or about 8mbps. I was encouraged by this, hoping the video experience would be just as snappy.
Not so. Click more to read on.
The installation was as clean as any. The release notes were comprehensive, if not a little too wordy, though the complexity of the application probably warrants it. I started the application, at which point it took over my screen. I was prompted to log in or create an account. The account creation is simple — email, username, password twice — with nice ajax-y hints to let you know if you’ve entered your information correctly to their specifications or not.
The first thing that played was the Joost intro video, a nice sampling of videos that you might be able to come across in Joost. During playback however, my disappointment set in.
I’m not sure what I was expecting, maybe ultimate video quality, maybe amazing content, who knows. I realize I’m a more picky customer, having all HDTV in my house, running at 1080p whenever possible, and having been in the online video content delivery world for the past few years, very sensitive to digital video encoding quality. One problem may be due to a friend of mine, Dan Summer, who runs DVLABS , and it probably the best digital video expert when it comes to encoding video for use on the Internet.
Well, the video quality delivered by Joost does not rival video quality I can get, legally or otherwise, via BitTorrent. It is heavily compressed, blocky, and a bit of a disappointment. In Joost’s favor, while their About Us page mentions “great picture quality,” there seem to be a lot more features they are trying to pack into Joost than just picture quality. They talk about Instant Messaging and channel chat. Maybe they spent a lot of time on that, because the picture quality has suffered.
Additionally, I ran into a lot of “program is unavailable #121” errors during my short use of Joost between 2:40pm-3pm EDT today. When I could get video to play, it would stop to buffer 3-4 times for a 3 minute video for about 3-5 seconds, definitely not TV-esque. Additionally attempts to watch Laguna Beach on the MTV channel resulted in constant 2-3 second hiccups every 10-30 seconds, sometimes not even getting through a scene cut without hiccups. Then about 5 minutes into the show, it stopped with the ominous “unavailable #121” error, not even getting through the show during this review. I’m pretty sure the bandwidth problem isn’t on my end; during watching I ran a bandwidth speed test to make sure it wasn’t an issue on my end:
Though Joost stopped playing during the test, it is clear that I have enough bandwidth and speed isn’t an issue. I tested it to a nearby location about 200 miles away; it could be their servers are on the west coast, so let’s test that too:
Even to LA (Joost seems to connect via Level3 in Tustin, CA based on a traceroute JOOST-OPERA.car2.Tustin1.Level3.net for their web services; for this test we assume their video distribution is there as well), we have decent bandwidth and round-trip times.
One last gripe — the loading logo in the bottom right corner is painfully annoying. It’s a little jerky, it almost “blinks” when the colored gems merge into a bright white, it’s distracting rather than informative. It should be more simple, really smooth, and the same color and brightness through the whole sequence.
So while Joost has a cool user interface, the video quality is disappointing, the channel changing is worse than the slowest satellite tuner, and the selection is limiting. Bump up the video quality and minimize dropouts and increase content selection, and I’ll change my tune. But right now Joost is not as impressive as I had hoped.