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.