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on October 19, 2012
I bought this Roku LT after looking at the various options - all the Roku models, Apple TV, and other streaming media boxes. I ultimately decided on the Roku LT because it was the best value, offered a wide range of channel choices, and seemed intuitive and easy to operate. It isn't perfect - the UI could be improved and it doesn't have all the content available - but it is a great starter product for anyone looking into the streaming media world and even if you don't have tech experience its a cinch to set up.

Actual product:

The Roku LT is small, light, and simple. It comes with a basic remote, though I will note that mine had the three "app buttons" for Pandora, Netflix, and Crackle - the remote in the picture didn't show that. It is purple but not bright, so you won't notice it too much after you set it up. It feels a bit cheaper in build quality terms than the Apple TV - especially the remote - but I don't think that's a significant factor and I have no worries about the Roku LT breaking.

Setup:

Very easy. Plugged it in, registered the device via my laptop, and connected to my WiFi network. You will need a Wifi network to use Roku LT, as there is no ethernet jack.

User Interface (UI):

Good, but a lot of room for improvement. It isn't difficult to figure out, but it has the feeling of a system that was designed a few years ago. Even in the stock apps there are little quirks like where the selector is placed, how the info box always pops up and blocks other movie titles, etc. Small things generally and I don't want to say that its difficult to figure out at all - on the whole, it is intuitive and clear. But if you do a side by side comparison to the Apple TV, the difference is clear - Apple made the UI a priority and the experience is excellent, whereas Roku didn't. It almost feels like a beta version. This could be updated in the future though, so I'll reword this if it changes.

Content:

Great - has Amazon Instant, Hulu+, Netflix, and more. Those mentioned are all subscription but there are plenty of free apps/channels - BBC World News, PBS, Smithsonian, NBC, etc. There are also a variety of free "private" channels that don't show up in the main store, but you can add them via your computer. Just google Roku free private channels and plenty of lists show up.

This flexibility in content was a main reason I bought the Roku LT over the Apple TV. Apple TV is locked - it determines when new apps come on, and until then you're stuck with what they give you, which is somewhat limited. For most people it probably doesn't matter, but this is a significant difference between the two products.

Comparison to other models:

Roku offers a handful of models and their naming and differentiation is somewhat confusing. The Roku LT does 720p HD (which is more than enough for most, though if you have a 40"+ TV then you might want 1080p which is supported by Roku XD or XS) though you'll have to have a HDMI cable to get true HD quality. It basically does everything the Roku HD model does - only difference is the color. If you want an ethernet port, a remote that allows you to play games, or the best HD (1080p) then you'll have to get the Roku XD or XS, but otherwise do the LT - there's no reason to pay almost double if you don't need those things.

Compared to Apple TV, its tough to say which is better. It all depends on if you're a heavy Apple user (iPhone, iPad, etc.) because if so, then the Apple TV has some pretty awesome feature (AirPlay) and your songs, videos, and everything else will sync immediately to the device. And let's face it, Apple designs better UI's! Their experience is unparalleled. But, its 2x as much as the Roku LT AND Apple limits the content so if you're not a hardcore Apple user and on a budget, Roku is the way to go.

Other companies make similar products but through my research, I couldn't find any that really offered the same simplicity, price point, and content. While there may be better products for niche groups of consumers, the Roku LT should serve almost everyone well!

