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Why Should I Buy A Roku?
Three Powerful Articles Reviewing The Roku Wireless HD Media Player
Compiled By: Philip Williams
Click Here For More Information and Reviews
The Roku Stream Player, a simple device that streams movies, Television,
sporting events, concerts or anything else that can be streamed to your
television including by the way, older model TVs. The convenient way to
enjoy home entertainment and with the economy in the shape it is, it is
wonderful to have such a product such as the Roku wireless HD media
player. The Roku comes with a variety of features and accessories depending
upon which Roku model that you choose. This product has been around for
some time now and is a very popular item.
Roku: My First Day Review & Impressions
By Danny Sullivan
“Until recently, I’d never heard of Roku, a little box that makes it easy to
download TV shows and movies through the internet, for viewing on your
TV. But as part of my Life with Google TV series, I’m looking at other
internet-to-TV devices. Roku is pretty cool, and a no brainer for anyone who
often uses Netflix or Amazon rentals, I’d say. Its forthcoming Hulu support
makes it even more attractive.
Roku and Google TV are similar in that they bring video content from the
internet to your television. But that’s where the similarities end. Google TV
an ambitious attempt to let you search for video content anywhere. Roku is
much more about letting you “tune in” to select internet distribution
Such simplicity isn’t bad. In fact, that’s one of the attractive things about
Roku. But it’s a fundamental difference to understand, for those weighing
the two devices against each other.
The Hardware Setup
Roku is available in three versions. The basic Roku HD cost $60 and outputs
720p HD video. For $80, you can get the Roku XD, which gives you 1080p
HD video, plus a “rewind” feature and extended range wireless capability.
For $100, there’s the Roku XD|S, which adds dual-band wireless, component
video and audio plus a USB port that eventually will allow for playing photos,
music and videos off an external USB device.
I purchased mine through Amazon, though you can buy direct from Roku
(and soon, Roku-powered devices from other makers will be coming). I went
for the high-end model, because I want to test out the USB functionality,
when that comes through a promised upgrade in November. For many
people, the lower end models will be perfectly fine and downright cheap for
the heavy users of Netflix or Amazon.
The box itself is tiny, easily held in one hand. I love that it’s so small. Yes,
Apple TV is even smaller. Yes, a review of Apple TV is also coming.
Connections are straight-forward. There’s an HDMI out plug, which runs to
Unlike Google TV, this means you’ll need a spare HDMI input on your TV.
There’s no “pass-through” capability. You can plug in an Ethernet cable, but
the Roku has built-in wireless. Plug in the power adapter, and you’re
The Software Setup
Roku’s start-up screen says setup “should take less than 3 minutes.” In
reality, it took about 15, but it was still pretty painless. You select your
wireless network and enter your security details, if you’re not using a wired
connection. Once connected, you might be asked to do a software update.
That happened to me. The download went quickly, and then I went back to
the beginning of start-up, having to pick my wireless network all over again.
But, at least the info I’d entered before was remembered.
Where Roku’s setup went wrong for me was with this screen
Link my Roku player to my Roku account? I need a Roku account? And I’ve
got to use my computer to make my Roku box start working?
OK, minor irritants. But still, I want a box to free me from depending on my
computer to access internet video. Roku promises that, but only if I went
back to my computer to link my player.
You can create an account from with Roku, but ultimately, you still need to
use a web browser on a computer or other mobile device, to link your
player. I used my iPad to do this, and it worked fine. Keep your computer or
iPad handy, by the way. You’ll need them again later. To enable your Netflix
and Amazon channels, you’ll also need to enter codes generated by Roku
into your accounts at each place, using a regular browser.
Once linked, you pick the type of TV screen you have (4:3, 16:9, HD 720p or
1080p), and then your done. Time to start watching TV! Sort of…
From the Roku home screen, you have access to the “channels” that you’ve
selected. There are a variety of them available in the Roku “Channel Store,”
which I’ll get back to at the end of this review. But first, notice the three
default channels that have already been selected for you, listed next to the
The default channels are:
Pretty much, in my view, this is all Roku does — makes it possible to “tune
in” to these three and important internet video channels easily. Everything
else in the Channel Store is likely a waste of time, for most people. As I said,
I’ll get back to that. But just these three channels alone (and really right
now, only two), make this box worthwhile for many.
Netflix & Streaming
If you’re not familiar with Netflix, it’s a service that started out as a way to
rent DVDs via mail. You’re allowed to check out a certain number of DVDs at
one time, depending on the plan you buy. The plans also offer unlimited
streaming of “Watch Instantly” content. If you know all about Netflix, skip
the next few paragraphs. If not….
Cost varies. I pay $9 per month to check out one DVD at a time plus have
access to unlimited streaming of titles. But Netflix is pitching $8 (OK, $7.99)
streaming-only accounts now. I saw one of these myself, when I created a
fresh account today.
