Archives For Roku

Within a few days of each other, Roku and TiVo launched Spotify music streaming apps a month or so ago. While both apps appear to be missing Spotify Radio, the difference in launch speed is dramatic… yet representative of their respective architectures.

As you can see from the video above, the TiVo Spotify app takes over thirty seconds to load while the Roku app is up and playing music in about 5 seconds. TiVo’s app may be visual richer, once it finally opens, but the sluggish interaction is further hindered without TiVo Slide or smarthphone keyboard support… unlike Roku’s integration of their virtual keyboard. Whether or not this is TiVo’s fault is mostly irrelevant as it’s ultimately their (customer’s) problem. And it’s somewhat disappointing that a top-of-the-line TiVo Premiere XL4 ($400, plus service fees) can’t keep up with a diminutive and inexpensive Roku ($80). Apps may not be TiVo’s primary selling point, but it’s frequently their differentiator over the competing cableco’s DVR…

As I alluded to yesterday, it’s unfortunate that I feel the need to colocate a Roku with every TiVo to get a more pleasing (and stable) experience in accessing some of the very same channels (Amazon, Netflix, Hulu Plus). Of course, that’s looking at the glass as half empty. The alternate perspective is that Roku continues to offer the best bang for the OTT buck. Here’s to hoping TiVo’s next line of DVRs truly live up to that “one box” billing.

The Roku LT Giveaway

Dave Zatz —  February 6, 2013

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Roku remains our top choice in the over-the-top streamer category. Yeah, an interface overhaul is long overdue and we could use a few more tent pole channels (such as YouTube or ESPN3), but Roku provides the best bang for the buck in this category. Especially the 720p Roku LT and Roku HD which clock in at a mere $50-$60 bucks. In fact, the Roku LT earned box-of-the-year honors in 2011 and we’ve lost count of how many Rokus we’ve purchased as gifts (often with a Netflix subscription and a suggestion to check out Plex). Well the folks at Roku facilitated an upgrade to a Roku 2 XS for coverage purposes, thus freeing up my Roku LT for a giveaway. And entering is as easy as it gets — simply leave a comment if you want in. (US residents in the lower 48 only, please.) We’ll choose one winner at random in a few days. Good luck!

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With a show as ginormous as CES, it’s safe to say lesser staffed outlets (such as yours truly) will overlook a number of interesting technologies. Fortunately, our readers have us covered and Jeff G. turned us onto the VOXX Digital Antenna with Roku. Wha?! While we did encounter Roku a number of times Vegas, all third party Roku Streaming Stick integration was HDTV-based. Whereas this off-the-wall antenna “will allow consumers to receive over-the-air local HD broadcast and streaming entertainment from the Roku platform which features hundreds of” over-the-top apps.

My first reaction was one of enthusiasm as the holy grail of home entertainment is seamlessly merging OTA and OTT content onto a single platform. Yet I suspect the MHL-equipped digital antenna, scheduled to ship Q4 under the Terk and RCA names, may run more than the actual Roku devices that start an economical 50 bucks. Not to mention all modern HDTVs ship with ATSC tuners and there’s no mention here of incoming DVR capabilities to augment live television viewing. So if your goal is access to both over-the-air network programming and streaming apps like Netflix via Input 1, a more practical solution would be the $100 Vizio Costar… with HDMI pass-thu and current availability. But we give VOXX credit for thinking well beyond the box.

Roku-TWC

Roku, a cord cutter favorite for over-the-top video streaming that’s now approaching 5 million units moved, is trumpeting the imminent arrival of Time Warner Cable onto their platform here at CES. The app, scheduled to drop this first quarter of 2013 and available to current Roku models, will bring 300 channels of cable to TWC subscribers. Similar to what competing provider Verizon once demoed. Yet, without a numeric keyboard on the remote and given presumably Internet-streamed video, changing channels won’t exactly be “television” like and we suspect this “cable” box would be most suitable for secondary rooms and home gyms. And it’ll be interesting to see if TWC counts this data usage against their metered broadband, unlike Comcast’s brushes with net neutrality piping Xfinity to Xbox.

