In the USA, it seems like that if you subscribe to Netflix then you probably also buy a Roku. I knew about the devices from a few years ago when I friend introduced me to Netflix and Roku when visiting with him in NC, USA. Netflix came to Ireland early this year, and thanks to my employers (a distributor), Roku is now available in Irish retail outlets too.
I made sure to put my name down for one once they came into stock. That was a few weeks ago but I’ve been out of the office for a while. I finally got my one on Friday and set it up that night.
Here in Ireland (and the UK) the Roku comes in two models, the LT and the higher spec 2 XS. I went for the latter model.
The device is tiny, about 3 inches square and about 1 inch tall, taking no space at all under the TV, and is totally silent. It has a HDMI output and a composite output. There is a USB port and a micro SD port. It can use wifi or a classic wired network connection (always preferred for streaming media).
Setting it up was easy:
- Cable it up – power and TV connection (HDMI for me)
- Configure the wifi connection
- Allow the automatic software update & reboot
- Set the time zone
- Log into http://roku.com/link with an activation code
- Create Roku account and activate the device
- Create a payment method for any future purchases, just like with iTunes
- Select apps/channels, e.g. free Netflix or TWiT
- The Roku downloads apps automatically right there
At that point the machine is ready to rock and roll. The Roku is a great way to watch Netflix on your TV. I went into the settings and configured it for 1080p instead of the default 720p. Then I fired up the Netflix channel, logged in (required once only) and started browsing and watching. I also tried out the TWiT channel and started watching an archived episode of Windows Weekly.
The other big reason to have a device like a Roku is to play media. Apparently you can do this with USB, and I guess the micro SD card. But I prefer to use the network for this. I keep content on m Windows Home Server. I was told that a free download called Plex could be installed on a Windows machine so that’s what I did, turning my WHS into a Plex media server. The Plex server is configured using a web portal, where you can add channels for TV, Movies, and Music, pointing to the folders that contain the content. I browsed the available channels on the Roku and installed the Plex client (channel). Starting it, it automatically discovered my WHS. I browsed my content and found that Plex also downloaded metadata for some content from the web, making it easier to browse.
The Roku is a nice device. The lower end model is pretty cheap, making it one of those things that you could quite happily pick up without a big decision. I’m liking it so far.