So, you've got a great home theater setup. The best display your money can buy. Speakers that sound so good they make you cry. Yet, you still watch your streaming Netflix movies on your crappy computer — with a coffee-splattered screen and speakers the size of a floppy disc. What's wrong with you?
Now, for just $99, you can buy a Roku set-top box that changes all of that. The Roku box will interface between the Internet and your TV setup, opening up the Netflix library to you. Note that it's not the entire library — only a fraction of Netflix's titles are available for downloading. 10,000 movies and TV shows, compared to the 100,000 DVDs you can select to have mailed to your home. However, Hollywood is so concerned about piracy that most movies
available for streaming are older releases. You won't find the latest,
greatest titles up there. More details...
The streaming videos are included in any plans with unlimited movies with no extra fees and there are no limits. Netfix has plans starting with a basic $8.99/month fee. Movies in your Netflix Instant Queue are automatically displayed to make it easy to find what you want. Although a bit more cumbersome than with a DVD, you can rewind and fast-forward from the remote control.
Curious about its HD capabilities, I saw this on the FAQ's page for the box: "The Netflix Player is HD-ready. It has all the connections you need to
connect it to your HDTV, and it’s capable of playing back HD content.
When Netflix releases HD content for Instant Watching, the Netflix
Player by Roku will be ready." Sounds like the ball is in Netflix's court.
It should be noted that Netflix owns a part of the company manufacturing the box, so they have a large stake in its success.
There are other similar setups out there, such as Apple TV or the partnership between Amazon.com and TiVo. Unlike these others, the Roku box does not have a hard drive. You're watching material in real-time as they stream, which means you might have the picture lockup or run painfully slow if your Internet connection gets bogged down. Another drawback is that picking material to watch is done through your computer, so it hasn't moved the entire operation over to your TV room.
Even with those limitations, anything that gets your movies off the PC and onto the TV is a good thing. We know how much more comfy the living room couch is compared to the chair you're sitting in right now.—Leslie Shapiro
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