I have been a Netflix user for some time, but a few months ago I discovered the Roku player that lets me stream "Watch Instantly" Netflix content to my TV and jumped on the $99 device. There is no additional cost to you to stream this content to your TV with your compatible Netflix account. I was then able to downgrade my Netflix account to one DVD out at a time and my family has been extremely pleased with the Roku functionality. The Roku is dead simple to hookup and operate while giving you access to Netflix streaming content and your Amazon Video on Demand content. Last week I was sent a new Roku HD-XR box that adds 802.11n (the previous Roku had 802.11b/g) and a USB port (for future use).
Here is a breakdown of the two new Roku players added to the existing Roku HD player:
- Roku SD player (new): $79.99, connects to your TV via composite video outputs with L/R RCA audio. An ethernet port is present, along with 802.11 b/g WiFi.
- Roku HD player: $99.99, product that is currently shipping today w/ HDMI, component, composite, s-video and L/R RCA and optical video outputs along with Ethernet and Wi-Fi b/g. This model supports HD streaming from partners, currently including Amazon Video On Demand.
- Roku HD-XR (new): $129.99, same video and audio outputs as Roku HD player that also includes Wi-Fi n/b/g and a USB port for future use. The Roku HD-XR is the first Netflix streaming device to incorporate 802.11n connectivity protocol.
802.11n gives you greater range and better signal strength than 802.11b/g, but there shouldn't be much of a difference in speeds since content partners have limits on the streams. Fortunately, my main 37 inch LCD TV is in the next room only about three feet from my WiFi router so I have never had an issue with signal strength.
All the Roku players have the same black box dimensions, with different ports on the back that set them apart.
iPhone app: While the Roku is not necessarily a mobile device, it is very compact and something you may want to travel with to enjoy your Netflix content in hotel rooms on a larger display rather than your small laptop screen. I also found a 99 cent iPhone application (seems there are really apps for just about everything today) called DVPRemote (iTunes link) that gives you a full Roku remote control right on your iPhone/iPod touch so you can use it to control your Roku device.
After installation of the app, you simply make sure WiFi is enabled and then tap the button to discover your Roku player. You can then name your Roku player and give it a location (such as the home theater room). After saving this setup you can then control your Roku player and leave the included remote control in the drawer.
If you want to use a Roku player on a TV that is far away from your WiFi router then you might want to consider upgrading to the HD-XR. We don't yet now what the USB port is for, but maybe it will be used to let you access content stored on a hard drive. Remember that you will also need to have an 802.11n router in place and last weekend I tried a Belkin one that didn't work out. I may pick up an Airport Extreme router or some other model soon to try out.
My family thoroughly enjoys the Roku HD player and if you are a Netflix subscriber I highly recommend you pick one up to enjoy. There are actually hundreds of movies and TV shows that are available and my Instant Queue is much larger than my physical DVD Queue so content is not lacking.