If you have an existing account, you probably won’t see this option (there is
a Starz Play Only choice, but that seems more limited). If you try to create a
new account using an already registered credit card or address, you might
also see the offer withdrawn. I sure did.
If you’re logged out, you might also see a $1 higher price point pitched,
depending on which browser you use. Below, you can see Netflix pitching me
a plan for $1 less on the left, when I visited the site using Firefox, versus
hitting it in Chrome on the right.
That opposite of what Engadget reported, where the “Firefox” price was
higher. My assumption is that the prices are given out randomly. If you use
a different browser, you’re seen as a different person and may get a
different offer. Or, if you clear out your cookies, that will also likely work.
Netflix Streaming On Google TV & Other Devices
Earlier this year, I purchased a Samsung Blu-ray player that had Netflix
streaming built in. This transformed my viewing in a big way. Suddenly, I
didn’t need to wait for DVDs to arrive. If I wanted to watch something on the
spur of the moment, I could press a button on my Samsung player, and then
I was connected to Netflix– which streamed what I wanted right to my TV,
pretty efficiently. I caught up on an entire season of 30 Rock that way.
What’s not to love about that? And how could Roku improve upon it?
The improvement part is easy. With my Samsung player, I have to go to my
computer and pick a title to add to my “Instant Queue.” I can have several
titles selected all at once, but I need to go to my computer to add these.
That’s a pain.
Google TV’s implementation of Netflix is the same way. If it’s in my Instant
Queue, which I added to using my computer, I’m good.
If it’s not added, I’ve got to get off the couch, go to a computer and search
to add what I want.
Roku’s Netflix Channel
With Roku, there’s none of that. Unlike Google TV — and ironically given that
Google is all about search — you can search for content available for
streaming on the service. The on-screen keyboard works very well, and
suggestions are offered that can save you typing.
You can also easily browse many of the titles. The browse interface is very
Playback quality is doing to depend on your internet connection, but even
with my terrible home wireless, I was pretty impressed. You can also easily
fast forward or rewind.
So again, what’s not to love? The selection. You want to watch 30 Rock on
demand? You’re good except for the current season, as the screenshot
above showed. Flight of the Concords? Yeah, sorry about that.
Roku’s Amazon Channel
Amazon Video is one of Roku’s other major default channels. I’ve used
Amazon Video several times in the past to catch-up on missed TV shows or
to watch movies on demand. The service is pretty cool. Roku makes it even
About a month ago, I rented a movie through Amazon that I wanted to
watch on TV. Unfortunately, it wasn’t downloading correctly to my main
laptop. I dug out an older laptop, but then it was a hassle of getting that one
wired to the TV. Once I’d plugged everything in, it wouldn’t support the TV’s
Roku eliminates all that hassle. Your Amazon purchases flow right from Roku
and into your TV. Yes, you can search for titles or you can browse. I was
intrigued by the “Free TV” category when browsing and went to check it out.
Wow — a free Running Wilde episode? No. As it turns out, it was just a two
minute clip of Will Arnett and Keri Russell joking about Will’s hair. I get the
impression most of the “free” TV stuff is like that, rather than the free fulllength episodes available from many TV networks.
Roku’s Hulu Plus Channel — Stay Tuned!
Speaking of those free full-length TV episodes on the web, doesn’t Hulu offer
a lot of them? And wasn’t there something I’d mentioned earlier about Hulu
being part of Roku?
Correct on both counts. Hulu offers a huge amount of content from the
major TV networks of ABC, Fox and NBC (CBS isn’t an investor in Hulu and
has stayed out of the club there in other ways, so far). And Hulu is a channel
on Roku. There’s just nothing there, yet.
Coming soon. Like when? According to Roku’s support site, fall 2010. I
know, it’s fall now. Stay tuned, I guess.
Notice also that it’s Hulu Plus that’s supported, not Hulu. What’s Hulu Plus? A
$10 per month subscription service that lets you watch the full current
season of many shows (rather than the unpredictable number that Hulu
seems to provide), as well as past seasons of many other shows. With Hulu
Plus, those “unavailable” episodes of Flash-forward become available for
viewing. You have to request a “preview invite” for it, but using the same
form as anyone might, I found my invite came through within two days.
Hulu Plus also lets you watch Hulu on an array of devices that the service
belatedly decided should be blocked. Watching Hulu on your laptop is OK.
But watching it on your iPad? We’d like to charge for that. Or for your
iPhone. And you want Hulu streaming from a box that’s not a computer, in
to your TV? As with Google TV, Hulu will only allow that with a subscription.
