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View Full Version : Roku questions for a newbie and potential customer


dtcarson
02-26-12, 05:56 PM
For some reason I'm again considering a Roku box. The LT is back in stock for 50, and the 2 higher models are on sale 10 bucks off and free shipping till tomorrow.
Haven't taken the plunge yet, I don't know if it's something I "need".
* I don't have any cable or satellite.
* I do have a non-HD antenna so I can get like 10 channels from that.
* I don't follow any new programs, and I'm totally fine with waiting a couple months for movies.
* My DVD and video game backlog is pretty big.
* I have an Xbox with Gold and Netflix streaming (which I can also use the Wii for). So I'm not interested in it just for Netflix.

That said:
* I have a 1080i TV; the Rokus do 480p, 720p, and 1080p. What is the impact of those two statements. Can I even watch "HD" since the specs don't match? Would I be fine with the LT? I don't care about Angry Birds, I don't need a memory slot, I don't stream my own content.
* Is there a lot of HD content, and is it visibly better looking than the SD?
* I know Hulu Plus and Netflix are monthly fees; Amazon Video is either pay as you go on-demand, or, free content with Amazon Prime. Is Amazon Prime video the same content as the paid Amazon Video, or are they two different libraries?
* Apart from those channels, what is the approximate ratio of free/paid content? If I am going to be paying 2-10 dollars a month each for another 10 channels, I'll just get cable again (hint: neither of those scenarios will be occurring.) I know some channels require you to have the cable version as well (which seems silly to me), so those are out.
* Is the free content actually worth watching, or is it random Youtube video type stuff? Apart from a few of the big names I've already mentioned, a lot of it seems like streamcast-quality, 'live from my garage' extremely niche channels, based on my initial brief browsing. That impression might be incorrect.
* Are the channels like classic TV channels, that is, it's now 630, so let's see what's being broadcast; or is it on-demand- once I pick a channel, now I can browse the content and watch something I choose?
* What is the difference between free, public, and private channels?
* What is the outlook for the Roku as a whole, future hardware, pricing, or content (either gaining or losing channels)?
* I know the major competitors are Boxee, AppleTV, and certain app-ified BD players. I'm not beholden to Apple, and I think I heard Boxee doesn't have quite the selection Roku does, and of course it can be the cheapest. Is Roku the best of those options, or are there other/better alternatives?
* Also, my TV is only DVI. I do have an HDMI cable and HDMI to DVI adapter, so I could use that for HD, but obviously that won't transmit audio. Does the Roku use both outputs at the same time, that is, can I use HDMI to DVI for HD video, and use the red/yellow/white for audio?

Any other comments, pro or con, regarding Roku, for a brandnewbie?

I'm thinking about getting the LT, because as long as there's enough free content, it's only 50 bucks. Then I think do I need the HD version. And of course it's still 50 bucks (or more), and it's not like I'm short of stuff to use my TV for.

Thanks in advance.

JimRochester
02-26-12, 06:12 PM
Your 1080i TV can do "up to" 1080i. You'll run 720p

TheBigDave
02-26-12, 08:24 PM
I own both a Roku 2XS ($100) and a Roku LT ($50). So I'll try to answer your questions best as I can.

* I have a 1080i TV; the Rokus do 480p, 720p, and 1080p. What is the impact of those two statements. Can I even watch "HD" since the specs don't match? Would I be fine with the LT? I don't care about Angry Birds, I don't need a memory slot, I don't stream my own content.

I was using the Roku 2XS on a 1080i TV. You'll need to set the Roku to 720p. That's HD and it looks good. I think most HD content streams at 720p anyways.

The 3 drawbacks of the LT over the 2XS are no ethernet port, no USB port and no 1080p. Since your TV doesn't handle 1080p, that's no problem. The USB port is good if you want to play videos off an external hard drive. But the video formats are limited (See Here (http://support.roku.com/entries/423946-what-media-file-types-does-the-roku-usb-media-player-channel-support)). The ethernet port is good if you want a wired connection or have a weak wireless signal. If these 3 features aren't important to you, then I'd go with the Roku LT.

* Is there a lot of HD content, and is it visibly better looking than the SD?

The paid services (Netflix, Hulu, Amazon) all have a lot of HD content. Video quality varies a lot. It can look really good. A good HD stream can look better than DVD. But it never reaches full blu-ray quality.

* I know Hulu Plus and Netflix are monthly fees; Amazon Video is either pay as you go on-demand, or, free content with Amazon Prime. Is Amazon Prime video the same content as the paid Amazon Video, or are they two different libraries?

Amazon Prime is a fairly limited library. Maybe 10% of their total VOD catalog. There's a lot of stuff to watch, but it's not as good as Netflix. You won't find any new movies and TV series are at least 1-2 seasons old. Although, it's gotten much better in the past couple months. You can check out the selection here:

http://www.amazon.com/b/ref=sa_menu_aiv_piv_t10?ie=UTF8&node=2676882011

Amazon's pay-per-video service is the entire catalog. New release movies and current TV episodes. Movies usually run $4 (SD) and $5 (HD). TV episodes are $2 (SD) and $3 (HD). There's a $1 Daily Deal movie and the selection is pretty good. In my experience, their SD quality is comparable to DVD. And their HD is pretty solid.

Between the Free 2-Day Shipping and Free Streaming library, Prime is an awesome deal at $80 per year. If you can take advantage of the free shipping, consider the free streaming as a nice bonus.

* Apart from those channels, what is the approximate ratio of free/paid content? If I am going to be paying 2-10 dollars a month each for another 10 channels, I'll just get cable again (hint: neither of those scenarios will be occurring.) I know some channels require you to have the cable version as well (which seems silly to me), so those are out.

