Many thanks to Lee for his question about Roku, posted under the blog titled Back It Up!:
“A running buddy recently told me his favorite electronic device is a Roku. I looked it up, but don’t really understand why I need it or how it would add value to me. Are you familiar with it? Could you explain what it does? Thx.
p.s. I travel a lot. Would it do anything for me on that angle?”
I appreciate questions from readers, though sometimes the subject is involved and deserves a blog post of its own, as opposed to my responding in Comments. Lee’s question falls into that category.
Roku is an amazing, inexpensive device that can definitely enhance your television viewing choices. People these days are using alternative methods of getting programs on their television. From rabbit ear antennas to Roku, there are many devices you can connect to your tv to watch a variety of shows (“content”). No longer do you have to watch tv shows when they are aired. You can record them and watch them later or, even easier, let an online delivery service bring shows to your tv, though for a fee.
Rabbit ears deliver content, now in HD (high definition), to your tv for free but the content is limited to what is being aired by the local networks. If you want choices, well, great, you have more now than ever before. That can be very enticing and/or overwhelming.
So I will just cover Roku now, because that is what Lee asked about and because there are so many choices I don’t want to overwhelm you with too many choices. Tune in later for blog posts about other ways to get content on your tv.
Roku started off as a way to get Netflix onto your tv. Netflix used to be a subscription service that delivered dvd’s to your mailbox. Netflix still mails out dvd’s to its subscribers, but you can also stream movies and tv shows right to your tv if you have a Netflix subscription. No more waiting for dvd’s for many shows. The combination of Netflix and Roku was a huge advance in technology. For the first time in history, you could be a satisfied couch potato by streaming your choice of tens of thousands of movies and tv shows in one sitting, without moving off the couch or paying any fees beyond your Netflix subscription fees. Very tempting.
As if that weren’t good enough, Roku expanded its offerings and continues to do so by offering other ways to deliver content to your tv. Netflix streams movies that have been out for a while, but if you want to watch a more current movie, say, The Social Network, you won’t be able to watch it by streaming on Netflix yet. You could order a dvd from Netflix to arrive in the mail in a day or so, but there will be many who want instant gratification.
“I want The Social Network and I want it now!”
No problem. Roku also streams movies from Amazon on Demand. This is a great service from Amazon that can deliver recent movies, tv shows, etc. to your Roku (or other devices, but that is another blog post). You could rent the Social Network for $3.99 for 24 hours or buy it for $14.99 and watch it whenever you wanted to. Very handy.
Roku also delivers Hulu+, another subscription service that is a rival to Netflix; Flickr for your online digital photos; Pandora Internet radio; sports channels, such as MLB, NHL and NBA; and news channels such as CNN, NBC, CBS and Al Jazeera. The addition of Al Jazeera happened this week and is particularly remarkable as Al Jazeera delivered through Roku is, as of this writing, the only way to get streaming coverage of the events in Egypt on your tv in the US.
Roku is adding channels constantly and its offerings keep expanding. You might be wondering how much it costs to buy a Roku and get such amazing content delivered to your tv. The most basic Roku model is available on their website for $59.99 and models go up to $99, with $10 off through this weekend. Roku’s website
Two things you should know. First, if you only want to stream Netflix, there are other ways to stream it, such as on your home computer, through devices such as the Wii video game player, certain dvd players, and other devices. Second, you need an Internet connection for Roku, either wireless, if the Roku is away from your router, or wired, if your tv is close to your router.
Lee also asked whether Roku would do anything for him on his travels. The answer to that depends on where you travel. If you travel within the US, you could pack your Roku in your suitcase and take it with you on your trip, hook it up to a hotel tv and connect it to your hotel Internet. That’s assuming you have the time, inclination and suitcase space. If you’re traveling outside the US, you will not be able to stream Netflix. As for the other content, I’m not sure whether that would play over Roku outside the US, but I predict you will have difficulties that would give you more frustration than satisfaction during your foreign travels.
I hope this helps you, Lee. Thanks for posting your question. If you have any other questions, let me know, either in Comments or by emailing me directly at email@example.com.
If any other of my wonderful readers has a Roku or any other comments or questions, please click on the Comments Link above.