Netflix Player by Roku.

A couple weeks ago I picked up a Netflix Player by Roku, which I’ll just call my Roku box or Roku player. What the Roku box does is connect to Netflix to stream movies over the Internet to your TV. It only costs a hundred bucks, and setting it up was incredibly simple. I even connected it to my TV using an HDMI cable to make it even easier, although it doesn’t currently support HD content (perhaps they’ll add that in the future). Connected to my HD TV, it’ll play widescreen movies formatted correctly for the screen, which is an added nicety.

At this time, I’ve only watched one movie using the Roku box, but it worked very well. The quality was better than I expected, looking to me much like the quality I see from many DVDs. I even managed to watch the entire movie without any hitches or pauses, and only saw one tiny artifact. Impressive. I did watch a comedy, not an action movie, so we’ll still have to see how something with a lot of action plays.

The selection at Netflix for streaming isn’t the best, but I still managed to find plenty that I’d be willing to watch at some point. Since I already have an unlimted rental Netflix account, I get unlimited streaming to the Roku box included–no extra charge.

Because the box streams live–and it does not have a hard drive to cache content–you don’t scan forward or backward in the live, full-screen picture. Instead, you see a row of images, like screen shots (or kind of like cover-flow for iTunes), that you can scan through to see where you’re going in the movie. It actually works pretty well, I think. If you scan faster then the first speed setting, you only see the screen shot in the larger middle window, instead of having the other little windows sitting there to show you what’s coming up or passsing behind. I’m probably not explaining it too well, but I think it works well, and again, is a much better solution than I would have expected for a streaming device.

On the whole, I’m really impressed with the Roku player, and for the price, I think it’s a great bargain if you already have an unlimited Netflix account (and you have broadband Internet access). Best of all, you can check out the movies available (and add them to your Instant Queue) and see if you might find the box worthwhile before you spend a dime. If I remember to watch a more action-oriented movie in the near future, I’ll post an update on how that goes.

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