In short, the Roku is a streaming entertainment device for your TV. With a Roku box you can instantly stream tons of programming over the internet right to your TV – watch movies and TV shows from Netflix and Hulu Plus or Amazon Instant Video, listen to music through Pandora or even catch the ballgame through NBA League Pass or MLB.tv.
Content on the Roku comes in the form of “channels.” Each separate channel supports content from a different partner. These channels come in both free and pay form. Some of the most popular free channels are Pandora, Revision3 and Roku Newscaster which connects the free podcasts from CBS, CNN, FOX, ESPN and more into one neat little channel. Premium pay channels include Hulu Plus, Netflix, MLB.tv along with a few others.
There are currently three versions of the Roku player – HD, XD, XD|S. The main distinguishing factors among the three models are the quality of the picture (all get high-definition, but the HD only receives 720p, while the other versions are capable of 1080p), the speed of their wireless connection and the addition of a USB port on the XD|S. Models range in price from $60 – $100, require no extra computer to work and incur no additional monthly bills outside of your existing subscriptions (like Netflix, Hulu Plus or MLB.tv). In my experience, you can get a Roku up and running in about 10-15 minutes – you simply plug it in, add it to your home network and you’re ready to roll.
I have a Roku XD and I really like it. It’s small, light weight and takes up very little space. It simply just works. The only draw back for me is the integration with iTunes. I haven’t been able to figure out how to stream my library to my Roku (if you have an answer, let me know in the comments below). Depending on the programming you watch, the Roku could be a great setup for your living room, bedroom or kids room. They’re cheap and powerful.
You can find Roku at retailers like Best Buy and Radioshack or numerous places online. They come with a 30-day money back guarantee.