Before I start--yeah, this is going to be one of those "shameless plug" type posts. I'm not getting paid to do it though, I'm doing it because I just think this is about the coolest product since I bought my first iPod!
A couple of posts ago I mentioned that we had cancelled our satellite television service and decided to go with a small antenna for local programming and then stream whatever else we wanted to watch. I purchased this nifty little Roku HD box that connects to the TV, either by RCA cable or HDMI cable. I had NO idea how cool this little gizmo was going to be. To me the $58 was well worth the price for what you get. This is the model we purchased--there are more expensive ones, but this had everything we needed for our viewing pleasure.
The remote takes a little bit of getting used to, but I feel like a pro now, and it's only been two weeks. There is a listing of available channels and you just add the channels you want to receive through your personal profile, either via the Roku box itself, or via the internet. Easy peasy. Some of the channels are completely free (Pandora, Vevo, Crackle, PBS), others involve a subscription fee (Netflix, HuluPlus, MLB.tv) and some are pay-per-view kinds of channels (Amazon Prime, Blockbuster). The beauty of it is you pick your channels based on your viewing habits/needs and only pay for what you feel like paying for. My only complaint was that I had to give Roku a credit card number in order to activate my account, but I was able to password it so that stuff we don't want can't be accidentally purchased.
Picture quality has been very good, some channels stream better than others, and there are a number of channels that I probably wouldn't use in a million years, but there are plenty of items in the free category that I can see us watching a lot. For a nominal monthly fee you can learn to speak a language (parlez-vous Francais?), play a guitar, even learn how to cook!
What was nice is we already had accounts for several of the channels--Netflix, HuluPlus and Pandora--so it was just a matter of signing in to those and all of our information was readily available on screen, no extra charge. I'm also loving the one channel which is all travel (and free to boot), they have a large collection of Rudy Maxa videos available and have recently added a new one called "Travel Grannies" that I'm anxious to watch. PBS is free as well and now I can get my weekend "This Old House" fix without pledge breaks. And Vevo--I was in heaven! As a member of the "MTV Generation" who remembers when they actually showed music videos, I can now watch the new stuff as it comes out as well as some of the older stuff, without having to endure the "Jersey Shore" or some of the other crap shows that constitute so-called "television programming". That alone was worth the price.
The unit itself is very small--slightly larger than a deck of cards. It's easy for us to move it from the living room to the bedroom until we get around to purchasing another one. One of the best tips I've seen in other reviews is taking the unit with you on vacation--as long as wireless internet is available, you can watch the same things you would watch at home, and because of the small size of the unit, it doesn't take up a ton of suitcase space. Genius!
The drawbacks--no, you can't pull up individual channels like TNT, TBS, or the like. If you want to watch local programming you will need to purchase some sort of antenna. But the plus is the wide variety of programming available that you watch when you want to, not on someone else's idea of a television schedule. If you want to watch a movie over and over again, you can if you want to, but not because that's the only thing on to watch. They even have a couple of shop at home type channels, I am hopeful that maybe they will get QVC someday, hee hee. For someone who likes off the wall kinds of programming and independent film, this is heaven as there are many channels offering that kind of stuff.
For us this has been a real eye-opener. I'm not going to lie and say that it wasn't a bit of an adjustment, but it's more a matter of being a little more disciplined in a way. Right now we have a lot of stuff we want to watch, so we are trying to make our own schedule around the shows we usually watch on broadcast TV. I can honestly say I doubt we would ever go back to cable or satellite though. The selection is good and we are loving the ability to choose our own programming. As of now the price for the pay services is very reasonable, I'm just hopeful that as more and more people go this route they will stay that way. I'm sure that more and more channels will be made available too as it becomes more popular. I've thought for years that it would be nice to have the ability to pick and choose channels in an ala' cart method, and this comes about as close as you are going to get right now. The times they are a'changing!
For more information on Roku and it's available programming, click on the picture above!