Gifting Roku Could Be Cleaner


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 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.


9 thoughts on “Gifting Roku Could Be Cleaner”

  1. Dave, this may be a silly question, do the current Roku boxes retain the same streaming features that the SoundBridge and older Roku models had?

    Basically, can I stream music/video/photos from a networked PC?

  2. Wow, you’re old skool like me. :) The Roku streaming player is a different platform entirely than the SoundBridge and other prior generation stuff. And, ironically, one of Roku’s weaknesses is an inability to handle local media. You’ll want a third party solution/channel, like Plex Server, to get at any local media into the Roku. But if that’s a priority, Roku may not be the right choice.

  3. “Ironic that Roku requires an account and credit card to operate, whereas Apple TV doesn’t?”

    That is ironic. (And not in the Alanis Morissette way.)

    “But if (local media is) a priority, Roku may not be the right choice.”

    As always, here I note that if local media is a priority, then running a local media server is a priority. This is true for Roku (Plex), and to a lesser degree of function, Apple TV (iTunes).

    If local media is a priority, then you’ve got to get it organized, which is why you want a server.

  4. True, but there is more than one way to crack that nut. Plex is decent if you have Roku. But Plex Server is even better when used with a jailbroken Apple TV. Depends where you want your hub as well. Boxee, WDTV, PS3 all do DLNA.

  5. I think it’s important that you pointed this out Dave. Once people have Roku’s, they definitely want to share the experience with their friends and family. Hopefully someone from the Roku marketing department is reading your post!

  6. a ten dollar prepaid master card can add value to the gift giving.If one is close enough to gift a roku they might as well set up the account with a few bucks for a game or two–If the giftee decides they want to buy more than that they can all ways edit the card info,kind of like mom and dad remembering the batteries on Christmas

  7. Agreed, Roku needs to step up the polish and make it a smooth, easy, non-scary experience for newbies if they want to compete with Apple TV.

    They also need to support AirPlay – I don’t imagine I’m the only person who will probably end up buying an Apple TV instead of a Roku because of that single feature.

  8. FYI I have an Apple TV (a new one is on the way to replace it), I also have an 2 Roku’s and a Popcorn Hour box.

    Roku gets the most use.

    For streaming from my local server the Popcorn Hour covers the most formats and streams them glitch free.

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