First Netflix STB Arrives ($100)

Dave Zatz —  May 20, 2008

Earlier than I had anticipated, the first Netflix set-top box has hit the market. Many of us complain of “box fatigue”, but we’ll probably make an exception for the compact Roku Netflix Player listed an attractive $100 with unlimited video streaming (for Unlimited Plan subscribers). Though, Roku obviously overlooked physical design to get this unit out quick and at a reasonable price point. Having said that, they didn’t skimp on network connectivity by kindly integrating wireless along with the typical wired Ethernet option. The fanless media streamer currently maxes out at 480p, but the HDMI-equipped unit is capable of higher definition once Netflix provides HD content. (Higher tier plan?) The UI is limited to browsing your pre-existing Watch Now Queue – meaning, you won’t be searching or adding movies on the fly.

Now the interesting thing about Roku is the founder and CEO… About a year ago Anthony Wood (also a founder of ReplayTV) left Roku to head up Netflix’s Internet TV Group. In January, he returned to Roku and here we are. I assume this is the smaller Netlifx partner which I got wrong (suggesting a D-Link or Netgear). Perhaps, I would have voted differently had I kept tabs on Wood.

Early Reviews:

19 responses to First Netflix STB Arrives ($100)

  1. At $100, you could put a Roku Netflix Player in every room. In fact, I just ordered one.

    Random side note – I owned and enjoyed a Roku Soundbridge probably 5 or so years ago. WiFi was provided as a Compact Flash card option.

  2. I hadn’t considered Roku, but your right that it does make sense. I’m in the “fewer devices in the living room” mode so I’ll be holding off on the set-top netflix boxes. I have unofficial support for Netflix Watch-Now on my HTPC also so that’s another reason for me to wait.

    Still, I think this is a very good step in the right direction for Netflix. I just hope they add support for this on existing devices like SageTV, Vista Media Center, Xbox 360 etc.

  3. When I first read that this device was actually being released, I was excited. Now, I’m not so sure. The main reason is a user has to go to their queue by a different device other than the Netflix STB to add movies to watch on the STB.

    To me, this is totally illogical and takes away the HUGE selling potential of the STB. I would hope that this functionality would be added later.

  4. this rocks. i am going to wait for a review from dave though…

    on the other hand, do i really want this, in addition to the SDV box i have to get? bah too many tiny boxes with huge ac adapters.

  5. REQUEST: Stack all the STBs you have on top of each other, right next to the TV and take a picture. A precariously balanced Tower of Babel?

  6. Todd, my ceiling doesn’t offer enough clearance. ;)

  7. Meh. I do think this is a good start, and it’ll be attractive to a lot of people. But it’s not going to cut it for me, no matter how low the price (well, I guess if they gave it to me for free, I’d take it…). I have too many other more attractive sources for entertainment. At a minimum to make this something I’ll buy, I’d want HD video and the ability to search for movies from the box, without using a computer at all.

    Still, it’s good to see more competition in this area.

  8. Dave, are you going to be reviewing this??

  9. Hmmm, for me I will keep using the old laptop that is my Netflix streamer and my own version of slingcatcher! :) I will save that 100 bucks for the catcher……..or hope that Netflix signs a deal with Microsoft for 360.

  10. Ben, given the Netflix and Roku PR teams that ignored Mike at Hacking Netflix (wtf?!) I figured it’d be most efficient to drop the hundred bucks to check it out. My order is placed – who knows when it will get here. And I’ll be in Wisconsin for a few days, home again, then Chicago for a few days, home again, then a week in California. It could be awhile before I try it out… More of my current thoughts have been flowing freely on Twitter this AM.

  11. @rob There’s no such thing as a Perpetual Motion Machine or it’s cousin The Sling Catcher :P

  12. Todd, we all hold out hopes and dreams. The Slingcatcher is right up there with seeing the SF Giants win a W.S. and Al Davis finally letting someone else run the Raiders. Will it happen, probably not but we can always dream.

