Roku Netflix Media Streaming player Review

Roku Netflix Media Streaming player Review
The Roku Netflix Player is a genius idea. In this day and age with media coming out your nose, it is easy to see how something like the Roku could come in handy. The Roku is simple device that allows streaming of movies and TV shows available through the Netflix instant watch service. With a valid unlimited viewing account of $8.95 a month or higher, you are granted access to a big library of content. For those of us on our computers the whole day or for those of us that can't stand watching movies on our PC screens, the concept is great.

IN THE BOX
The Roku includes a built-in ethernet port and 802.11g Wi-Fi networking options. It works with virtually all TVs with inputs like HDMI, component, composite, or S video. If you are an optical type of person it offers an optical audio port as well.

THE HARDWARE
The box is tiny and built very well with some nice design touches. The remote has a home button, rewind and fast forward along with a select button. Simple, but then again so is the Roku. There are no buttons on the box itself.

THE SET UP
When you initially plug in the Roku, it gives you an activation code which you must enter at your PC on the Netflix web site. A few seconds later a prompt pops up on your screen telling you the Roku has been activated and you are off. Very easy! After setting up our streaming queue on Netflix, we turned this bad boy on and started watching. Unfortunately, the Roku does not provide you the option to add movies to your queue from the device, so we had to go back to our computers to do so. That was disappointing.

THE INTERFACE
The menu is simple, but it works. It shows your movie queue, allows you to read a brief summary of the film/TV show, as well as ratings from other viewers. Once you are done watching, you can then rate the movie from your Roku or even delete it from the queue.

THE EXPERIENCE
Although the idea was great, the experience was not. After having reviewed players like the Vudu we can't say that the Roku matches it with the quality of service. When viewing the movies we never got above two out of four quality stars in our feed. This resulted in a video quality which felt only slightly better than YouTube quality on our TV screens. With a faster connection things get better (downloads over 3Mbs), but in average home speeds, the Roku disappointed. While we were watching a movie, one of our reviewers downloaded some specs from the web. The simultaneous download caused our movie to stop midway. It stopped playing because it ran out of data and had to wait for more of the movie to be downloaded (or streamed) into the device. This happened with our 3Mbs test various times. The Roku did not go above 1 quality star in our 1.5Mbs tests, the standard connection on most DSL lines. The video at 1 star quality was unwatchable on the 40inch television.

Another disappointment was the selection of movies titles. There are many older movies, but don't expect to see a new release on this device any time soon. The TV show selection was also geared towards older titles, with a few notable exceptions like season 2 of Heroes.

One thing we did like about the Roku is that it has upgradeable firmware, so new features can be introduced in the future without the need to purchase another device. The upgrade can also allow for bug fixes, although we didn't encounter any.

Overall the Roku Netflix Player was a disappointment. The lack of newer titles, might be a turn off for most people, but could be something that Netflix fixes along the way. The device does have an attractive price tag ($99 as of this writing), but unless you have an ultra fast internet connection (above 3Mbs), we simply can't recommend the Roku.


SPECIFICATIONS
- Currently over 12,000 movies and TV episodes available
- No change in monthly Netflix costs and you continue to get your DVDs by mail
- Easily connects directly to your TV
- Pause, rewind or play anytime - just like a DVD
- Lots of connectivity options for your TV

In the Box
- Netflix Player set-top box
- Infrared remote control
- Two AAA batteries
- A/V cables (composite video, stereo audio)
- Power adapter
- Getting Started Guide

THE GOOD
- Great price in comparison to similar devices
- Ease of use
- Simple setup

THE BAD
- Poor video quality at 3 Mbps Downstream
- Horrible video quality at 1.5 Mbps Downstream
- Not many new titles to choose from
- Unable to select movies from player without first having to go online and selecting title
- No hard drive (limited movie buffering)

WHERE TO BUY
Roku
Netflix

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