Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Roku: the future of Video

My Christmas present (to myself) this year was a Roku digital video player.
It is about the size of a five-pack of CDs. And it connects my TV to a huge library of movies and television shows.

The initial attraction to the device is it can stream movies from Netflix. As I have a standard Netflix account, the streaming service is free. The second very attractive feature is the device is wireless. There are no connections to figure out to make it link to my home wireless network. The overall setup was very easy. It supports standard definition and HD.

A recently added advantage is it can now tap into Amazon’s video streaming service, which has (Amazon says) over 40,000 videos. This service is not free, however, and works similar to iTunes: you can purchase, or you can rent for 24 hours.

I’ve watched several movies, and all looked and sounded very good. I can pause, rewind, fast forward like a DVD.

There are downsides. The Netflix library of streaming titles isn’t huge (12,000 videos), and is oddly eclectic - which means it doesn’t have a lot of things I’ve looked for. And if your internet connection is flakey (as Time Warner has been recently in Southern California), you can’t stream.

I can see why Blockbuster might be looking to file for bankruptcy. My Roku makes it unnecessary to every visit another video store - presuming Netflix and Amazon can keep up with the latest video release schedules. And this streaming ability is also available in Xbox 360, some BluRay players, Tivo DVRs, and a Sony Bravia Internet video link.


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