Top critical review
13 people found this helpful
Satisfaction totally depends on what content you watch regularly
on January 16, 2012
My overall rating comes from 2 stars for content and 4 stars for the product itself. I barely used it, so I can't give it 5 stars. I only used it long enough to realize it does not do what I need (returned to Amazon). The most important thing to consider when buying the Roku is WHAT CONTENT DO YOU LIKE AND DOES ROKU PROVIDE IT. That is the deal-breaker, period. The device itself seems great. So, everything comes down to content. Again.... seriously think about what you like watching on a regular basis, and then research whether this is available on Roku.
You will like this if:
-- You are (or plan to be) subscribed to Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon Prime, and/or HBO Go (the more, the better), and this is your main source of entertainment/content
-- You don't want to use your computer for viewing online content
-- You want a quick and easy set-up
-- You want to keep your purchase under $100
-- You DO NOT care about online content not listed above and you specifically DO NOT care about news or informational content
-- You need wireless streaming and an ethernet option
-- You like gaming and are willing to buy additional apps (because Angry Birds is the only good one included for free)
-- You want to watch your own videos or photos via the USB port or via Facebook
You will NOT like this if:
-- You do not want to subscribe to Netflix or the other services listed above
-- You like to watch content on cable network websites, like Lifetime, Bravo, HGTV, etc.
-- You like YouTube (not available... though Vimeo is)
-- You like watching news and informational content
-- You don't care about obscure independent channels
-- You like lots of shows on broadcast TV
-- You want to be able to switch between channels quickly and easily
-- You want or need a non-HDMI digital audio option
-- You do not want to search the Internet for additional Roku-compatible "channels"
Pros = Very small form, easy to set up, good looking, nice interface for Netflix (don't know about others), ethernet port, decent price, Angry Birds included, TED channel
Cons = Not enough good channels and content without additional subscriptions, basically has to be plugged in all the time (both to power and to Internet), awkward switching between "channels"
Again, the "make or break" point on this, in my opinion, is content. I think your satisfaction will very much depend on what you like watching on a regular basis and whether Roku delivers it. It's tricky, though, because (as you'll read in a moment), Roku *appears* to provide some major programming -- but you'll then discover it's only available in clips or audio only.
My biggest beef is that I based my choice to buy this too much on a shopping network demonstration (HSN?), which was misleading by showing lots of major media logos, which is not reflective of what's actually delivered. So, I have to warn others who may see that or misunderstand what's included. As I wrote at the beginning... 4 stars for the device, but 2 stars for content.
For example, all the major US news media (except PBS) only provide partial content and the vast majority of it is AUDIO ONLY. Why would I "watch" a show like "60 Minutes" with audio only? Why would I want to *listen* to the evening news? NBC News is featured; however, it is only in clips. Again, there's some misleading here, since the logos for these outlets are featured in some promotions.
Also, FYI, a big chunk of the informational programming (like news) is available only in clips or podcast format.
The bottom line is that all of Roku's content *and much more* can be accessed and watched using an ordinary computer. This is what we've been doing and thought Roku would provide a sleeker solution. But when you take into account the lack of major and good content, it's not really an improvement. As others point out, you have to click quite a few times to switch "channels" -- which is not really easier than dialing up another website on your computer.
If you really want access to the full offering of online content, don't get the Roku -- you will be seriously disappointed. Instead, pony up the extra money for a used recent computer, a wireless keyboard with a trackpad, and then create a dedicated media center from that. For example, you can get a capable Mac Mini and wireless keyboard for about $200-300. I'm guessing a PC-Windows equivalent will cost the same or less.
On the other hand, if you already subscribe (or plan to) to Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon Prime, and/or HBO Go (the more the better) -- and these are your major source of entertainment -- then the Roku will probably do you very well. I just felt compelled to warn those who don't (or don't want to) subscribe to these services -- without them, there will be VERY LITTLE worthwhile entertainment or content. Or at the very least, do some significant research to match up what you like to watch with what you will get through Roku.
One last point -- if you value or need the ethernet connection the XS (and only XS) model provides, you'll pretty much have to leave the Roku hooked up all the time. If you disconnect it (say, to hook to your laptop or another computer), the Roku will need to re-cycle through its start-up when you get back to it. The same seems to be the case if you have to or want to turn the Roku off (though there's no real reason to do this; it uses very little power). So, what this means is you'll need a router so you can have your Roku and anything else networked via ethernet. For those of you laughing about anyone wanting to be wired up in this wireless world... (1) the quality is way better wired vs. wireless, from my experience and many other reviews, and (2) some people don't want to bathe in wi-fi waves and EMFs in their homes all the time.