  13. Nice enough. But as others have said, I have no use for this. A device that just ads a few possible shows a week to my viewing isn’t going to get any space next to my TV. I’ve already got a Tivo HD and an Apple TV and not looking to add anything else unless it does a whole lot more than this.

    Now if it offered the entire Netflix DVD collection, and I didn’t ever have to rent another DVD, and the quality was better, and the potential for HD sounded a little more real and …

  14. It’s interesting and I’m glad that the box is firmware-updatable to HD and 5.1, but I find the omission of ability to navigate Netflix’s streaming collection from the player to be shocking. I don’t want to get up to my PC and then run back to the living room.

    I’m really, really hoping that the long-awaited SlingCatcher will not repeat this mistake and will have some interface to navigate online video services (Hulu, ABC.com, etc.) without me having to get up, browse and queue up the video on my PC.

  15. Michael Portuesi May 20, 2008 at 6:47 pm

    No HD? Fail.

    Besides, I already have two boxes connected to my TV that can handle streaming video from the internet. I don’t need another one-trick-pony tied to a proprietary service.

  16. I’ve been thinking more about this… The Roku box is here to prime the pump (though they may feel different), so by the time the more powerful Netflix devices or integrated services arrive (Xbox, LG DVD player, etc) Netflix will have worked out some of the technical kinks and hooked the studios for newer release content.

    Even with limited content, resolution, and interactivity – $100 seems like a no-brainer for an existing Netflix customer with some disposable income.

  17. If this was integrated into a blu-ray device I’d jump on it…. or if I was already a net flix customer…. or if I ever dump cable and go straight OTA.

    Off topic — Dish’s offer of 45 non-premium HD channels for $29.99 seems very compelling! Since my cable provider offers six non-premium HD channels I figure I should be paying $2.00 a month. I’ll have to give them a call. Wavebroadband sucks eggs, but I’m hooked on my damn tivo.

  18. Dave, I think you hit on the key word there..”disposable income.” With $4 gas, food prices going up, and home depot sales down 60%(?). I just don’t see that many people walking in and dropping 100 bucks on this, based on the lack of first run movies on Netflix currently. Yes you can get The office, 30 rock, and a few decent movies but most of the content currently listed on watch it now has 1-3 stars. Not something I jump and down and can’t wait to see….give it to me in my Xbox 360 and I’d be really excited. Plus, I gotta save that money for the elusive Slingcatcher:D.

  19. As an industry, we really need to simplify this whole smart-device-connected-to-a-TV ecosystem. Just as I don’t want more single-task tools in my kitchen, I don’t want yet-another network connected video box on my TV. Even at a low price point, it’s not worth it for me. TiVo, XBox, Wii, Slingbox, HTPC, Moxi, cable STB… they’re all just variants on “take the data off the network and display it.” Why does everyone need to recreate the wheel each time? Why can’t companies find better solutions through collaboration? Launching a whole other product line seems harder than leveraging existing solutions and markets, but that seems to be the way things go.

    Case in point, IF the HD TiVos have DOCSIS modem chips in them, why the huge delay and bureaucracy and need for additional spaghetti-stringed SDV tuner boxes? Why not find a software standard way for the S3 to request the channels? Or that I can’t switch my TiVo to U-Verse because they use IPTV, and yet my S3 has IP capabilities.

    If companies like EA Sports can market games across platforms (XBox 360, PS3, Wii, DS, PSP, Windows and MacOS), why can’t we do the same with service and features? CableCards and Tru2Way are a start, but clearly abstracting hardware, software and services to interact in a single stack isn’t a priority for the A/V industry or we’d have seen more of it by now.

    It’s not that indifferent than the cell phone problem, locking features to phones and phones to carriers. If they’re all doing the same thing, why not get something that does it all? I wonder if Android will run on the Roku box. :)