Most of us know that the Roku (and now the Roku – 3) is a small black box that allows you to instantly stream your favorite TV shows and movies to your TV, but most are unaware of how much content is really available. Not only can you stream tens of thousands of movies and TV shows from services like Netflix, Hulu Plus, & Amazon Video On Demand (VOD), but you can also stream sporting events and music from Pandora, iTunes, and MOG.
Netflix Instant Streaming on the Roku offers an impressive library of new, classic and obscure movies and television shows. You can also purchase content from Amazon for more current television shows. To learn more read Amazon Video on Demand. And what recently made the Roku the streaming box to beat, was the inclusion of Hulu Plus and its practically bottomless archive of movies and TV shows.
Sports fans were also taken into consideration with the integration of services like MLB.tv, where you can watch out-of-market games live or on demand, and local games shortly after they have ended. The Roku also offers a UFC channel with live and archived fights. Plus there is the Roku Newscaster, which combines into one offering – several different channels like CNN, NBC, ESPN, Fox, NPR and the BBC.
Roku Technical Requirements
With Wi-Fi and the High Definition playback, the Roku Player is probably the easiest way to stream movies and TV shows directly to your TV. To get the most out of your Roku, all you need is a high-speed Internet connection, a TV and most importantly, the Roku Player. Your Internet connection must at least be 1.5Mbps, but if you’re a big fan of live sports events or high definition movies, it should be at least 3 or 5Mbps. To test the speed of your connection click here (Visualware). Standard AV cables come with the package but if you have an HDTV, it’s highly recommended that you buy an extra HDMI cable.
There are currently 4 versions of Roku currently on the market; Roku 1, Roku 2, Roku 3, and the Roku Streaming stick. They all offer 1080p high definition and have built-in wireless and wired connectors. Let’s take a look at the different Roku models and see what each one has to offer:
The smallest and most affordable of the Roku streaming boxes, this little guy will set you back $50. Roku 1 offers the full Roku experience without all of the bells and whistles. There’s no headphone jack for your remote, no USB, Ethernet, or microSD slot. It also lacks dual-band wireless, so your signal may suffer a little if you have a slow connection. Roku 1 sports an IR-based remote control; so if you lose your remote you can easily replace it with a universal remote; and the remote comes with shortcuts to Netflix and Amazon Prime.
One of the biggest advantages to Roku 1 is the fact that it can still hook up to older televisions. While most of the older models could hook up to an analog television; some of the newer models are only compatible with “modern” televisions. You will notice that Roku 1 also uses some of the older version of your favorite apps like Netflix. Although it may seem like a disadvantage, it actually runs faster than some of the newer apps.
All in all Roku 1 is great for people that have an old TV, are on a tight budget, or just don’t simply care about all the extra features.
At $70 Roku 2 is more expensive than Roku 1; but it has some extra features. Roku 2 comes with dual-band wireless as well as a headphone jack. Sadly, other than that there really isn’t too much of a difference between Roku 1 and 2. They both play 1080p high definition, they both have analog jacks for older TVs, and they both lack the USB, Ethernet, and microSD slots that Roku 3 has.
Aside from the dual band wireless and headphone jack, the only other difference is that Roku 2 actually runs slower than Roku 1. The controls are just sluggish and not as responsive as you would like; which is perplexing considering that it runs older versions of video apps like Roku 1.
If you don’t want to fork out the extra cash for Roku 3, and you really want a headphone jack, then Roku 2 will suit you fine. If you have simple streaming needs, you might want to look at a different Roku model.
Roku 3 is the most expensive of the Roku models, costing around $100. While twice as expensive as Roku 1, it has a lot of cool features that make up for it. You have all the features of Roku 2 but it is way faster and it uses the most recent versions of your favorite apps.
It also has an Ethernet port if your wireless isn’t fast enough, it has a microSD port for extra memory, and it has an USB port that can send pictures, music, and videos to your TV from a connected device like a smartphone. There are also motion controls built into the remote for playing games, but it’s not fleshed out enough to be a real selling point. Roku 3 takes a play out of Google Chromecast’s playbook and lets your cast video directly from your apps to the TV.
Roku 3 is great for the serious cord-cutter; and the only real disadvantage is its price. If you’re not into all the bells and whistles, you might not want it; but for everyone else it’s the best option out there.
Looking to buy a Roku? Compare your options by clicking the image below:
Roku Streaming Stick
A relative newcomer to the Roku family, the best way to describe the Roku Streaming Stick is value packed. The Roku Streaming Stick will cost you $50, the same price as Roku 1. What makes the Roku streaming stick so cool is that it’s only a little bigger than a USB stick. It fits in the HDMI port of your television; sadly it is incompatible with older televisions.
Like Roku 3, you can cast from your apps directly to your television. Sacrificing speed for size, the streaming stick won’t run as fast as the other Roku models. It can be a bit frustrating loading up apps, and the controls can be unresponsive at times. Also, you will have to wait a bit longer when booting up with the streaming stick.
The Roku Streaming Stick has a wifi based remote, so if you lose your remote you won’t be able to simply replace it. However, if you have a smart phone you can download an app that turns your phone into the remote. You can get it for Android here and you can download it for iOS here
If you don’t mind a little wait, love small things, and are on a tight budget the Roku Streaming Stick is for you.
If you are trying to choose between Roku’s Streaming Stick and Google’s Chromecast read “Roku Streaming Stick vs Google Chromecast“.
Still not sure which Roku is right for you? Roku’s website has a helpful infographic detailing the differences between the four models. Click here to learn more
“15-20 % of Roku owners are cancelling their cable or satellite services agreement and are relying solely on a broadband connection to get their television programming,” said company VP Jim Funk in this exclusive interview with Beet.TV.
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