Hope that you enjoyed the review - I've added a few pictures to the customer images sections and feel free to ask me any questions about the device!
review image review image
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on September 15, 2012
I don't know why some people complain about their Roku being hard to set up. Five minutes out of the box and I had Netflix and Amazon Prime running on it, which is what I mainly bought it for, and no problem whatsoever running it on Wi-Fi. I can even stream one video to my TV through the Roku while streaming another to my Kindle Fire. All video streaming apps need a fast connection, and I suspect most of the bad reviews are attributable to slow and/or poor Internet service. More Roku content would of course be nice, but as it stands it's the best fifty dollar entertainment purchase I ever made. And in the Roku Channel Store you can buy, for a one-time charge of $2.99, a Netflix browser which is far better than the one Netflix provides.
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on October 7, 2012
I purchased the Roku LT Streaming Player for my bedroom (i don`t have cable) it is truly a marvel of technology, it is so tiny and purple and fit in the palm of your hand, yet very powerful and extremely entertaining (and cute) you have your Amazon Prime, Netflix, Hulu Plus, Pandora and hundreds more of free channels to choose from. I have choosen 168 (all free channels, they do have pay channels as well) of their channels for my viewing and it will take me quite awhile to see everything. A few people complain about the remote but i love it, also the remote shown in the picture is not the one i got, the one i got has direct connect with Netflix, Hulu Plus and Pandora (for Music) and the channels change very quickly. It has a connection to your TV Set, HDMI for flat screen (HD) and RCA Jacks for analog, so you can connect to almost any tv, it uses Wi-Fi for connection to the internet (no ethernet on this model), which for me works great no slow down, no buffering and a wonderful picture with HDMI, the Roku LT only has 720p HD with an HDMI cable, they have other models which has 1080p HD. I will be getting another Roku later for the livingroom. It is very easy 123 to hook up. I don`t have any negatives about The Roku LT Streaming Player, except you do have to give credit or debit card information but it will only be used for purchase of pay channels. It is in a word "PERFECT" Who needs cable, with this little marvel. Roku LT Streaming Player Note: ordered 2nd Roku Oct 2012, got the regular remote this time, love Roku.
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on March 2, 2013
I bought one of these for my parents to use on their analog TV because I liked the one I had several years ago. Since then, Roku has started to require you to provide a credit card number in order to set up and use the box you just bought.

There's no reason for Roku to demand a credit card number unless you're purchasing a pay-channel through them. I understand their desire to facilitate impulse channel buys, but it also makes it easier to accidentally add a channel while browsing.

Providing a credit card number should be optional, not required. And Roku should state the requirement clearly on its web site and in its advertising. Roku markets the box as a one-time purchase. By requiring a credit card number Roku is deceiving and inconveniencing its customers.

Roku should take note of what happened to Best Buy, Sears, JCPenney, and other dominant companies when they used their strong market presence to try and force their customers into relationships that favored the companies' interests. All of them are circling the drain now.

Yes, I am upset about this.
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on September 30, 2012
If you have internet you must use this product. I watch what I want to watch WHEN I want to watch it. No DVR, no huge expenses, great HD visuals.

Great product that entertains and saves you money.
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on July 1, 2013
I love the 2 Roku players in my home. They are 2 to 4 years old and they work perfectly. However, the Roku LT player I bought a month ago has a problem.

The new LT player runs very hot. The heat becomes obvious about a day after installation. It does work properly but it is hot enough to be uncomfortable when holding it. I checked the my 2 older Roku players and there was no heat generated.

I have some knowledge of electronics and I would not keep this player.

When you have heat coming from an electrical product (such as a portable computer), there is a fan or cooling considerations such as spacing or venting within the device. The Roku player housing has no provision for cooling, therefore the product was designed not to generate heat (again, there is no heat generated by the two older Roku players).

Two weeks ago, I called Roku and was told that I had a defective LT player and should order another LT. Also, I was advised not to put the payer in a cabinet - which raised a red flag for me (since my other Roku players were in cabinets for years without any heat). Regardless, I ordered another LT player and it was just as hot.

The heat problem is twofold. First, heat in a closed player without any cooling provision is a serious problem and can be dangerous. Secondly, the life span of electronics under heat is shortened considerably.

Check your Roku players for heat level and disconnect them if heat is clearly evident.

Amazon is doing a review of the Roku players now.

