On a whim, I recently picked up a Roku XD player from Woot.com. The Roku allows you to tap into a lot of the video going around on the “interwebs” and watch it on your HDTV of choice. The Roku is one of the devices that so-called “cord-cutters” use to keep themselves entertained. After a few weeks with it (coupled with subscriptions to Amazon Prime and Netflix Instant Video) I’ve got a few thoughts on it.
Streaming Video and the Roku – Is it all it’s cracked up to be?
When playing around with my Roku player, I used Amazon VOD, Cracklin, Netflix Instant and played around with a few others. None of the interfaces were great – they didn’t really allow for good search/discovery, but I’d have to say the Netflix app offered the best UX. Cracklin’ is a video offering that tortures you with endless commercials, but rewards you with free movies and TV. However, I stuck to Amazon VOD and Netflix myself. Roku does a really good job bringing video to your HDTV (especially the HD streams). I have a large (73″) TV, but all of the HD streams looked crisp and clear. The Facebook App only allows you to look at videos and pictures – but I imagine it that will change in the future.
There are various sports, news, music (think Pandora), kids and games applications that can all be added to your Roku. Roku’s own news applications allows you to plug into live feeds and check out all sorts of episodic news shows. The Roku offers a variety of sports channels with subscription services that are great for the out of market viewer.
Pros of Roku:
- Great Price (should be able to find one for $50ish)
- Very configurable – choose your homescreen “channels”
- Easy to understand
- Great streaming for top 3 content providers (Amazon/Hulu+/Netflix)
- Integrates well with other A/V devices
- Most don’t have USB
- Does not have support for every codec
- Difficult (but possible) network streaming
- UX is mostly horizontal, leaves a lot of empty space
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