I just want to say that if the future of Internet TV is anything like the Netflix Player by Roku, we are going to be just fine. I was one of the lucky ones who ordered the Netflix Player by Roku right away and have had the opportunity to play with it for the last few weeks. I absolutely love my Netflix player box – unequivocally 🙂 If you haven’t heard anything about the Netflix player, it is a little hardware device (box) that allows instant streaming direct to your TV over the Internet.
The box, made by Roku is a $99.99 one-time purchase which connects to your existing broadband (wired or wireless) connection and allows you to instantly watch content from Netflix web site. This box plugs into the same infrastructure over at Netflix that lets you watch streaming movies and TV shows on your PC. The nice thing is that this is part of your standard Netflix membership and there are no extra monthly charges. The same flat fee DVDs you receive are not impacted by your instant streaming. The Netflix/Roku box connects to any TV using HDMI, component, s-video, composite or good old RCA and you get full DVD video quality if your bandwidth permits.
I’ve had the pleasure of using this box and I have been completely and totally impressed with the design of box, the software and the actual quality of the content being streamed. Setup/installation was incredibly easy and I was able to get the box to connect to my WPA secured wireless network in seconds. The first thing the box did was download an update from Netflix and automatically update itself – nice feature. Once the box was up and running, I was able to link the Netflix box to my online Netflix account and anything in my ‘Watch Instantly’ queue was available for viewing on my TV. So I start watching Blade Runner and it’s almost an hour before I realize that I’m not watching a DVD on my TV and it’s actually being streamed live over the Internet. The picture and sound quality is unbelievable and rewind/fast-forward is decent with the little time-series snapshot of scenes to help gauge how far or back you’re going. The box supports HD but Netflix doesn’t support that at the moment but I fully anticipate Netflix enabling that feature as they build up a bigger library of on-demand material that is of HD quality.
I only have two complaints with the box and I think one of them will probably be handled in a software update. The first one is the lack of a power button – Once the box is plugged in and turned on, you cannot turn it off. There is no OFF button on the box or the remote and that’s just annoying. There is a little light that’s always on and it’s not blindingly bright or anything but I would like to be able to turn it off. The second missing feature is the lack of Closed Captioning – I think this is a big miss and a must for me as I’m often watching movies late at night while my wife and daughter are sleeping. I can live without the power button but I really want Closed Captioning enabled in the next software release – please!!
In closing, I cannot stress how good the quality of the picture is and I haven’t had a single issue with video glitches or slowness or pauses while it’s buffering or anything like that. I’ve seen several long movies along with the most of the first season of Heroes and I haven’t had a single issue. I do have a nice broadband connection with 15 Mbps down and 1 Mbp up but that’s fairly standard these days and Netflix recommends about 3-4 Mbps for the service. The other nice thing about this box and the use of the Flash memory is that it doesn’t have a fan and so its whisper quiet. I am also excited about the future as this box runs on a embedded Linux OS and Roku has released a lot (if not all) of the code under GPL. I can’t wait for all the mods/patched kernels and apps that are going to surface in the coming weeks and months.