Roku, Is It The Answer To High Cable Costs?

REVIEWS | | November 7, 2011 at 11:29 am

I am extremely suspicious of new devices, and I know that statement sounds weird coming from an engineer. Truth is I am not wary about the functionality of the gadget but rather the (rolling) cost of it. Unlike people who actually look at the actual price of the produce when they grocery stop, I look at the price per pound. That is essentially how you know whether it really is a good deal or not. Similarly for devices etc we look at the total cost (now and ongoing) so when I was pitched about Roku, I did some Googling and found out this product has no monthly cost. This made the fear-of-commitment-me jump for joy (seriously a wonder I am married) so I said yes.

So while we have cable, only because of that “bundling” nonsense – we do only because we are avid internet people and need the fastest speed to get through the day, we are keen to explore other options. Having said that I am very happy to explore Roku, which does not tie me to any company. So while you can search Roku on the web to find out so much more about this device, here is just my take. Roku basically is a small device that connects to the internet, this can be wired or wireless, and connects to your tv. It uses the older style audio/visual type connections or the newer HDMI type too.

Assuming setup would be a pain, yes even us engineers find many setups not intuitive I handed it to my hubby. He set it up in less than 5 minutes – no kidding!  Off the bat there is a quick software update it does – and may do this periodically throughout its life – but if you EVER owned a laptop or PC this would be familiar to you (but way shorter for Roku). Of course having a new device you wonder if you can do anything with it right away. Granted Roku has loads of apps that may take some browsing and it is tough to figure out the “subscription” based ones but Roku is just the window to those services – as in they provide an app for you to use that service.

Angry Birds is just a reason on its own to get it. I need to back track, I seem to have forgotten to tell you it comes with a remote control. While I stared at the remote wondering why we only had so few keys, the simplistic view was an attractive feature for my “minimalist” style hubby. Similar to the Wii, the remote control has a strap on it and I simply LOVE how it works with Angry Birds etc. We actually subscribed to Netflix to get more out of it, even though you can get access to free movies on Crackle etc. Subscribing to new channels, like Netflix is a cinch as it gives you on-screen instructions for the quickie URL to go to. I love that I can set up preferences online with NetFlix and have it appear on the app on Roku.

Pandora is another winner for me. I love Pandora because I can get to listen to more varied music than the regular channels. I grew up listening to Bollywood and European music so I am glad to have that need filled as I think I was trying to fulfill that need from the iPad previously. Yes, it takes a little longer when you type in stuff on screen since you have to point to the letters on screen and click, rather than just on the remote but that is done so seldom, especially for setup or search, that I don’t find it as bothersome to annoy me. I still have not explored the plethora of apps, though my kids love the Disney Music one, so it will be fun exploring. I was also provided a trial code for Hulu which I will sheepishly admit to not exploring to the hilt.

I would be amiss if I did not mention my favorite part of Roku: its portability. That’s right, that little device stores all my stuff and I can just schlep that to anyplace including hotels. I did this on my recent trip to DC, where I spoke at the Blogalicious conference, but made the mistake of not taking the HDMI cable along. I wish I could access YouTube videos but I could see how the sheer volume might make that a challenge. Wonder if they can create an app that has samples out similar to what they do for the NetFlix app? If you have HBO already etc, you can still access extra shows. So many features but this post has gone on long enough so check out their website for more information. Pricing for Roku starts from $59.99 to $99.99 for the Roku 2 XS – which is what we had.

Disclosure: We were provided with the Roku 2 XS and a month trial of Hulu to conduct this review.

1 Comment

  1. 1
    Jessica says:

    We are Roku fans, too. We use it for Netflix, Pandora, etc. It’s a cheap unit and we’ve taken it with us on vacations before. It’s very simple to work, which is good since I have to teach it to babysitters and such.

    I used it to watch the US Open this year. It was great!

    No more cable for us!

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