Archives For Roku

Save Some Money On Roku

Dave Zatz —  March 26, 2012

roku2-sale

In the market for a Roku streaming box? If so, you’ve got a few deals to choose from today… At the high end, the “flagship” Roku 2 XS is 20% off as Amazon’s Deal of the Day. Instead of $99.99, you’ll only be paying $79.99. Beyond providing access to a variety of “channels” including Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, and Pandora this model also features a Wii-esque motion control remote that enables gaming — think Angry Birds. Possibly more practical is the inclusion of USB and Ethernet jacks that its lower end brethren lack. If, by chance, Amazon sells out or you miss this opportunity, Best Buy is offering the same model for a slightly lesser $10 discount — clocking in at $89.99.

If these features don’t appeal or the Roku 2 XS is still more than you’re prepared to invest in a streamer, Woot is offering two different prior generation Roku boxes for $49.99. However, I’d urge folks to consider the similarly priced Roku LT instead – it may cap out at 720p, versus the 1080p found on several other Roku models, yet that higher definition streaming content is hard to come by. More importantly, this model features Roku’s current hardware and software platform. Meaning it’s more likely to see updates and new features… including Netflix captions and BBC iPlayer.

roku-display2

In other Roku sales and marketing news, it appears they’ve recently invested in a Best Buy endcap (pics below). It’ll be a reasonably attractive and informative advertisement once Best Buy powers on the TV, removes those “do not inventory” stickers from the streamers, and come up with a better way to secure the remotes to the display.

The Week In Roku

Dave Zatz —  March 17, 2012

Firmware 4.3 Update

Widespread deployment of system software 4.3 is now underway for Roku 2 boxes (XS, XD, HD, LT). The firmware rollout actually began with a subset of users a few weeks back… and given the slight bump in release versioning (.1057 versus .1051), it looks like that pilot test was useful in identifying one or two elements that still needed some work. Roku’s blog posting on the milestone itemizes a variety of improvements to a core streaming service (HLS) and Netflix, such as speed and a/v sync. However, the biggest change is international support. Whereas Roku 2 XS boxes acquired via Amazon’s UK or Ireland outposts have been running 4.3 since launch, boxes acquired in the US (but used overseas) have been unable to access regionally restricted channels such as the BBC’s iPlayer without asking Roku for a manual firmware update. So the broad 4.3 rollout should put that particular issue to rest. However, I hear 4.6 is already in testing… and furthers international support.

Another Roku Hits The FCC

Another Roku 2 HD has hit the FCC. Although it was first discovered this week, the docs were published last month and originally submitted back in January. Given the existing Roku 2 HD ($60) is out of  stock, a minor refresh isn’t entirely out of the question. Although, the new HD (model 2500) seems more akin to the LT (model 2400) than the HD (model 3000). The most obvious visible changes are a return to three distinct composite inputs – something folks are more familiar than the single 3.5mm adapter they’ve been using lately. Further, the base of the new Roku 2 HD is purple. One potential cost saving measure includes doing away with the micrSD slot, which is used to store additional channels and game data, and I wouldn’t be surprised to learn they’ve similarly dropped Bluetooth, utilized by their gaming remote. Continue Reading…

While most of the competition offers YouTube on the big screen, Roku remains a notable holdout. At one point, we did enjoy an unofficial “private” channel… which Google had shut down (to new users). And while there was a glimmer of hope last fall that an authentic YouTube channel was headed our way, it’s yet to materialize.

We have no way of knowing if this is related to an unwillingness by Roku to license YouTube, technical issues, or something else. But we do have a workaround: YouTube video links that are dropped into your News Feed or Timeline can be accessed via the official Facebook Channel on Roku. It may not be pretty, and lacks the discovery element, but it’s fairly effective. And if you’re not interested in spamming your friends, simply set the video status updates to private.

Check out the video above to see the process in action.

roku-shipping

Despite Apple TV’s recent update, we still recommend Roku for folks seeking a basic Netflix streamer (with benefits). After all, you can pretty much purchase two Rokus (starting @ $50) for the price of a single Apple TV ($99). And at such a reasonable price point, Roku also makes a great gift. Yet Roku could improve their out-of-box experience for the uninitiated.

At least some models ordered directly via roku.com are shipped in a rather non-distinct cardboard box… with a shipping label sullying the packaging and obscuring what a recipient will be receiving. I assume this is one of the ways in which Roku keeps prices low, including offering periodic free shipping, but picking up a higher end model from a retail outlet like Best Buy will result in more attractive packaging without a postal sticker.

Perhaps more problematic for a gift recipient is Roku’s insistence on creating an account with them prior to actually using the box. Adding insult to injury, a credit card is required. And there’s no way to skip this step via their online registration wizard. Of course, I understand Roku’s desire to simplify the app buying experience. But even Apple TV doesn’t require an iTunes account to operate. While it’s not documented on the registration page, Roku suggests folks uncomfortable with the policy create a shell PayPal account or call into support to bypass the requirement. Again, not the greatest out-of-box experience for someone who’s possibly never heard of Roku.

roku-account

roku-2-versus-xds-appletv

VentureBeat’s run a rather provocative headline that declares “Roku is kicking the cable industry’s butt.” Yet, it’s not exactly clear how they could be.

First thing first, we’re big fans of Roku. In fact, we were amongst the very first to purchase their original Netflix streamer, currently own several modern boxes, and named the $50 Roku LT as “a box of the year” in 2011. Yet, even with all that love, we just don’t see any way that Roku could be kicking cable’s butt.

In terms of numbers, Roku has moved about 2.5 million boxes. That represents one time sales and a small but growing recurring revenue share. Beyond that, Roku isn’t actually profitable. Meaning they spend more money than they ingest. Compared to say a Comcast. Yeah, they may have lost 19,000 cable customers last quarter but that still leaves them will more than 22 million households… who pay them each and every month for premium television services. Continue Reading…

roku-android-remote

After trailing third party developers, Roku’s finally responded with a Android virtual remote of their own. Now available in the Market, the Roku app is both visually and functionally similar to its iPhone predecessor.

Turn your Android device into a control center for your Roku streaming player. Launch your Roku channels, navigate your Roku player, control media playback and find new channels to enjoy.

Roku indicates the app should work on all Android devices running 2.1 or higher, and of course the smartphone and Roku must be on the same wireless network. Not bad at all considering Roku set-top boxes start at a mere $50 and the new app is free. Yet, as nice an addition as this may be, with an imminent Apple TV refresh, we’re left wondering when Roku might announce additional top flight content partners… and deliver on their YouTube promise.

After only about two months in the App Store, Roku’s addressed my biggest complaint with their free virtual remote control. In addition to navigating one’s digital media streamer by swiping, Roku has now integrated a “standard” D pad option that responds to individual taps. While it does get the job done, the presentation seems a bit spartan – beyond what I assume are promotional Netflix, Pandora, and Crackle shortcuts that mirror the physical Roku LT remote. And speaking of physical remotes, not all contain the instant replay button – and this oversight should be a primary draw for Roku’s iPhone app. The updated app also includes faster Home screen loading and improved device discovery, having no difficulty locating my latest hardware. However, there’s still no sign of an official Android or iPad app. Should you have just such a need, check out Cassidy Napoli’s “Remoku” creation that enables Roku control via a web browser.