Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Amazon Creates a Netflix Competitor

One of the great benefits of Roku is the amount of streaming content that is available, mainly from Netflix. Now Amazon has decided to enter the streaming content fray with their own unlimited streaming content service.

Today, I logged onto Amazon to find this greeting:

As soon as I got off work, I turned on the TV to check out this service on the Roku.

Scrolling through the movies on Amazon, I found that there were a few scattered movies that showed a free price tag from Amazon Prime users. (I'm a Prime member)

At this point, the upside is that I spotted a few titles that were not yet on Netflix. However, there doesn't seem to be any discernable way to easily find the free movies. The "prime" movies were scattered about without any order. Finding the "prime" movies is more luck than anything else at this point.

I would imagine that Amazon would soon create a new section for the prime movies, so that those members can more easily find the free shows. I consider this the growing pains of a new service and believe that Amazon will soon organize the service.

In the meantime, this is just one more unlimited streaming content source for the Roku.

Friday, February 18, 2011

What Channels are Available on Roku

When I first suggested the idea of switching to Roku, my wife didn't think we would have anything to watch.  I originally sold her on the idea by showing her the savings we would get by switching.

Since we got the Roku, we've been watching more TV than ever.  It's actually pretty amazing the amount of content that is available on the Roku.

In a future post I will go over my personal experiences with the Roku as well as my favorite channels, movies and shows that I've discovered through my Roku.

For now, here are a couple of videos to give you an idea of the amount of content that's available:

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

How Does Roku Work

So the Roku may sound like this really technical concept, but it's actually a really simple device.  If you are wondering how all of this works, just read on.

Chances are, if you are reading this, you have access to the internet at home.  What the Roku does is it connects to it's channels over your existing internet connection and displays the content on your TV.

So, for example, if you have a Netflix account.  The Roku would connect to your account and just show your movies or TV shows from Netflix on your TV.  But don't think you are only limited to content from Netflx.  Roku has a number of channels that it shows, including Amazon videos, Hulu Plus, NBA TV, NHL TV, You Tube and much more.

All of this content it gets over the internet instead of using Satelite or Cable.

Of course, the best way to get a sense of how a television device works is to check it out in a video.

Here is a video overview of the roku player:

Learn more about Roku at Amazon.com

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Why I Chose to Switch to Roku

Swithing over to Roku was not as difficult a decision as one might believe.  For me it was mainly an economic decision.  But also, I felt that I wouldn't miss live TV so much, especially if I had some other way to get movies and tv shows.  I already had a Netflix subscription and was very happy with their selection of movies.  At that point I looked at the math.

Here's the math:

I was spending roughly $40 a month on a very basic subscription through dish network.  This works out to about $480 a year.  Of course, these expenses only rise over time.

However, if I cancelled that and got a device that could just steam my TV content over the internet, I would save on these subscription costs.

Any device I chose would have just a one time flat fee.  I could get a Roku device for as cheap as $59.95 and then not have to spend any more in a costly dish or cable subscription.  (My Netflix subscription is about $10 a month)

Overall this made economic sense to me.  I would be saving money by making this switch.

What other Devices did I look at?

Before I picked the Roku, I did take a look at the various devices on the market that stream content from the internet.  Universally, all of these devices had the ability to stream Netflix.  Many of these devices also had other features.

Here's a few of those devices:

Playstation 3

If you also enjoy playing games.  The Playstation 3 is a great device to also use as a media console. 

These are some of the features of a PS3

  • Capability to also play blue ray
  • HDMI outputs
  • High Definition Gaming with smooth graphics
  • Built in wireless
  • Built in optical audio connection
  • Wireless bluetooth connection with headsets and controllers
  • Watch online netflix shows

XBOX 360

Of course, this is the PS3 competitor.  The Xbox 360 also doubles as a great media console.  If you want to play games as well as get internet streaming content then this is also an excellent choice.  When it comes down to it, the choice between the PS3 and Xbox 360 is just a matter of personal preference.  Chose the device that has the games that you enjoy.

