It's been a long time in coming, but Amazon Video on Demand is finally available in high-def. Owners of TiVo HD/Series 3 DVRs, the Roku Digital Video Player, the Sony Bravia Internet Video Link, and Panasonic VieraCast TVs (and, presumably, VieraCast-enabled Blu-ray players) will be the first to enjoy Amazon's content in HD (software updates to enable HD viewing on those products should be available imminently). Likewise, Windows and Mac users will also get access to HD video content via Amazon's Web site.
As with competing services, HD movie rentals will cost $3.99 to $4.99, and TV episodes will be available for purchase for $2.99 each (HD movie purchases currently won't be available). More than 500 HD movies and TV shows will be available initially, encompassing content from most major studios, including Warner, Sony Pictures, MGM, Paramount, and Universal. TiVo is pledging that the "vast majority of titles" on its boxes will offer Dolby Digital 5.1 surround soundtracks.
CNET was able to get a sneak preview of the Amazon HD offerings on the Roku box last week. For existing users, it's a pretty seamless upgrade: new HD-specific filters for HD movies and TV shows are available, so there's no need to go hunting and pecking for high-def content.
Quality on the Roku box was very good--the 720p video is closer to that of a really good DVD, but it's definitely superior to the standard-definition content that's available. We didn't detect any major difference between the quality of Netflix and the Amazon HD offerings on the Roku, but the Amazon interface allows you to choose rentals or purchases directly from the onscreen interface, whereas Netflix requires you to manage your viewing queue via a PC.