Online sites with free HD programming

High definition is the holy grail of video. However, unless you're subscribed to a monthly cable or satellite plan, finding HD content can be difficult. Fortunately, the Internet has a growing number of sites that provide free (and legal) HD programming. From the Tonight Show to Grey's Anatomy, the following sites can help satisfy your HD fix.

With 11 full episodes, Hulu's high-def gallery remains modest, but the site's simple, friendly interface makes it one of the most easily accessible places to find HD content. Shows streamed perfectly on our 2.2GHz MacBook Pro, but we hit some initial lag when we played them in full screen. The site, which is consistently updated, allows you to subscribe to your favorite programs (very much like TiVo's Season Pass) and e-mails you when new shows are available. Although the site's HD catalog contains popular shows like Heroes, The Office, and 30 Rock, there are no full seasons of any show available in HD and there's no way of telling when your favorite show might disappear from Hulu's library. All shows contain commercials, but the ads aren't intrusive and you can even vote on which ads you like/dislike.
Content: 6/10
Streaming Experience: 8/10

With 100,000 HD videos in its catalog, Vimeo boasts one of the largest HD collections we've ever seen. However, you won't find any commercial content here. Instead, Vimeo is filled with experimental and documentary-style shorts with topics that range from surfing in Australia to glass blowing. Anyone can upload their video to the site (think of it as a YouTube for people with actual talent), and members can also vote for their favorite videos (membership is free). With so much HD content under its belt, you'd think Vimeo would have an excellent way of cataloging it, but unfortunately it doesn't and to browse through the collection you must click through 134 pages of video. Fortunately, the site has a clean layout so we didn't mind the browsing too much. Of all the sites, Vimeo provided the best video quality, with many of its videos in 720p. Best of all, there were no ads.
Content: 9/10
Streaming Experience: 9/10

All three major networks offer online HD programming, but of the three, ABC delivers the best package. At the time of this writing, it had 8 series available in HD, including popular shows like Ugly Betty and Grey's Anatomy. Unfortunately, ABC isn't consistent with the content it offers. For instance, it has almost every episode and season of Lost available in HD, but only 6 episodes of Grey's Anatomy. Likewise, the quality, while good, is not comparable to that of the other sites. In fact, the ABC pop-up player features a Bitrate Meter, which indicates (based on your Internet connection) the quality HD you're capable of receiving. Also, if you're trying to stay away from ads, ABC might not be for you as we found that on average it featured twice the amount of embedded commercials we found on Hulu.
Content: 7/10
Streaming Experience: 7/10

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