Update 7/10/13 - returned the LT player and amazon as usual handled the return and refund quickly. Also, looked through other reviews and read about many LT players failing after a short period. I believe some of these failures may be due to the heat problem I discussed above. ROKU has a problem that needs to be addressed quickly.
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on September 25, 2012
I've had my Roku LT for a few weeks now and have enjoyed using it very much. Primarily I've been using the Amazon Instant Video, Pandora, and Crackle channels. I'm an Amazon Prime member and was looking for a device that could stream in HD since my laptop is getting older/slower for streaming purposes. The Roku LT fulfills that need. Once you connect your Amazon account to the Roku you'll have access to the full Instant Video and Prime libraries as well as your watchlist. I love having easy access to all my Prime content and being able to see what else is available to watch at the same time. Granted, the remote won't let you add content as easily as your laptop mouse would, but the interface is simple enough so that it's still fun to do so.

The setup of the actual Roku is very simple. There's no on/off switch-just plug in your HD cables, hook things up, and once your account is set you can add whatever channels you want. I also love the variety of channels and free content. I have found channels with free exercise videos, cooking tips, and of course music and tv/movies, and there are even apps for viewing Facebook photos and the weather. If I still had Netflix I would definitely be using that app a lot, too.

This is a great media alternative to those who don't have cable. Even just playing Pandora makes great use of what the device excels at, which is stream content. The Roku LT is exactly what I was hoping for in a streaming device and especially good paired with Amazon Prime Instant Videos. The setup is easy, finding content is fun thanks to the simple and clean user interface of the software, and even with free channels there is so much to keep you entertained. I would definitely recommend the Roku LT considering its cost and capabilities.
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I wanted to save money so I downgraded my Dish Network package to the cheapest and purchased 3 of these Roku LT's. Here's my take on a few things that I wasn't sure about before I ordered. (BTW, 2 of my LT's I've had for a year and the third one I just purchased recently--2 are being used on non-HDTV's and the other on a new 32" Sceptre LED HDTV Sceptre E325BV-HDH 32-Inch 720p 60Hz LED HDTV (Black). So far, the Roku is giving me MOST of what I wanted, but I'm slightly disappointed too.

Do a Google search for Roku private channels, there's a wealth of info on forums. But darn it, I wanted to watch HGTV, and it was available through private channels until the owners of HGTV forced it to be removed - same with Food Network. And this is a MAJOR disappointment for me. If I could only get HGTV I'd do away with Dish Network completely.

Pick up some spare remotes for cheap on eBay, because if you misplace the remote, you can't use it.

I knew going in my DSL speed was too slow for Roku's requirements. I have AT&T's cheapest DSL plan with download speeds up to 768 Kbps and upload speeds up to 128 Kbps. I was curious to see if it buffered as when I'm watching a YouTube video on my PC. Or if the Roku even worked at all. So here's what happened with the Roku. Watching the shorter videos my DSL speed is fine. You can see it downloading the video for a few seconds, and there's no buffering as I get when viewing a video on my computer. But my sub-standard DSL speed will not work at all with the movie channels like Crackle, I can watch the commercial before the movie, but that is it, it then goes back to the "play" screen.

BUT (surprisingly), streaming movies from Netflix with my slow DSL speed, no problems with buffering no matter what movies/TV shows I've watched - it's been great. Amazon Prime videos are a different story, buffering...so I may be upgrading my DSL speed to the next level.
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VINE VOICEon February 22, 2013
PROS:
Easy set up/Plug and Play
Simple to use/worked right out of the box
Great quality streaming with my set up
Can easily be set up to stream media to your TV using third party apps
The company encourages innovation
Incredible bang for the buck

CONS:
Not as versatile as Google TV
Linear menus
Limited remote
Cheesy games
Minimal live TV/no major networks broadcast live [UPDATE: in some areas, live, network TV is now available using Aereo]
No native YouTube app (there are easy work arounds, however)
No web browser
No on/off switch
[Some reviewers report overheating problems; I have not experienced these]

IMPORTANT UPDATE 3/7/2013: Note that Roku just released the Roku 3 ]. This replaces the Roku 2XS as the top of the line Roku device. In the past, the higher line Roku moels only offered different connectivity and a few extra bells and whistles. However, the new Roku 3 actually offers new technology with ramped up hardware and a faster new processor. This reportedly improves the user experience considerably. The Roku 3 is still twice the price of the LT reviewed here and I am still very satisfied with my bargain basement Roku LT (and I would purchase it again), but it may make sense to take the plunge and buy a Roku 3 as it apparently does offer something more than its predecessors.

