I watched the first episode of the new second season of Hayate no Gotoku on Crunchyroll. They're running a handy 2 week trial anime membership, so I gave it a shot and watched Hayate in glorious 720p.
You can get the episode summary and impressions elsewhere, but I wanted to comment on the Crunchyroll experience. So the positives first:
- 720p quality with membership with good video quality -- it looks better than a poor-quality fansub encode, but not as good as the best encodes (like SS-Eclipse).
- Subs for the first ep are pretty good! No karaoke, but they translated most of the on-screen text, like the descriptions of all the characters (in fact, I'd guess that most of the fansubs released of the show are using the Crunchyroll subs).
- It's released the same day as it's shown in Japan. This is huge... it's faster than a fansub, and I think this is really key, I can't imagine a good reason for any group to sub this show now.
Not everything was good though. There's nothing wrong with the video itself, but I have some gripes about the player and website.
- 720p and Flash -- it brings my computer to its knees. The CPU utilization averaged almost 90% on my 2.7 ghz Pentium dual-core (probably equivalent to a 2.2ghz C2D). The main culprit is probably the fact that I could not get full screen hardware acceleration to work. Most of the time it was smooth, but during pans, the video would stutter.
- Account settings -- I signed up for the trial. There doesn't seem to be a way to sign up for anything other than a monthly membership other than ending the trial and signing up.
- Advancing between videos -- I also started watching Skip Beat (good show so far), and when one episode finishes, a link to the next video shows up like in youtube... but it proceeds to load a new page. This isn't so bad, except it 1) kicks you out of full screen, 2) and requires you to setup the player again (like enabling HW acceleration).
Overall, I'm actually pleasantly surprised by Crunchyroll's offering. I'm waiting to see how Saki and Shangri-la turn out, but if those are decent, I might actually pay for it (gasp)!