Sep 29 2009

Review of Roku Netflix Player

I knew that Netflix offered an instant-watch program, but we’d used that only once, when we were sick in a motel room and four kids and one dad crowded around a laptop to watch a few movies. We just haven’t entered the world of watch-tv-on-your-computer yet.

I finally logged on to Netflix with the intention of canceling the account; $8.95 a month isn’t a bad price, but if it’s not being used, it’s money wasted. I started poking around the site, thinking there had to be a way that we could use the account more. The “watch instantly” program seemed like the key, so we could sit down when we finally got a free evening, and watch what suited our fancy at that time. Still, watching on a computer just wasn’t going to work.

While looking at options on Netflix, I came across the Roku Netflix Player, which connects to a wired or wireless network and plays instant movies from your queue. At $100 with no monthly fee, it sounded like something to try. If it worked, it would allow us to make better use of our Netflix account; if it didn’t, we’d take advantage of the 30-day return policy and send it back. My biggest concern was that we wouldn’t get a good signal; a computer near the TV requires an extra antenna to receive a decent wireless Internet signal.

The box arrived, and I was surprised at how small it was–about the size of three DVD cases stacked on top of each other. It was easy to hook up to the TV, and simple to set up via its small remote. The biggest dilemma was choosing which type of connection I wanted to use, as it supports HDMI, S-video, component video, and more.

In order to watch a movie, you have to first create a film queue on Netflix using a computer. The player simply pulls up this queue, and you can cycle through the movies and choose the one you want. Netflix remembers how much you’ve watched, so you can pick up where you left off using the Roku player or another computer.

Buffering takes only a few seconds to start the movie, and rarely it will take a few seconds midstream to buffer again. We are on a very basic DSL connection and the box sits on top of the computer that requires the antenna for signal strength. There is no place to connect an antenna to the Roku box, but we haven’t needed it. Our movie quality and speed have been fine from the little box, even though our wireless router is several rooms away.

If I’m working on my computer while the kids are watching a movie, I notice a definite slowdown in my Internet speed, but using the Internet doesn’t seem to affect playback quality.

The remote is simple to use; my kids are already pros at finding movies they want to watch. There are currently about 12,000 Netflix movies available to watch instantly; they range from new movies to older releases to TV shows. In addition, the functionality has recently been added to view rental movies from Amazon.com Video on Demand, so if we can’t find what we want on Netflix, we can pay a few dollars to watch something from that route. The software update was done automatically when that function was added, and it’s now just another option on our menu.

We’ve had the Roku player for about a month, and already we’ve made better use of our Netflix membership than we did in the previous year. The Roku Netflix Player isn’t big or fancy, but it does its job, and it does it well.

Update:  Roku has since added Amazon videos on demand.  For a rental fee, usually $3-$5, we can now watch new-release movies on the Roku.  Hi-def rentals look great on our HDTV using our DSL connection.  We use the Roku player frequently.

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Published by at 3:44 pm under Product Reviews
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3 comments so far

3 Comments to “Review of Roku Netflix Player”

  1. [...] Article has been moved to Travels with Children. [...]

  2. mosac on 06 Dec 2009 at 1:38 pm

    My Older computer is No where near my TV, Thats the problem.

    So, I can’t use it?

  3. minnemom on 07 Dec 2009 at 7:04 am

    The Roku player is not connected to your computer, so your computer’s location doesn’t matter. You just need a wireless Internet connection that will have signal at your television.

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