QUICK OVERVIEW:
The LT is the lowest of the line, video streaming box available from Roku. But even though it is the lowest of the line it probably offers the biggest bang for the buck, offering internet video streaming to your television without requiring a computer (you will require computer access for set up, however; see below). With my equipment, everything worked perfectly out of the box. Set up was quick. I did not experience any download delays with the Roku, video quality on Amazon was smooth, and I am happy with the experience. This is a device that really does one thing well--streams media from the web. For my purposes this was perfect. It is not a high end piece of equipment for the enthusiast and doesn't come with any fancy bells and whistles, but it is a breeze to set up, nearly idiot proof, and absolutely does what it is supposed to do and does it well.

That said, this is not a small PC, does not integrate with your television experience, it doesn't really have apps (unless you count the minimalist games), and cannot surf the web. The folks at Roku have succeeded in making a simple appliance to stream video from services on the web and one that can be set up--with outside software--to stream content from your computer, but don't expect Google TV.

The major advantage for me, was in being able to get Amazon Instant Video and the DailyBurn (a subscription exercise video site; DailyBurn - Personalized Fitness Evolved) to stream on to my HDTV. The extra, free channels are interesting and do add some value here, but if I didn't have access to paid content, I don't think that there would be enough value here. There are only a few live TV options and no major networks broadcast live via the Roku.

Nevertheless, it is a great, basic streamer. The video quality from Amazon is spot on and the overall experience is great. There is amazing bang for the buck here. I am satisfied with my purchase and would buy this device again.

[UPDATE 9/16/2013: there is a paid service called Aereo TV that will stream live, basic network TV to your Roku. For some, this might allow you to 'cut the cord.]

THE LONG REVIEW (for those who like this kind of detail!)

WHATS IN THE BOX:
The box contained the Roku unit, a standard definition component video cable, power supply, a remote, and two AAA batteries for the remote. There was also a handy set up guide. The Roku LT is smaller and lighter than you might imagine. It looks like a squared off hockey puck. [Note: You need to supply your own HDMI cable.]

SET UP:
Set up was intuitive. You connect the power supply to the Roku and plug in. Connect the HDMI cable from the Roku unit to your television and you're ready to rumble. The box takes a few minutes to boot up. You pop in your WiFi password. It self updates its software and reboots. It then prompts you to input your Roku account information (I set mine up on the Roku site before starting) and you're ready to go.

The device comes with standard channels already installed. You simply navigate to the channel store to download more. When it comes to channels that require an account, like Amazon Instant Video, it prompts you with a combination of five numbers and letters on the screen. You have to navigate to the site address mentioned on the Roku screen (for Amazon it was www.amazon.com/roku), log into your account, and then you enter the code. Now the Roku is linked to your account. On the one hand, this is a quick way to link devices without having to type a lot. On the other hand, it means you have to work with both the Roku and a computer or tablet (in my case, my iPhone) to link the Roku to your accounts.

THE EXPERIENCE:
Long Linear Menus:
The basic menus for Roku are infuriatingly linear, with the channels displayed in one long line that extends beyond the edges of the TV screen. I prefer a more matrix-type approach, allowing the user to see more channel options at one time which would better take advantage of the large TV screen. You can reorder channels in the long line, but I couldn't figure out if there was a way to rearrange them into multiple rows. That said, this single row configuration must be Roku's standard. Clearly, developers can opt for multiple rows (both Amazon and the DailyBurn apps have it), but many channels do not. This is poor use of the big-screen real estate and could be improved on.

