Sound & Vision magazine's Brent Butterworth conducted a test comparing the video quality of Dish Network's 1080p video-on-demand service with that of a Blu-ray movie, and found very little difference.
Dish offers a very few select VOD movies in 1080p resolution, the highest-definition available today, only one of which was available at the time of the comparison: Speed Racer. Comparing the 1080p Dish VOD version with the 1080p version on the Blu-ray disc, Butterworth "could detect only subtle differences" from a normal seating distance, reporting that both "looked fantastic."
Dish overcomes bandwidth constraints by sending each 1080p movie directly to the hard drives of its ViP-series DVRs in the wee hours of the morning, when there's less demand. When a user select one of the movies and pays the VOD surcharge ($6.99 per movie), it plays directly from the hard drive. One apparent downside to this method is scant selection: only Speed Racer is available now, and another title isn't expected until November.
The video quality of Dish's 1080p service bodes well for future iterations of high-quality downloadable/on-demand content. We reported similarly high quality when comparing the 1080p/24 versions of movies from Vudu to Blu-ray discs. For its part, DirecTV has also said it will offer 1080p VOD movies, although neither cable providers nor Verizon's Fios service have announced any plans to do so.