Roku has been the number one streaming player for content like Netflix and Hulu for years and the company has now released the Roku 2 line with players ranging from simple high definition content or a model that includes games and a motion sensor remote.
Ease of Use, Performance: 5/5
Look & Feel: 5/5
How much I enjoy 5/5
Total: 5/5 Stars
Smart TV’s or televisions with online apps, Blu-ray players that connect to the internet and even the PlayStation 3 all make their own case when it comes to streaming content like Netflix or Hulu Plus on your television but the Roku is also a great option. Roku has recently released new editions of the streaming players with new features that make the streaming player a great option from all those other ways to watch what you want.
Roku is the original and best-selling streaming player according to Roku that streams content from your internet connection to your television without the use of a full computer and the new editions bring more wanted features. The Roku XS includes all the features of the other players and is the top of the line that Roku offers with enhanced motion control remote, USB and Ethernet port and a free edition of Angry Birds.
The Roku XS is the top featured media player with entertainment channels you choose from a variety of choices like Hulu Plus, Netflix and Amazon Instant Video along with your choice of casual games including the wildly popular Angry Birds. The Roku XS comes with the player, AC power adapter, motion sensing remote control, two AA batteries for remote, AV cable and instruction manual.
The Roku XS has the HDMI and 3.5 mm audio video connection, power connection and USB connection for connecting USB flash drives or a USB hard drive to stream content saved on the drives. You can play streaming content from the internet along with content saved on the drives that are in a variety of formats on the Roku USB channel which is just one of the ways to enjoy your entertainment.
The Roku uses what it calls channels to categorize content like the various streaming servers of Netflix, Hulu Plus and Amazon Instant Video services but others are available as well. Sports, and news are probably the biggest available channels but others are also available in niche areas like inde films and public service broadcasts.
Channels like Hulu Plus and Netflix costs you using a per month subscription while Amazon Instant Videos costs per video along with a yearly subscription but only a few of the channels are free. You really do have to check into what subscription channel you want to buy along with your Roku player but there is a few more options along with the main pay channels.
I have been playing around with getting free or low cost entertainment and have purchased a subscription to Netflix and Hulu Plus for this review to check out what they offer as well as how the services work with the Roku player. Sites like Crackle and the free service of Hulu all offer a decent amount of older movies and a select few new movies but not the kind of variety or numbers that I had hoped for.
I will probably be using Hulu Plus for awhile and dropping Netflix next month but I will continue to look into new channels and what Roku has to offer in the way of low cost or free entertainment. There are some shows and movies I had hoped to watch on either Netflix or Hulu Plus but they are just not available which is not all that surprising, at least they do offer some films and series that are entertaining.
The Roku does offer Amazon Instant Videos which amounts to a lot when you look at their video on demand service and can buy movies and watch them through your Roku player if you can stomach the price. I would much prefer buying the movie and having the disc available for copying to a USB drive instead of only having the download version or an online copy to view but Amazon is an option for movies and TV shows.
If you do want to watch something you already have on a drive or ones you download and copied you need to ensure they are in a format the Roku can play but many of the popular formats are covered by Roku. The Roku can play the common video, audio and image files such as MP4, M4V, MOV, WMV for the main video formats with AAC and MP3 for audio while the player can show the usual JPG and PNG image files.
Converting the media into the correct format is pretty easy on your computer and using programs like Handbrake or even paid programs like Nero can easily convert the media you want to listen or watch in the correct format. The channel that allows you to watch your videos and music is free and you need to simply install the channel and then click to the content you want using the remote and internet connected Roku.
The Roku when you first start it up after connecting it to the internet and your TV or monitor has several channels but each one is only a few clicks away to install and over the internet the installation is very easy using an account. You can connect the Roku to an HDMI capable monitor as well as a TV or even an older television that has RCA connections using the one cable and the 3.5mm output in the back of the Roku XS.
When you have an account setup the channels are a click away for the ones that are public while for private channels use a code to get that content. Public channels are ones like Amazon and Netflix while Private channels need a code from the channel provider in order to join the channel.
The Roku 2 XS player also includes a micro SD card slot to increase the onboard storage amount up to whatever the SD card capacity is, this allows great download capacity of games and channels on your player. Speaking of games the Roku can play casual games like Angry Birds and Fieldrunners with a few common games like poker, blackjack and Mah Jongg with games costing 99 cents to about $5.
To play any of the games you need the motion control remote which connects by Bluetooth for a great motion controller that can be added to the lower models as well. The remote is easy to use and works extremely well without always having to point it at the unit so you can sit on the couch or in your office and enjoy a fun game as well as watch your favorite channels.
Some of the channels like Disney are more for advertising purposes and only include clips of current shows and trailers for Disney films but other channels like CNBC and MSNBC give you full time news and news related content. The main channels for movies and shows are well worth it if all you want is the shows and films available on them but you can get some extra content from cable providers and shows on cable.
If you have cable TV from select providers you can get some of their content on the Roku but you should check to make sure you can get them if that is your main reason for getting a Roku. The Roku makes an easy to set up and use streaming player and you can even find a private channel to stream content from a computer pretty easily but the main use is for content like Netflix, Hulu Plus and Amazon Instant Video.
I highly recommend the Roku 2 XS for an easy to setup and use streaming player that plays content from Netflix, Hulu and Amazon to name a few without having to buy cable TV or using a computer.