Fast Download Speed:
Amazon Instant Video and the DailyBurn channel (a web-based, subscription, workout program with high quality videos), worked like a charm. With my set up (wireless N and a cable modem), video loaded and started quickly. There was no stutter. Stopping and starting with the supplied IR remote worked well. However, there were delays in uploading video for some sites. I imagine that this has to do more with the bandwith of the provider or software compression issues, as even high definition video from Amazon and DB loaded faster than some clearly low definition channels.

The Roku Remote:
The remote is really a basic IR remote. It has a back button, a home button, a four way rocker, enter button, rewind, play/pause, fast forward, and a menu button. The rewind and fast forward functions have been a little disappointing; instead of watching the video reverse, the rewind goes back in frames/scenes and does not seem to track back smoothly like a DVD or VCR rewind. Same with fast forward. Not lethal but not ideal either. There is no volume control either. This is a bit of a bummer. The native Roku volume is generally lower than my cable box. It would be nice to have control of volume so, at very least, I could flip from HDMI 1 to HDMI2 without having to adjust the overall sound of the television. Because some Roku channels are louder than others, you can't simply adjust the native cable box volume to match the Roku. (There are third party, universal remotes that you can buy, but you'd have to make sure that they are compatible with the Roku, your television, your cable box, and any other peripherals that you have.) There is no on/off button nor is there an on/off switch on the Roku box. The only way to turn it off is to unplug it. Once again, this is not lethal; Roku goes to great lengths to tell you that the device uses only 4.5 Watts when streaming HD video, so there is likely even less power drain when not in use, but it would be nice to be able to actually shut the thing off without unplugging.

Using an iPhone as a Roku Remote:
I was able to set up my iPhone to control the box, using Roku's own app (Android also has free apps to do this). Pairing the device was trivial and it gives you more features (such as Instant Replay, where you can rewind in increments of 7 seconds), without getting an upgraded remote. It is also easier to type in searches using the iPhone keyboard, as opposed to toggling through an on-screen letter pad with the Roku remote using the four-way arrow buttons. The iPhone (and Android devices) can be set up as Roku remotes, using a variety of apps. These devices use WiFi to communicate to the Roku. There was some criticism on some websites that this was somehow too slow--that was not my experience at all. Everything was fast and snappy.

Streaming Media From Your PC:
I was able to set up Plex, a free channel on Roku. Plex is one of a number of programs that can allow you to stream video from your home computer to the Roku. You have to install Plex software on your computer. This then sets your PC up as a media server. With minimal tinkering you can get Plex to stream the media content from your computer to the Roku. Other services (such as Plex, RoConnect, Roksbox, Chaneru, PlayOn, Twonky, and Juice) can do similar things. Plex combines streaming with the ability to add other free `channels' to the Roku (and is one of the ways of getting a YouTube app for the Roku).

Free Channels/Content:
The content of the Roku's free channels is somewhat limited. I don't know that I'd be so happy with the Roku if I wasn't a Prime member and had all those instant videos to watch. Everybody has their own preferences, but my take on this is that the number of truly free channels is limited.

There are a number of free movie channels such as Crackle, Popcorn Flix, and OV Guide to name a few, but the content on these channels is limited and it's hit or miss as to whether you will find something you truly want to watch. (Note: if you haven't heard of the video channel before, it is more likely that the content will be less interesting to you.) There are a number of channels (some that require a paid subscription) that offer movies and TV shows that are now in the public domain. Once again, quality of the programming, video, and viewing experience varies radically depending on the channel/service you select.

You cannot get free Hulu natively on the Roku, only Hulu Plus which requires a paid subscription. (You can work around this by using Plex as a Hulu server, as Hulu `thinks' it is playing videos on your PC and not the Roku. But realize that the free content on Hulu is getting more and more limited as people are paying for Hulu Plus.)