Also as with Google TV, even if you do have a subscription, Hulu’s not yet
It’ll come, of course. And when it does, Roku — which I already find pretty
kick-ass — will be even better. Buy this box plus a $10 per month Hulu Plus
subscription (which might even drop to $5 per month), and you’ve got tons
of prime time content for cheaper than most basic cable packages. Add in
Netflix, and there’s your movie channel. Amazon gives you pay-per-view,
and now you really might be thinking twice about that cable or satellite
Postscript: Hulu Plus is now on Roku. See our further review, Roku +
Hulu Plus = Pretty Awesome.
Unlike Google TV, No Easy Way to See What’s On
Of course, when you have cable or satellite, there’s going to be a “what’s
on” view. A channel guide. A way to see everything that’s available at the
current time or in the near future. You’ll generally have some rudimentary
search tool, also.
Roku has nothing like this. You can search within Netflix. You can search
with Amazon. You’ll almost certainly be able to search within Hulu. But you
can’t search across those channels. Roku lets you tune into these new
stations, as they were, but it lacks a unified guide to what’s on them.
As I said earlier, that’s the gap Google TV hopes to fill. Searches on Google
TV already point to Amazon rentals, as well as free network TV content.
When the expected Hulu Plus support comes into being, I’d expect those
listings to be updated to include that (and which will be a huge help if the
networks themselves keep blocking Google TV).
Google TV’s search doesn’t cover Netflix, however. The cheapest Google TV
device, the $300 Logitech Review, is 5 times more expensive than the
cheapest Roku device at $60.
Other Channels: Think Community Access (& No
How about that Channel Store that I mentioned way at the beginning. Do
they contain all types of awesomeness? If you’re big on Revision 3, perhaps.
Or there’s Drive-In Classics for $3 per year. And the always exciting NASA
If Roku is like a replacement for your cable box, and the default channels
are like your major networks, then think of the Channel Store more like
community-access cable. This is where you’ll find Wayne & Garth, for the
most part — or at least it seems that way to me.
I don’t mean that to be as harsh as it sounds. There are some great shows
to be found in there, but they’ll be shows for more niche audiences. There
are also apps for viewing Flickr and Facebook photos, too.
You won’t find YouTube, which really ought to be one of Roku’s default
channels, I’d say — especially given how much content there is on YouTube.
I’m not up on the reasons why it’s not there (I’m sure I’ll learn soon and will
update, as I do). However, Roku says it supports YouTube through a third
While I love much of Roku, I was sad the remote doesn’t have a volume
control. I have kids. They make noise (I never do). I have to pause, rewind
and turn the volume up or down depending on various child-influenced
environmental factors. I don’t want to juggle two remotes to do this. Yes, I
know — I can buy a $400 programmable remote and have one to rule them
all. Or yeah, my iPhone can do it all. Look, I want life simple. Just add a
volume control to the remote.
There’s also no power on/off button. Crazy. I had to search the help pages
to confirm that I wasn’t insane. That’s right. If you want to turn off your
Roku, you have to unplug it. Roku says the unit draws little power, so I
guess they figured why bother with the power button. I suppose it saves
some costs on the unit, as does the lack of volume buttons. I still want them
No Brainer for Big Netflix, Amazon or Hulu Users
Should you get it? If you use either Netflix or Amazon a lot now via your
computer, and you also own a TV, absolutely. Enjoy that bigger picture.
Heck, I’m surprised that either of those companies don’t sell the devices
themselves or give them away as incentives to subscribe or buy.
If you watch Hulu a lot, this is probably well worth purchasing when that
support comes. Until it does, if you’re not using one of the other services, I’d
It might not make as much sense if you already have another device that
supports one or more of these channels. For example, Netflix seems built
into everything now (Wii, Xbox, PlayStation, TVs, Blue-ray players, to name
It makes even less sense if you’re a big Apple fan, I’d say. While I’ve not yet
tested Apple TV, it has support for iTunes rentals. If you prefer that over
Amazon, well, you probably haven’t tried Amazon. You should. But if you still
prefer it, Roku doesn’t tune into iTunes. Apple does. Apple also does Netflix.
Maybe Roku’s Hulu support will be a deciding factor for you.
Are you a Boxee fan? Maybe you want to wait for the Boxee Box, launching
next month. At $200, perhaps it will bridge the gap between Roku’s
simplicity and Google TV’s search-for-shows promise.
As for Google TV versus Roku, as I said in the beginning, they’re very
different in many ways. Google TV offers a more ambitious future of TV
viewing but at a higher price. If you’re tempted by that ambition, it probably
makes little sense to also buy a Roku. Google TV can tune into all the same
channels, even if the edges are rougher, at the moment”. Danny Sullivan is
editor-in-chief of Search Engine Land, Article: “Roku: My First Day
Review & Impressions”
Article # 2
Roku streaming box review
By Matt Warman
“From just £49.99, the Roku TV streaming box is good value for money –
but do you need to spend it at all”, asks Matt Warman. “The days of the settop box are surely numbered – with more televisions than ever either on
walls or so slim that they sit practically next to them, there simply isn’t the
space that there used to be. But there’s still a burgeoning demand for boxes
we plug in to TVs so that we can all get access to more TV, films and games
from Sky and Virgin Media to a host of boxes such as Apple TV. Roku is the
most popular in America and finally it’s launched in the UK.”