The premium content (good movies/TV without commercials) requires a subscription (Netflix, Hulu, Amazon) or you must be a cable customer (HBOGo, Epix). There are a couple channels (Crackle, Popcorn Flix) that have free movies with commercials. There are a couple channels that offer a limited free library and you can upgrade to the full paid service.

You don't have to subscribe to 10 channels. But without a premium channel, you probably won't be happy. I'd plan on subscribing to at least one paid service (around $7-$8 per month). Either of the big 3 will give you enough stuff to watch.

* Is the free content actually worth watching, or is it random Youtube video type stuff? Apart from a few of the big names I've already mentioned, a lot of it seems like streamcast-quality, 'live from my garage' extremely niche channels, based on my initial brief browsing. That impression might be incorrect.

There's a lot of good free stuff. But most of it is niche stuff. So you have to be interested in that particular niche. But in general it's not "live on my webcam", it's usually well produced content.

I love Crunchyroll (http://www.crunchyroll.com/). It streams Anime and Asian TV shows. I bought the Roku just to watch Crunchyroll.

I also see tons of stuff from independent filmmakers. Full length and short films. But I haven't looked into that too much.

There's a lot of political, religious and international channels. Some free and some paid.

There's also a lot of cool Tech stuff that's free. I don't know if you ever watch the old TechTV channel on cable. But most of those guys have their own Roku channels. Leo LaPorte has TWiT.tv (http://www.twit.tv) and the other guys are on Revision3 (http://revision3.com/).

And there's a bunch of public domain movie channels. The same titles you'll find in those 50 movies for $10 DVD sets. Video quality is about the same. The free channels usually have commercials. There's a couple paid channels which might have a better selection or no commercials.

* Are the channels like classic TV channels, that is, it's now 630, so let's see what's being broadcast; or is it on-demand- once I pick a channel, now I can browse the content and watch something I choose?

It's on demand. Selection the channel and scroll through all the videos. Click on the one you want and it starts streaming.

* What is the difference between free, public, and private channels?

Free would mean there's no subscription or one-time payment.

Public would mean official channels that are accepted by Roku and can be found in the Roku Channels store.

Private are unofficial channels that haven't been approved. Roku provides free developer tools so anyone can make a channel. All the porn is on private channels. Roku hosts the private channels, but doesn't officially support them. To add a private channel, just go to your account on the Roku site and enter the channel code. The next time your Roku updates, the channel will be uploaded to your box.

* What is the outlook for the Roku as a whole, future hardware, pricing, or content (either gaining or losing channels)?

Streaming is becoming more and more popular, so I think Roku will only get better. They usually add a handful of new channels every week.

* I know the major competitors are Boxee, AppleTV, and certain app-ified BD players. I'm not beholden to Apple, and I think I heard Boxee doesn't have quite the selection Roku does, and of course it can be the cheapest. Is Roku the best of those options, or are there other/better alternatives?

I can't comment on the Boxee, but I have an AppleTV. The ATV is excellent for streaming content from my PC, and it integrates well with the iPad. But as a standalone device, it has much less selection than the Roku.

* Also, my TV is only DVI. I do have an HDMI cable and HDMI to DVI adapter, so I could use that for HD, but obviously that won't transmit audio. Does the Roku use both outputs at the same time, that is, can I use HDMI to DVI for HD video, and use the red/yellow/white for audio?

Sorry, can't help with that. Try the Roku Forum:

http://forums.roku.com/viewforum.php?f=28

Any other comments, pro or con, regarding Roku, for a brandnewbie?

I'm thinking about getting the LT, because as long as there's enough free content, it's only 50 bucks. Then I think do I need the HD version. And of course it's still 50 bucks (or more), and it's not like I'm short of stuff to use my TV for.

Make sure you have a good wireless signal. If you can run an ethernet cable, consider the Roku 2XS. Then you won't have to worry about dropping the signal and it's 1080p for when you upgrade your TV.

You should also know that Roku requires you to register an account with a credit card. You won't be able to use the Roku without an account. Some people pitch a fit over this. It was no big deal for me.

Also, Roku doesn't have an official Youtube channel. There are some private channels like Playon that stream Youtube. Personally, I use my AppleTV for Youtube stuff. But if Youtube is a major factor in your decision, take that into account.

Roku is one of the best toys I've bought in a long time. Loved it so much I bought a 2nd one for my other TV.

TheBigDave
02-26-12, 08:50 PM
We're discussing adding a Streaming Forum to DVD Talk. So if you have any opinions or input, please post your thoughts:

http://forum.dvdtalk.com/forum-feedback-support/599280-how-about-streaming-forum.html

TheBigDave
02-27-12, 02:35 AM
I was looking back at your original post and noticed that you have Xbox Live Gold. You already have access to Netflix, Hulu and a VOD service. That's the main draw for most people. So I don't know how much you'll really benefit from adding a Roku.

I was in the same situation. I had a PS3 and 360 for Netflix/Hulu streaming. But since I was already paying for Prime, I wanted something that could stream Amazon. And I'm an anime fan, so I wanted to watch Crunchyroll on my TV. Those two features made it worthwhile for me.

You should check out the Roku channels and see if there's anything that appeals to you. If you're not an Amazon Prime subscriber, and you're not into the niche channels, there might not be much value in adding a Roku to your set-up.

http://www.rokuguide.com/
http://www.rokuguide.com/articles/essential-roku-channels-new-roku-user
http://blog.roku.com/