If you have very small children, there seems to be a little more content, with channels such as Ameba TV

As to LIVE channels, there are a number of news channels, most of which will play already aired segments that are solidly in the can. There are some local stations that broadcast local news and weather, but these may only be interesting to you if you live in the specific area. Interstingly, CNN international allows for live Roku streaming, so if you need your live, Wolf Blitzer fix, you can get it here.

There are a number of foreign channels that come across live, with moderate to very poor video quality.

You can stream music using Pandora, radio stations using TuneIn Radio, and watch music videos using services like Vevo.

There is no native YouTube app. Why? I don't know. You can access YouTube through free programs like Plex or Rocksbox or access most videos from private channels like VideoBuzz.

PRIVATE CHANNELS:
There are `hidden' channels for the Roku that can be set up by adding the channels via the web into your web browser. They are not `official' channels, so they may not be as reliable as the official, Roku-listed channels. They can also be shut down at a moment's notice by Roku if they violate the copyright or Roku rules. Amazon doesn't allow for me to add a website link here, but if you Google `Roku private channels' or `Roku Guide' and you can find lists of private channels and their Roku codes. You can install the private channels in two ways: some of the channel lists have links that directly allow you to load the channel on to your account or you can manually add the channel. (You can manually add, by logging into your online, Roku account. You then hit the `My Account' button in the upper right hand corner. Then you look down the page to `Manage Account', the first link is for adding a private channel. That leads you to page where you can input the code.)

I like the idea of having the private channels. It allows for developers to have more flexibility with the system and allows them to fast track a channel to the device without jumping through major corporate hoops. Does it add to the Roku experience? Sure. Some channels like VideoBuzz make it easier to access popular services. Of course, this is more theoretically helpful than it actually may be. I tried some of the private channels but right now I only use VideoBuzz and BBC World News. So in practice, it hasn't really changed the experience much for me.

NO WEB BROWSER/NO CABLE INTEGRATION:
I didn't get the box to surf the web on my TV, but the clear competition for this device are the low-line Google TV boxes that cost about $99. You'll need Google TV if you want a more integrated experience with your cable or satellite provider.

CAN YOU CUT THE CABLE?
Quick Answer: Not if you want to watch live, network TV.

Simply put, there are NO major networks at this time that stream live video to the Roku (or the internet for that matter). There are web TV channels that stream live and there are some network news and sports channels from major networks that have live feed, but NO standard network feeds.

UPDATE 9/16/2013: There is a paid service called Aereo that will allow you to stream live, basic network TV to your Roku. This service has expanded to a number of cities but is not available in all areas. For some, it will allow them to 'cut the cord.' Note, however, that even though Aereo is available in my area and works (I've tried it), it is not cost effective for me to switch. There are only two major internet providers in my area for non-business consumers. They both have a 'triple play' (internet, TV, telephone) option. If I drop TV service, it only drops the price of my bill by about 10 dollars per month. And the basic cable service offered here, has more channels than Aereo provides. Aereo puts together a nice package and now has about 30 streaming channels available. On testing, the channels were a bit sluggish to load, but with a good internet connection you get a fine HD picture and they even offer DVR services. The problem for me is that in my area the price difference doesn't warrant cutting the cable. Depending costs in your area, things may be different. Of note, there is an ongoing lawsuit between major networks/cable companies and Aereo, so it is not clear what the longevity of this service will be. However, for now, it offers live TV over Roku and a viable 'cord-cutting' option for some Roku users.

Channels like HBO Go, Epix, and Showtime Preview may allow you a promo video or two, but require that you have a subscription with a cable provider to view full content. Basically, you could use the Roku to view these channels on a TV in your house that lacks a cable box, but you still need a cable/Dish subscription to view these channels

If you are a Time Warner Cable customer, you can use the TWC app to stream all of your cable channels to a second TV (using the Roku as sort of a surrogate cable box), but you still need to subscribe to cable. So you can cut the cord to kid's playroom, but you still need cable in your living room to do this... The NHL, MLB, MLS, and the NBA all have offerings for Roku. (The NFL is eerily absent from this list.) You have to be careful, though. Live options vary between offerings and there are usually blackouts for games played in the area and games on network TV that are televised locally.

