Recently, my voracious appetite for movies led me to discover Roku, a streaming player that allows me access to a world wide web library of movies, shows, music, videos, podcasts, games, and more. I’ve only had the Roku player for five days but I already know: it’s my #1 recommendation for a gadget gift this holiday season. (I am not affiliated in any way with the company other than as a customer.) Here’s the high-level:
- Cost: $59/$79/$99. Click here to compare the three different models (I went for it with the $99 model)
- Includes: Roku streaming player (4.9 x 4.9 x 1.2 inches; roughly the size and weight of a paperback book), HDMI cable, composite AV cable, remote control and batteries, power adapter
- Required: television, high-speed Internet, e.g., Wi-Fi
Setting up the Roku player was easy: the HDMI/AV cable connects the Roku and the television, and the power adapter connects the Roku to the electrical socket in the wall. Just power on and select the Wi-Fi connection; no special software involved.
Next, I did a tour of the default channels: Netflix, Amazon Video, Hulu Plus, and Pandora. To access the shows and music on those channels, I had to validate each existing account through a code exchange process that required me to login on my computer. Although I had to do this for every account in order to access its library, the entire exercise was quick and painless.
The channel I’ve accessed the most is Netflix. Because my Netflix account is now activated on my Roku, I now have two queues (which I update online): my regular queue for Netflix dvds (mail) and my “instant” queue for on-demand shows/ movies. The small caveat is that not all of the Netflix library is available for “instant” viewing (less than a total of 2,000 TV shows and movies as of today). But the list is growing daily. And did I say these movies are instant and on-demand? As in, you can watch them anytime, for no additional fee other than your monthly Netflix subscription?
Pandora is awesome — all your personalized music settings projected on the television. Tunes for every mood and occasion.
Amazon Video is a bit on the expensive side, ranging from $1.99 to $3.99 for a 24-hour rental (with the option to buy). But it offers the latest and greatest shows, including those currently in season.
I’m excited to check out Hulu Plus, which just became available on Roku.
In total, there are over fifty channels available on Roku, and the company says they are adding more every day. On day six of owning the Roku, I’m only discovering the tip of the ice berg. The channels are listed under the following categories: Featured, New, Most Popular, Top Rated, Movies & TV, Web TV & Special Interest, Music, Sports, International, News & Podcasts, Photos & Videos, Games & Screensavers.
Notable channels include:
I have a feeling my Roku and I are going to be together a lot, inside and outside my home. The Roku player is smaller than a paperback book and very light at 7.2 ounces, so it will be a convenient travel companion (as long as the destination includes a television and high-speed Internet connection).
A little tidbit about the brain behind Roku: the company was founded by Anthony Wood, who invented the DVR. Enough said.
The one question I have to ask is: where do Roku and other streaming players fit in when Apple and Google enter living rooms?