This is probably old news to long-time streaming fans, but I love the Roku!
Since starting to stream most of our television viewing, my wife and I have run into one significant problem; how to stream.
As I’ve already mentioned, I started out streaming on my Sony home theater system and my wife had an older Blu-Ray player that streamed, too. But, her Blu-Ray was limited because it was old enough, for instance, that she couldn’t stream Amazon Prime video. Mostly, it wasn’t an issue, because we’ve mostly been watching TV together on the bigger screen. But, she can only take so much of my anime and Stargate Atlantis, and I can only take so much of her Regency dramas and Lark Rise to Candleford, so we often will watch different things in different rooms. So, I started looking into different players. The one that seemed to get consistently good reviews is the Roku family of devices.
Being cautious, and cheap, I went to eBay and found a gently used Roku 1 for about $30, including shipping.
The day it came, I got it hooked up to the second TV and connected to our wifi in less than 5 minutes. Then, because I didn’t already have an account, I signed up at roku.com and got the device registered. That literally took about another 15 minutes because I was doing it all on my iPhone and the tiny screen didn’t lend itself to fast typing.
Next I started the process of adding our credentials to the Netflix channel, the Hulu channel and the Amazon Prime channel. By the time I got to the third one, I had pretty well mastered the Roku remote and virtual keyboard. It wasn’t an incredibly fast process, but, still, in less than 30 minutes, I had all our current streaming systems setup on the Roku. Then, my wife and I started exploring channels, first on the Roku itself and then on the website. I was stunned at how many free channels there were! And, yes, a “channel” on the Roku is roughly equivalent to a “channel” on cable. Except, of course, for the fact that these are streaming channels and not live.
There are, as I already wrote, an amazing assortment of streaming channels available via the Roku.
Not only are there hundreds of free channels, but there are also quite a few that you can get a-la-carte for a low monthly charge. Even better, though, are all the options now to get HBO and Showtime in streaming-only versions, completely cutting out the cable companies and their over-priced bundling! We are actually not going to avail ourselves of that option, but what we have is fantastic.
Also, one feature that’s very nice is that the Roku makes binge-watching even easier as it will automatically advance your viewing queue, which our Sony home theater does not when it streams. It’s honestly not something I realized I was missing until I had it back. It makes the experience much more like watching regular TV.
Oh, also, if you’re a sports fan, which neither my wife nor I are, you can choose from a wide array of sports channels here, too.
I cannot tell you how impressed I am with this device!
For one thing, the setup was super easy. This is the older version of this device, superseded by three versions now that the 4k version has been announced, and it’s still spectacular. The complaint I see the most is about the “primitive” interface, but I see it as being simple and easy-to-use. Honestly, this thing is so easy to setup, I’d recommend one to my 80+ year-old parents. I make my living with technology so it’s often hard for me to judge how hard or easy something is to use. I’m not a good test-case. Instead, I judge it based on whether or not my poor mother could get it sorted out without calling me more than once or needing additional outside help. I feel confident that she’d have no problem with this at all, especially if she knew to setup an account on roku.com first.
Then, once setup, adding and removing channels was really easy. And, of course, actually viewing the content was no more complicated than using a DVR or similar device. Really, in spite of the criticism, the interface made it all very easy to use and figure out. On a media player, that’s precisely what I want; ease of use.
The one thing I don’t like is that you have to manually refresh your device when you add channels via the website before they show up. As a technologist, I understand why they probably went that route, but it’s still a little annoying sometimes. Still, that’s pretty much the only thing I don’t like about the Roku.
So, yes, I highly recommend this device. In fact, later this week I’m going to order Sling TV and take advantage of their deal to get a Roku 3 at half-price for pre-paying three months of service.
When we get that setup and I feel confident about a decent review, I’ll post something here.
Also, I had an ulterior motive for getting this older version. My next project is to setup a homemade DVR and, based on some research, the only way to get some of the streaming services onto a DVR is via analog. The HDMI standard now includes a signal that prevents digital recording. Analog recording, however, is still not blocked. The Roku 1 has both the HDMI connectors and analog connectors. So, at some point, I’ll be able to use this to record things for more convenient play-back at a much later date. At least, in theory. I’ll let you know how that eventually goes, too.