Here are a few features of the Xbox 360:

  • Large selection of games.  This system is more popular than the PS3, so there is a wider selection of games
  • Games are downloadable
  • Doubles as a complete Media Center extender.  That means that you can stream more content from your PC to your tv through the Xbox Media Center
  • Greater variety of Online games.  You can play games online with your friends.
  • Xbox Kinect.  New motion sensor technology that allows you to play games with your movements

Boxee Box

I had been looking forward to the Boxee Box for some time.  This was partly due to the fact that I had been using the boxee software on my computer and enjoyed the incredible variety of content that was available.  In the end, I felt that the Roku box was a better bargain, since the Boxee Box costed $199.  However, it does appear to have more available content and depending on the type of shows that you like to watch, may also be a good choice.

Here are a few of the features of the Boxee Box:

  • Large selection of content from all over the internet
  • HDMI outputs
  • Optical Digital Audio
  • Ethernet and built in wireless
  • Remote comes with a built in qwerty keyboard.  (This can be a pro or con depending onyour preference)
  • Plays stored media
  • Initially did not have Netflix support, but this has since been added.

Apple TV

The Apple TV has been around for a few years and Apple recently released a refresh of the device.  As with all Apple products, it's a device with a very sleek design.  It comes in with a price tag that's competitive with the Roku at $99.99.  Overall, this is also a good choice for a streaming content device.

Here are some of the features of the Apple TV:

  • Small, sleek design
  • Large selection of HD Movies and TV Shows available for rent
  • Netflix support
  • Plays YouTube videos
  • Watch HD podcasts, and listen to Internet Radio
  • Access to Flickr photos and MobileMe galleries
  • Stream content from you computer
  • Wireless N streaming
  • Simple setup with single HDMI cable for both audio and video

Why Did I Pick Roku?

With all these choices, there's really no wrong answer.  Depending on your tastes and your hobbies, any one of these devices would make a great replacement for your standard TV subscription services. 

Although I enjoy the occassional video game, I didn't play enough games to justify the upgraded price tag of the gaming machines.  (I was tempted though) 

Then the choice came down to a decision between the boxee box, apple tv and the Roku.  The reality is that I could have picked any of these three and been happy with the choice.

I was able to eliminate the boxee box as it was $100 more than the other two devices and I didn't know that it would get Netflix support at the time.  Also, I have a computer hooked up to another TV, so I was basically getting boxee content already on another tv, so I didn't need to spend the extra cash just to get Boxee to another television.

That left the choice between Apple TV and Roku.  After looking at the channel choices that Roku had available. 

I decided to go with the Roku and the rest is history!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Roku Overview

Recently, I began to look into alternatives to satellite and cable television.  My main interest was looking for a way to save money, but at the same time still be able to get good programming.

With the rise of the availability of great content over the internet, I knew this was very feasible.  I already had a netflix subscription and had been watching their instant movies on my computer.

So, I bit the bullet and took the plunge.  Last month I bought a little box called a roku and cancelled my television subscriptions.  This small change saved me almost $80 a month.

This is my journey with the roku.

What is the Roku?

The Roku is a small box that connects to a television that streams you content to the tv over the internet.

What does this mean in plain English?  This device takes Netflix (and other content) from the internet and puts it on my TV.

The Roku devices have a price range between $59.99 and 99.99.  I ended up chosing the higher end XDS model which is supposed to have the best wi-fi range.

Here are a few of the features of the Roku XDS Device:

  • Works with virtually any TV
  • Plays HD Video at 720p
  • Built in wireless and wired connectors
  • HDMI video output for HDTVs
  • Enhanced remote with Instant Replay
  • Extended range Wireless N
  • Dual Band wireless technology
  • Component video and optical audio output
  • USB port for playing photos, music and videos

Of course, for me one of the best features is the overall savings of switching from my standard satellite subscription to using the Roku box for my television needs.

You can read more about the technical specs and reviews at the Roku's amazon page here.