on July 15, 2013
First Impressions of first Roku3:
Took exactly 20 minutes to set up, including the following steps:
-- plug in AC adapter (wall wart, takes two or more spots on a power strip)
-- hook up to our HDTV with hdmi cable (cable is not included)
-- configure wi-fi (you'll need your wi-fi password) and wait briefly for it to self-test local network and internet connectivity
-- wait couple minutes for firmware update to download
-- follow onscreen instructions for device setup via ROKU website using code given on TV screen in big letters
-- go online to create a ROKU account, which *requires* full name, address, phone #, credit card #, and CV code from back of cc
-- creating an optional purchase PIN (which insures you or someone else won't accidentally incur charges to your credit card)
-- Voila! Ready to watch content! Entire setup was straightforward, easy.
To access specific channels such as Vimeo, Plex, Amazon etc you have to go online and punch in a five or six character code to initiate access to your accounts...takes about 2 minutes per account. It correctly showed my Vimeo watchlist, and correctly showed which episodes of Amazon Prime TV shows we'd already watched. Sweet. Initial buffering of TV shows was MUCH faster than using our Vizio's built-in "internet TV" Amazon app. It also correctly showed (with illustrated icons that look like a DVD cover) all the TV series we've been watching over the past several months, so I didn't have to re-look them up via search. Sweet again!
Speaking of search: When comparing reviews of media streaming boxes, I was concerned that the ROKU remote didn't have a qwerty keyboard like some others do...but in reality it only takes two to four characters to bring up the desired show in the search list that pops up, so I can now see why a qwerty keyboard isn't needed, and in fact would just make the remote clunkier.
I signed up for Plex (plexapp.com) which allows you to sling videos from the web to a viewing list on the ROKU. It worked with YouTube, and even on some other off the beaten path sites as well. You find content via the internet, then tell Plex (via bookmarklet) to save it to a watchlist to view whenever you want on the ROKU. It took about 2 to 5 seconds per selection to save to the queue. I can see how this will open up virtually unlimited new possibilities for non-traditional content to watch. No more watching crap during the summer programming doldrums because we're down to the dregs on TiVo. (We don't have cable, but do have TiVo for over-the-air recording of digital network content.)
Love the instant replay button (similar to TiVo's), which rewinds 7 seconds per click. Great for deciphering mumbly dialog. It also has an option for closed captioning (which is not necessarily available on all shows, but a nice option). Haven't yet tried the earbuds that plug into the remote for private screening, but they did ship with it in the box, and were one of the features that nudged me toward choosing the ROKU over other boxes.
The description says the ROKU 3 is capable of 1080p but ours was factory set at 720p. I discovered this by chance while exploring "settings" and manually changed it to 1080p. Our Vizio 58" HDTV has a cinematic 21:9 aspect ratio with 2560 x 1080p resolution; the ROKU performed flawlessly while streaming 21:9 content from Vimeo at full cinematic resolution (although I'm not sure I could tell the difference between 720p vs 1080p just by casual viewing...will have to look for a resolution test online somewhere?).
There's a long list of free channels from a wide range of genres, several of which I added to our channel lineup. I removed Netflix and others that we don't have subscriptions to (can add back anytime). We already have Amazon Prime, so now with all the new free channels I can't imagine needing any more content since we only watch TV 1-1/2 to 2 hours per day.
So my first impressions are enthusiastically positive! Fast & intuitive user interface, intuitive & uncluttered remote, fast buffering, no stutters. Light years better functionality/performance compared to using the apps that came with our "internet TV"! Already seems money well spent. Would definitely recommend!
DAY 3 UPDATE: Some channels/apps don't "predict" what you're trying to type in the search box...so the lack of a qwerty keyboard was bugging me more (Vimeo for example). So I downloaded a free Roku app for my iPod, which turns it into a Roku remote with full qwerty keyboard. One glitch: the delete/backspace function does NOT work from the iPod, so if I hit a wrong letter I have to grab the Roku remote to backspace.
Many of the "channels" are simply advertising, or come-ons, or bait & switches. Many of the fitness channels say "free" but after they get you to go to their website you learn that "free" only applies to the first week, or month, after which you must pay for a subscription. Some channels have only two or three podcast-like selections. Some channels are self serving, such as a book publisher whose channel consists of book reviews. Some channels have commercials, such as a 50-minute indie movie I scoped out which started with a 30 second ad; fast forward was disabled during the commercial of course, all I could do was mute my sound system and wait. But it said that was the only ad that would play, so I guess I could live with that. There was a paid "ad free" option for 99 cents...but by the time you messed around with paying, the ad would be over anyway. But it's hasta la vista to Crackle -- reMOVE channel -- because they INTERRUPT content with ads! TiVo and Amazon Prime have me spoiled I guess...haven't had to watch commercials for years.
After an hour or more of sifting through all the available channels, I was left feeling mildly annoyed by the typical non-transparency of come-ons, where they give you the impression it's free until the last possible minute, which wastes my time! I think Roku should require channels to be more forthcoming about fees in the initial description. Some channels do so, but not all.
I finally made it all the way through the 700+ "channels," of which I chose 40 to put in "My Channels."
On the positive side, many of the channels are completely legit and worthwhile and I very much look forward to watching them...it just takes some wading through &%$# to get to them.
Still a very solid 5 stars IMHO!
DAY 4 UPDATE: Well, sorry to say, but the bloom is definitely off the rose as far as the hundreds of "free" channels go. In fact, I'd give the overall channel selection zero stars. Lots of flash, little substance. Upon closer examination, I axed several more channels from "My Channels" today...I'm down to only a couple dozen left, of which only a handful are golden.
I'm still at 5 stars overall for the Roku 3 due to it's speed and intuitive user interface for streaming...plus the instant replay button, the Plex app queueing web videos (including YouTube) to our HDTV, much faster loading and nearly flawless streaming, a good Vimeo app, and faster/slicker access to Amazon Prime content.
SIX WEEK UPDATE: Even the PBS channel interrupts programs with un-skippable commercials! (Yes I realize there has to be revenue from *somewhere.*) Still lovin' the Roku 3 overall though, use it every evening. Have had to unplug base unit a couple of times to get it "unstuck," so be sure to mount it in a reasonably accessible location. TiVo is nipping at Roku's heels by partnering with more web-based content providers (especially for video podcasts), but Roku still beats TiVo for Amazon viewing because so far only paid Amazon content can be downloaded to TiVo, not free Prime content. Used and appreciated Roku 3's headphone-jack-in-the-remote feature during a recent infestation of visitors into our home.
NOVEMBER 2013 UPDATE: Just bought a SECOND Roku 3, rationalizing that having Roku in exercise room will pacify me into riding elliptical trainer longer and more often ;-) Location for second Roku is farther from router, and at first it was buffering 30 seconds to give me 10 seconds of video...unwatchable. So I tried Roku's online LiveChat support, and was pleasantly surprised that they were able to solve the problem! The key seemed to be updating the software, which can be done from a "secret screen" accessed like this:
<Using the Roku remote, press the HOME button 5 times, FORWARD button 3 times then REVERSE button 2 times.>
Choose the Update option. I didn't have to reload channels or anything, it just gave me snappier performance, and sped things up enough that even my farthest away Roku works great now (opposite end of house from router, about 60 feet).
LiveChat worked very well -- gave me time in between messages to go fiddle and test without pressure of someone waiting on a phone line. They said phone support is free for 90 days from purchase, LiveChat is free forever...another positive about Roku. I'm impressed!