The Roku streaming player has been around for a few years—most people think of it as a Netflix streaming player and it is great for that, but it has so much more. We’ll focus on the XDS model, content/channels and ways to connect. Check out all models here.
Netflix really popularized the box and made it an easy choice for most consumers. We just got our Roku box a week before Amazon announced they would start streaming movies, videos and TV shows to customers who are signed up for their Prime service. Amazon Prime is a $80/year fee customers pay to receive 1-day shipping on everything ordered. This is a great deal and is icing on the cake for those already using Prime. Of course, you can pay individual fees and watch content from Amazon, but it really makes sense to buy the Prime membership and have the fast shipping AND the streaming.
Hulu Plus was added last fall, which is an $8/month service. If you have the regular Hulu account, it won’t do you any good on the Roku box. I’m going to pass this by as I can get the TV shows I want on my computer, or I can hook up my laptop to the TV if I want the big screen experience. Even with the Hulu Plus membership, people have complained they are subjected to ads – tacky.
Pandora, Facebook and CNET are some names most will recognize that are part of the Roku experience. The Facebook channel gives access to your uploaded photos plus friends photos and albums too. They are categorized by album and there’s a bit of hesitation scrolling through the photos while it pulls each up, but it is pretty cool. If there is more than one of you in the house having a Facebook account, I’m not sure how that’s handled, i.e. having more than one Facebook channel on the Roku.
There are always more channels being added, check here for the most current list. It’s a bit of a hassle to set up some of the channels because you’ll need to go online and get codes from the various providers. For example, I had to go to roku.com/facebook to get the Facebook code. Then you take the code and enter it into the Roku using the provided remote. It does get tiresome after awhile, but do it once and it’s done.
There are many different ways to connect . Roku was the top choice for us as we still have one standard def TV and that’s the TV I wanted to stream from. The Roku connects to standard def TVs with RCA cables. (Cables are not provided). HDMI and Component connections are available for HD TVs.
The Roku XDS box has a USB port which is great if you have content on a USB stick. There is a USB channel that needs to be installed first. It supports FAT16, FAT32, NTFS and HFS+ drive formats. This is a handy feature.
The Roku XDS model is wireless, a feature most of us need to utilize. Our wireless router has great range, and we’ve enjoyed smooth video streaming for about two weeks now, except for one instance. There’s also an ethernet port if you want to choose wired.
The remote is easy to use, not an overwhelming number of buttons and it’s pretty intuitive to figure them out. The box came with a multi-folded 5 x 7” card with great pictures and easy installation instructions. If you haven’t set up wireless gadget before, or aren’t a bit geeky, you could need a little help with initial setup. After your channels are added, it’s pretty easy to maintain and navigate.
I’m very pleased with our Roku box. The flexibility, great content and ease of use have made it the right choice for us.