Hands on with Orb TV

Orb TV promises to bring Web content--like Netflix, Hulu, ESPN3, Comedy Central, as well as your own photos and video, to your living room. And it delivers, with a download of software to your home computer, an effortless hook up to a wireless network and an app download to your smartphone or iPad.

Set up on my Mac took about 25 minutes... one restart after a crash when I disconnected the hockey-puck sized device from my USB port, but it was otherwise painless.

The iPad app download took, literally, seconds, and after connecting the Orb TV device to my 46-inch screen I was watching Glee on Hulu.

The device arrived in a 2.5x6x6-inch box that fit into my mailbox down by the road. It included the ¾-inch thick x 3-3/4 diameter Orb TV device, a universal power supply, USB cable, stero audio cable, composite video cable and component video cable.

I connected over both a router with 802.11g, and an Apple Airport Extreme with 802.11n WiFi, and both worked. I did experience a couple of freezes over the older WiFi connection, but the video resumed pretty quickly... think of it as an unscheduled commercial break (and, frankly, I haven't yet used it enough to see if freezes happen on the Airport; anomalies, yes?).

The picture quality was adequate, even on a big screen, pretty much the same as you'd expect from PAL.

Navigating the iPad controller was pretty straight forward, but it doesn't fly.

Tap on the Orb Controller icon and Orb TV launches. You can choose to watch on a television or on your smartphone/iPad in the device selection section. On the Home screen, you'll be able to choose audio, video, or photo.

Tapping on video gives you a choice of "My Video Library" (content from your computer); "TV Shows" (chose from an index of thousands of shows using Orb's global index), "Sports" (live and replayed sports from ESPN3), "Video Services" (your choice of Internet services like YouTube and Hulu), "Recorded TV" (video you've recorded using Orb TV), and "Webcam" (live video from a webcam you've configured).

Tap "TV Shows" and you can browse according to popular shows or by genre; and, there's a search option.

Each step tends to grind a bit. Touch "TV Shows," watch the spinning wheel for a few seconds and Orb supplies you with a list of everything Hulu has to offer. Touch Friday Night Lights and it grinds a bit again before populating the available seasons and episodes. Touch again and viola, you're watching Hulu on the TV (and, yes, you get the same commercial breaks that you get online).

If you're a Mac user you'll need:

  • An 802.11g/n WiFi connection
  • OSX 10.5.1 or better
  • 2.4Ghz Intel Core 2 Duo or faster
  • 200 MB of available disk space
  • 1 GB of RAM

If you're a Windows user, you'll need:

  • An 802.11g/n WiFi connection
  • Windows 7, Windows Vista, Windows XP Home or Professional with Service Pack 3O2.4Ghz Intel Core 2 Duo or faster
  • 200 MB of available disk space
  • 1 GB of RAM

For your remote, you'll need to have either an Android device or iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch

Orb TV is, in the end, an elegantly simple solution to getting your OTT fix. A couple of downloads, a couple of wires connected and BOOM! you're watching Hulu, Netflix and a bunch of other content some far-more expensive devices can't deliver. Is it 1080p? Nope, it's not even 720p. But, for $99 it's not a bad way to play.

Related article:
Orb TV: Over-the-top delivery to the TV made (very) easy