At just 84mm x 84mm x 23mm, it’s tiny and only 85g – but there’s still
plenty of room for an HDMI connection and a wireless adapter to connect to
the web. There’s an Ethernet port, AV out and a USB port too.
Initial set up is, unfortunately, via a PC and since subscription to Netflix is a
key part of Roku’s appeal it’s a particular shame that that part too must be
done via a computer. Apple sometimes refers users to their PC for some
parts of its purchasing processes, for instance to renew a credit card, but it
clearly can be the exception rather than the rule.
That aside, however, Roku offers a user friendly interface that starts with a
‘Channel Store’ – that means you download the avenues you want, and can
say goodbye to the usual scrolling past channels you never want to watch.
BBC iPlayer, Netflix, TED Talks and Vimeo are among the highlights, but
there’s motivational sermons if you want them too, and much in between.
There’s 1080p movie streaming and some games too, mostly navigated by
All of this is excellent and intuitive; owners of smart TVs, however, will
wonder what this box adds to their world. LG, Samsung, Sony and almost
every other brand now offer very similar services. If you’ve got an Xbox, PS3
or Wii, then Roku may be £49.99 too far. If, however, you haven’t, it’s an
impressive upgrade at a bargain price. Matt Warman, Consumer
Technology Editor, the Telegraph. “Roku Streaming Box Review”
Article # 3
New Roku Streaming Box Gets Smaller, Angrier
By Bryan Gardener
“From its humble beginnings as the Netflix box to its current status as one of
the pre-eminent media streamers, Roku has come a long way in just two
years. And while the new Roku 2 XS doesn’t really move things forward
much, it does just enough to retain that title.
If you’re keeping track, the XS usurps the XDS as the new king of the new
series, with the XD and HD following in its path. I’ll just go ahead and say it
at the outset: If you already own a previous gen, 1080p-capable Roku, this
is probably not the box for you. Like the XDS, you get Ethernet support and
a USB port. The UI also remains relatively unchanged, with the standard
horizontal scrolling “channels.”
In fact, the only differences I could find was the addition of Bluetooth
support, an SD card slot, and — wait for it — a shiny little Wii-like motion
controller that doubles as your system remote. Yes, it appears Roku wants
to join the casual games party. And its first gift to customers is something
everyone’s already sick of: Angry Birds. For free! The company promises to
have more games — including Angry Birds Rio and Angry Birds Seasons
(sigh) — soon, which presumably explains the SD-card slot. Still, none of
this is enough to justify dropping another 100 bones.
The other obvious difference here is the look of these new boxes. This XS,
along with the rest of the series, has been sufficiently shrink-rayed so it now
beats even the Apple TV in terms of footprint. The tiny box virtually
disappears when you place it next to your TV, which was great considering
all the other multicolored junk I have attached to mine.”
Roku has always done a fine job of offering a satisfying mix of big-name
streaming options like Rdio, Pandora, Netflix, Amazon Instant Video and
Hulu Plus, with more esoteric choices like, say, Crunchyroll. That trend
What hasn’t happened is any attempt to make the box useful to media
hoarders with separate video libraries. Once again, the XS’s limited media
file support casts a great big ol’ bummer cloud over what is otherwise a solid
Officially, the XS only supports MP4 (H.264), AAC, MP3, JPG and PNG,
which, for me, meant more than half of the videos and music sitting on my
external drive were useless — unless I wanted to do some converting, which
It’s a strange deficiency, considering the Roku’s main strength is the hefty
helping of internet video it serves up to its customers. Offering a USB port
and then throttling what it can play just seems, well, dumb. Still, this isn’t
anything new to previous Roku owners. And the fact remains there just
aren’t many media streamers out there that can offer all the things the XS
does at this price.
WIRED Netflix channel now has 1080p streaming, 5.1 surround and
subtitles — if your bandwidth supports it. Big, beautiful HD content on some
channels like Vimeo.
TIRED Lengthy setup time. Forget about playing your MKV and other highbitrate files, unless you convert. RF Bluetooth motion controller feature is
limited to playing games, provides no navigation or UI functionality.
New Roku Streaming Box Gets Smaller, Angrier
Reviewed by Bryan Gardiner · August 15, 2011
We have endeavored to present to you three different perspectives of the
Roku and it is our sincere hope for you that you will find something in this
report that may be of benefit to you and that you will be better informed
about the Roku line of products. As we all know, your shopping experience
may be better because you are more knowledgeable and well informed.