Roku has been making streaming media players for some time now (we featured their Soundbridge in 2004!), but seems to have just recently made real waves in the entertainment industry. As more of our entertainment comes via the Web or Internet, with services like Netflix streaming, Hulu, and YouTube, having a device that can integrate all of that plus your tv entertainment on your television is almost essential. This is where a Roku box solves your diversity-of-entertainment problem.
Many of us use expensive gaming systems or our personal laptops to access our online media through our television. While this works , it can also be annoying to have to set things up and access your different services through various devices. A Roku box allows you to access everything in one interface. It connects to your television and wireless network at home. The customizable Roku remote lets you toggle between the different choices. Roku supports Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon Instant, Pandora, and many other channels (such as NBC news, NBA game time, HBO Go, and more).
What makes the Roku such a great option for streaming video is how simple and inexpensive it is. The most basic Roku (the ‘purple' box) is only $50 whereas the most advanced device (Roku 2 XS) with the most features is $100. Even the most expensive is still significantly cheaper than buying a PS3 or an Xbox 360. The PS3 and Xbox 360 are the only other devices that offer the same capabilities for viewing Netflix, Amazon Plus, Hulu, etc., but they cost hundreds of dollars more. Yes, you can play games on these devices and not on the Roku, but if you are just looking for an entertainment aggregator, the Roku is for you.
Looking to the future, Roku is doing away with their small box and turning to something even smaller – a thumb drive. While the miniature Roku stick may be too far ahead of the game (unable to connect to a lot of older TV ports), it is certainly something to look out for when more TVs are better connected.