Services like PlayOn TV give you access to more content, but not access to live content. PlayOn is a paid service that works like Plex. It uses a PC running Windows to act as a server (the computer has to be on for PlayOn to work), but gives you more channels, allowing you to play videos made available from ABC, CBS, NBC, Adult Swim, Spike TV, A&E, Bio, Comedy Central, Food Network, Nickelodeon, Fox, and more. So it's no surprise that most of these stations are missing from the Roku as free apps. You have to pay to play. I have not used this service, but if you are interested I'd look up reviews.

Clearly, streaming network TV over the internet is going to happen one day. However, given contracts with satellite and cable companies, official internet streaming TV isn't unlikely to happen too soon. (There are two startup companies that offer live, streaming video on line with paid subscriptions. Aereo streams live TV in New York City. There is a similar service called SkitterTV, only available in Portland, OR that actually has a private Roku app. ... And there are ongoing lawsuits from the networks and cable providers trying to shut these services down. The result of the lawsuits will determine whether this kind of thing is actually legal or not.)

What you can get are a number of free and pay-to-view options that allow you to bring the internet to your television. I got the device mostly because I am an Amazon Prime member and wanted to stream videos to my television instead of watching them on TV. I also am a member of DailyBurn--an excellent source of high quality, on-demand exercise videos and exercise program--and was tired of streaming the workouts in standard definition from my iPhone. Both these services work well and the video quality is stunning.

WHY THE LT?
The Roku box comes in four different models: the LT, HD, 2XD, and 2XS. It took me a while to decide which one to buy. This is why I chose the LT--the lowest line box in the pack. This was a good decision for me, I think, but picking `the right box' depends on your circumstances. Here's how I see it, though:

Resolution:
The first question you have to ask is about resolution: the LT and HD models only play 720p HD video and the XD and XS are capable of full 1080p video. I have a 720p HD TV, so there was no advantage in getting a 1080p capable device. But before you buy, you also have to realize that most available content (even HD content) for this device is of the 720p variety. Much HD streaming video is limited to 720p because of bandwidth. For example, if you stream Amazon Instant video you will get 720p resolution. If you buy and download the video from Amazon it will likely be in 1080p. Vudu and some Netflix videos now stream some content in full 1080p. Given the limitations of my video equipment, there was not advantage to 1080p for me. After reading a bunch of reviews regarding 1080p streaming on the Roku, many reviewers didn't seem to think that there was much of a difference between 720p and 1080p video through this device. (Keep in mind, such differences are also dependent on the quality of your video monitor, so user experiences may vary.) At any rate, streaming of 1080p video content is destined to become more popular, so if you want to stay at the edge of the curve and you have a 1080p monitor, this is a consideration. Otherwise, 720p will suffice.

Note all Rokus have HDMI out. However, the LT and HD have three composite ports for standard definition video. The XD and XS have an A/V port for standard definition out that requires a special cable that plugs into the port and splits the A/V signal into the standard yellow, white, and red cables. Both devices ship with appropriate cables for attaching the device to standard definition, component video. You have to supply your own HDMI cable.

The Remote/Gaming:
The only real difference that I could tell between the LT and HD models as far as I could tell was the extra `Instant Replay' feature. As far as I can tell, you get extra button on the remote that lets you skip back in the video by 7 seconds. I didn't want to spend $10 extra for a single button, so I opted for the LT. Moreover, you can get the Instant Replay function if you download the free Roku remote app for your android or iDevice.

The 2XD and 2XS models come with Bluetooth capabilities. Although the 2XD ships with the cheepy IR remote, it can use the 2XS's upgraded and fancy remote which contains a motion sensor. I'm not convinced that the Roku box is worth using as a gaming console, but I never tried. The games are on the level of angry birds, this is not a gaming box and I don't expect the high level gaming of the other devices out there. Either way, I wasn't all that interested

It is unclear to me whether the present Roku HD model has Bluetooth capability--given that it is called `Roku HD', is not called the `Roku 2 HD' anymore, and now has a purple bottom, I think they took the Bluetooth away, but you'd have to confirm this with the company. The Roku 2 XD and 2 XS models both have Bluetooth. This makes them both compatible with the gaming remote.

