January 31st, 2009

roku review

I bought a Roku digital video player about a month ago and I like it.

For the first week I had it, the quality was horrible. It would hitch and the "Loading..." screen would pop up as it would switch back and forth from high to low quality. It was literally unwatchable. I tried moving my wireless router around for a better signal and other stuff like that, but it didn't help. I was on the verge of sending it back for a refund.

Out of the blue, RoadRunner made some kind of network change that fixed everything. (I could tell it was RoadRunner because I monitor my home connection with smokeping.) Video playback is flawless and always high-quality.

While I'm glad it works, I'm a little bummed that my roku experience is completely in RoadRunner's hands; if they tweak their network again, there's nothing I can do to fix it.

Pros:

  • Simple, easy software & remote control interface
  • Tiny, easy-to-configure box
  • Video quality is good, better than digital cable in most cases (I have a plain old tv, not a HDTV set)
  • Decent selection of movies & TV shows
  • Will support Amazon video sooner or later

Cons:

  • Limited selection of movies & TV shows; it's more like browsing an old-school video store than like Netflix's everything-under-the-sun DVD selection, with the additional restriction that the most popular new releases aren't generally on there
  • Can't manage watch-it-now queue from TV interface
  • Can't have separate queues (e.g. for kids stuff and non-kid stuff)

I think it'll keep getting better.