In other Roku CES news, they’ve hit the 700 channel milestone. While you won’t be interested in most, there’s bound to be a few worth catching. And amongst the new offerings, Vevo and PBS will surely joining my rotation. Additionally, the Roku Streaming Stick is now compatible with several new MHL-equipped HDTV partners — although I’m not convinced there’s a market for this poorly understood technology. No mention yet of a possible YouTube channel or the promised UI refresh… but the show is still young and Roku will be on display tonight at the Digital Experience press event.

UPDATE: As of 3/5, the Time Warner Cable channel is now available to TWC subscribers with Roku 2 models.

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After Google had Roku remove their unlicensed YouTube channel and indications over a year ago that a new channel was under development, CEO Anthony Wood tells analyst Michael Wolf that YouTube on Roku “isn’t far away.” By the same token, he mentions that Google now requires partners to integrate their YouTube HTML app and Roku has found performance on their current “cheap” chips “unacceptable.” Unfortunately, Continue Reading…

Aereo Headed to Smart TVs

Mari Silbey —  December 6, 2012

Video Nuze VideoSchmooze 2012 Colin Dixon and Chet Kanojia

At yesterday’s VideoSchmooze conference in New York, Aereo CEO Chet Kanojia told the audience that his company will soon release more applications for the 10-foot television experience. Aereo is planning to launch apps for a variety of smart TVs shortly, and for adjunct TV devices, including the Roku. Aereo has a private channel for the Roku today, but will release a more complete experience for the device in the near future. Kanojia also noted that “conceptually” games consoles make a lot of sense for Aereo too.

To date, Aereo is still only available in New York City, and it continues to fight for its legal right to exist. Broadcasters want to shut Aereo down because the company gets around retransmission fees by assigning a tiny antenna to each customer and transcoding over-the-air signals for delivery over IP. So far the courts haven’t forced Aereo to close its doors, but the legal battle has only just begun.

Meanwhile, Aereo’s technology is sophisticated enough that I’m still theorizing the company has a back-up plan if its current business model doesn’t survive. Aereo also has an advantage in that its technology costs are minimal. Kanojia threw out one stat yesterday that drove home that point. He said that the cost of transcoding a single stream of video a couple of years ago was around $6,000. Today, that number is in the single digits.

netgear-neotv-max2

Another week, another streamer? A year after introducing their Roku competitor, Netgear expands the NeoTV streaming line with “Pro” and “Max” models. And, as we’re wont to do, we picked up Netgear’s latest. Similar in form factor to that aforementioned Roku, I was prepared to dislike the NeoTV MAX ($60-70) given it’s sluggish response and pixelated fonts… as seen from many sub $100 streamers. However, a recent update has sped up the UI to mostly acceptable levels and Netgear offers a few compelling features versus the competing Apple TV and Roku devices.

The most obvious enhancement is the bundled QWERTY remote… which looks positively svelte next to Gigantor the Vizio Costar equivalent. However, it’s obnoxiously encumbered by “the bullshit buttons” — presumably paid placements, by the likes of Best Buy’s CinemaNow, that you’re bound to hit at inopportune times.

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Also on the value-add list is integrated Intel WiDi reception capabilities. Much like Apple’s Airplay, WiDi allows you to beam content from specific Intel-powered laptops to your television screen. Related, unlike Apple TV or Roku, NeoTV can also receive content via DLNA network resources.

On the appearance front, Netgear’s interface exceeds Roku’s simplistic approach. Although many of the NeoTV apps are really just aggregated feeds powered by Flingo. But, hey, at least they provide YouTube — still missing from Roku devices, along with a promised UI revision.

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Thus far, we’d say the 1080p Netgear NeoTV MAX is a solid and promising streaming player at a competitive price given the broad channel selection, including Vudu and Netflix, QWERTY remote, and integrated Ethernet (as we’re somewhat disappointed that Netgear chose to forgo dual band 802.11n wireless capabilities). Yet, while the space continues to expand, we find ourselves somewhat uninspired given overlapping features and lack of innovation compared to say the mobile industry.