Memory Card:
Only the 2XD and 2XS models sport microSD memory card slots. This apparently allows you to add more games to the system, as the internal memory of device is limited. As I was not interested in games, not having the slot didn't matter to me.

An Ethernet Connector:
The only Roku box with a direct Ethernet connector is the 2XS. All others sport only wireless b/g/n access. The Ethernet port would be important if you have a slow or unreliable wireless network.

USB Connector:
Only the top-of-the-line 2XS has a USB connector. You can upload videos and pictures to USB and view them this way on the Roku. As you can stream such content to your Roku in other ways, I didn't feel that I needed USB access.

The Technology:
None of these boxes has high-line, cutting edge, next generation technology, so upgrading to the 2XS will not get you a Roku that works at a higher speed or offers more features (e.g. 3D TV) in the future.

Why Not Google TV or Boxee?:
Google TV is interesting because it offers a wider range of apps, a computer-type experience on your TV, web browsing, streaming, and even integration with your cable provider for easier use of content. I wasn't interested in all these features and in reading reviews I wasn't impressed that any of the Google TVs in the low end range (around $99) delivered the goods without being glitchy.

I just wanted something that was simple, inexpensive, and plug-and-play. However, if you like to tinker with things or you have higher aspirations for their living room television, Google TV would likely be a better option. So those who want to turn the boob-tube into a smart-tube and have the hacking chops to do it will likely be happier with GTV. Vizio, Netgear, and HiSense all have offerings in the around $99 range. Reviews and experiences seem to vary greatly.

As to Boxee, the latest Boxee $99 box does offer an intriguing package, but they don't yet have an Amazon Instant Video option. Boxee, assuming the latest box delivers, will offer Roku functionality with the possibility of integrating (and at least for now, unlimited recording/DVR of) live TV obtained over the air. Sadly, I now live in an area that really has lousy over-the-air reception. About the only thing that comes over the airwaves with an indoor antenna is local PBS, and even that is iffy. Boxee can also apparently integrate with unencrypted channels coming through your cable or satellite box. Additionally, Boxee doesn't yet have an Amazon Instant Video app, the real reason I wanted a streaming device in the first place.

CONCLUSION:
If you want a simple device to stream video from the internet or from your computer to your television, Roku is a great way to go. It is a simple, single function, plug-and-play device that really delivers what it was designed to do. This is not a sophisticated computer nor does it try to be one. There is some value in the free content that is available via the Roku, but such content is truly limited. For me, the real value is being able to stream content from paid services (for me, Amazon Prime) and streaming media from my computer to the big screen.

I wish that I could cut the cable, but given that there is no access to live, major network TV on device (or any such device, really) that isn't possible for me. [UPDATE: as above, Aereo can provide live TV via Roku for people in certain metropolitan areas. Whether this option is cost effective depends on the overall cost of bundled services that you receive through your internet provider.]

For a low-cost, simple device, the Roku packs a punch and really gives you value for your money. I would buy this device again in a heartbeat. Recommended.
44 comments| 9 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on September 26, 2012
Update: Just bought another, it's great...need to have one for each TV.

I got this about two months ago and couldn't be more pleased. Before I got the Roku I never watched the Prime Videos, now that's all I watch. I haven't watched anything off my DVR since I got this thing. Setup was simple and I have had no problems since. The only thing I use this for is Amazon Prime. There are hundreds of channels, but I haven't had the need to try any yet. This one is rated at 720p, and it looks better than what comes out of my cable box/DVR which is supposed to be 1080i. If I was the only one in the house, I'd cancel my cable TV.,
0Comment| 32 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse

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