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REVIEW: Roku XD|S

Discussion in 'More News from Your Google TV News Team' started by Rickaren, Feb 9, 2011.

  1. Rickaren

    Rickaren New Member Staff Member

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    GADGET REVIEW: Roku XD|S

    Wednesday, February 9th, 2011
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    Cable and satellite television can get to be pretty expensive. You start adding on additional channel packages and next thing you know you can be paying well over $100 or $150 so you can watch all the channels you want. Well, Arse-bot and Zombietron got tired of paying ridiculous amounts of money for our cable service so we began to look for alternatives. Apple TV seemed to be okay for what it is, but we were looking for something more than a vehicle to purchase movies and TV shows from iTunes with some Netflix mixed in. Google TV seems to have not quite gotten things with Hulu and Netflix squared away, especially since you can’t even access Hulu on it (at least, not without a little hacking), and the price tag is quite higher than we cared to pay. These are the two big name devices out on the market, and neither one seemed to offer what we were looking for in a streaming device, it was looking like we were going to have to be content with hooking up laptops to our TV’s with an HDMI cable to stream reasonably priced television – until we stumbled upon a wonderful little device called Roku.​
    We checked out the specs; HDMI Hookup with full 1080p support? Check. USB port to watch and listen to stuff you’ve downloaded to an external storage device? Check. Wireless and ethernet internet connection capability? Check. Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon Video on Demand, MLB and a bunch of other apps to access all sorts of video and music content any time you want all with a simple little remote and a price tag of less than $100? Check, check, and double check! We placed our orders, told our cable provider we were done paying their ridiculous prices, and starting getting our TV and movie entertainment via Roku! We’ve had our Roku’s for about three months now, and we’re going to break down the pros and cons of this device for all of you out there looking for an alternative to cable or satellite TV services!

    Arse-bot: I’m going to leave all the technical specs to our resident techno-geek, Zombietron (below), and just touch on the basics. I consider myself to be an “average” Roku user, I took it out of the box, plugged it in, and started streaming, and frankly, that’s what’s so great about it.

    Upon receiving the Roku, setup was simple. You don’t need to be a wiz at hooking up electronics – I hooked up my HDMI cable, plugged the Roku into the outlet and I was ready to start setting it up (this is all after I happily yanked my cable box out). Upon first start-up your little Roku box will walk you through step-by-step how to set it up. “Ethernet internet connection or wireless?” Wireless. “Select your network.” Selected. “Enter password” Entered. BOOM! My Roku is ready to roll and now it’s time to download the “channels” (or “apps”) you want!

    The Roku has this handy little application that lets you download what they refer to as “Channels”. I got to downloading the necessities: Netflix, Hulu Plus, and Amazon Video on Demand. You simply install the Channel, enter your login information for these services, validate your hardware online and you’re ready to start streaming! It literally took me about 15 minutes to set up the Roku before I was watching Arrested Development on Hulu Plus. The user interfaces for all of these channels are simple to navigate via the handy Roku remote, and you’re streaming your favorite shows in no time.

    For the life of me, I can’t think of any cons with regards to the Roku. I’m a standard user, and aside from the Roku freezing up once or twice (afterwhich it automatically resets itself and has you back to enjoying your movie in about a minute), I have had zero problems. I can honestly say I haven’t missed cable one bit since I cancelled it and opted for a Roku – I can access and manage my Netflix and Hulu Plus queues and order newer movies on demand from Amazon. For the slightly advanced user the Roku XD|S includes a USB slot to plug in an external hard drive to watch all the content you’ve downloaded, and while the video format options are a bit limited, it hasn’t proven to be a big problem.

    I can easily say I don’t hesitate in saying I highly recommend the Roku for anyone out there looking for an alternative to cable, or even just a simple, small video streaming device to enhance your television-watching experience.

    Zombietron: When I gleefully opened my Roku box on Christmas day, yeah Christmas, thanks mom. I had in my head this long list of things I was gonna do with this beautiful device. I was gonna stream my media from a central server, watch Netflix, play with Amazon Video on Demand, and so much more, I’ll leave most of that for our list of top Roku apps. The technical beauty of the Roku really comes in its open source applications, with a little programming knowledge anyone can grab the SDK and begin getting their apps released to the public. Being a huge fan of open source discussion and theory myself I have to come the conclusion that any device that allows creativity from its user community has great things in store. This alone is directly key to the success of the iPhone and any Android device. I’ll reiterate Arse’s thoughts that the ease-of-use for this machine rivals that of Apple’s connectivity. As long as you know your network name, password, and how to operate a remote you are on your way to being a Roku power user. That being said, anyone who reads my tech rants knows that I can’t give a compliment without filing some form of complaint. Although there are independent media server apps available, with simple enough use for technologically minded people such as myself, they still have yet to release a solution straight forward to the average person.

    Ok, griping round 1 completed let’s continue with the praise:
    The HDMI out alone makes this device worth its weight, especially for us feverishly stashing blu-ray rips for our entertainment demands. You may not stream in true HD, but even in the streaming world the nerd in me enjoys the pure digital signal. If I would have written this article up a few months ago I would have complained that the independent USB reading app didn’t support enough file formats, (seeing as from the beginning it only supported .m4v). The recently released Channel that you can install through store now supports additional formats including: avi, mpg, and WMV. At first the Roku also refused to recognize my HFS+ formatted drive that I use to back up my mac book but alas, that complaint has been satisfied. Even though the media format support has grown from a dastardly 1 filetype to 5 or so, they still need to work on getting all video and audio compression types supported. As I’ve seen stated in developer forums, “if this thing supported as many media formats as VLC Player it would be unstoppable.” I more than agree with that statement.


    With consistent updates coming I’m sure that soon the wants of its community will be satisfied, and all in all this is a great open source product that really drives home the idea that TV is no longer cable driven, those of us with an internet connection can cancel cable, and simply utilize our own media outlets to feed our addiction. There’s a reason that Roku has sold 1 million units, and i’m sure this year will be just as successful for them.




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