Sunday, October 27, 2013

Roku 3 Streaming Video Player

Occasionally I buy a gadget, go somewhere, or eat something that I feel is worth mentioning.  This is the case with my new Roku 3 streaming player.  I purchased one this weekend at Costco for $80.00.  In a related blog I recount my switch from Dish Network to AT&T U-Verse about 2 years ago.  I'm still not happy with U-verse but yet I'm still a subscriber.  I was so unhappy initially that I wrote a blog about it.  Read that review here in AT&T U-Verse Leaves A Lot To Be Desired.  Since then my internet download and upload have improved somewhat.  This brief review is more upbeat.

The Roku comes in the small cardboard box.

You'll just need to pry the box open along the handle, or I suppose you could cut it open with a knife or some scissors.

Inside the box is another box.

After all the packaging, and the thin and somewhat anemic manual, are put aside you're left with the remote control, tether, 2 C batteries, headphones, and 2 sets of extra headphone earbud tips.

There's also the Roku 3, power cable, and a 6' long HDMI cable in the box.

The Roku player has a USB connection.

There's also a DC IN jack for power, a reset hole just below that, an Ethernet jack, an HDMI jack, and micro SD card slot.

A cloth "ROKU" tag sticks out of one side of the player like the tag on a pair of Levis bluejeans.  I don't know what that's for.

The headphones plug into the side of the remote control.

The volume control for the headphones is located on the side of the remote control.  It does not control the TV volume.

Once the HDMI cable is connected between the Roku player and your television and power is applied the unit will start initializing itself.  You may have to change the input or source on your television to display the Roku configuration screens.  The screens will prompt you to setup your wireless network connection, activate the unit and create a Roku account from another computer.  The unit will also automatically update and install the latest software.  The screen said that it would automatically restart after the update was complete but my unit froze-up.  I unplugged and restored power to the player and, after re-initializing, the display was normal.  The update was complete.

As you create your online Roku account you'll be prompted to add several streaming services.  Several services are pre-selected.  If you proceed with these selected you won't be charged for the service.   They're basically there as placeholders.  I bought the Roku 3 to stream HBO GO because my relatively new 60" Sharp Aquas LC-60C6400U smart TV only supports a few streaming services and HBO GO was not one of them.  It also doesn't have a browser to enable adding additional services.  What you see is what you get!

Since I had to add one of the Roku's primary service apps while creating my account , I added Netflix.   This didn't cost me anything since I don't have a Netflix account.  I may get one in the future anyway.   After that I was able to add my HBO GO account.  I had to activate that account via another computer as well.

Netflix and HBO GO are my available streaming services ready for selection on my Roku Home page.   Even though I don't have Netflix service, the app is still available.  I suppose that if I selected it I'd have to create and then active that account as well via my computer.

After I select HBO GO the Roku loads my viewing options.

Options are easily selected with the few buttons on the remote.

I also installed the Roku app on my Galaxy S2 cellphone.  After enabling my phone's WiFi my phone was able to recognize the Roku via my wireless network.

With the app I have complete control of the Roku.

The app has the same buttons at the remote control.

The Roku store is where you can add free or paid programs.

The programs are listed by category.

You can also use the Roku to play music and photos. I haven't used either feature but I clicked on Photos and three options were listed all of which were photos that reside on my phone.

I said previously that I bought the Roku to stream HBO GO which is true.  More specifically, I bought it to watch the HBO series Game of Thrones.  The series was available on demand earlier in the year but now it's gone.  I suppose it will return before the series continues.  I couldn't wait that long.  I'm addicted.  Game of Thrones is an awesome series!

I guess I should say a few final words about the Roku 3 so here they are.  The Roku remote is surprisingly easy to use.  The picture quality is amazing.  The remote control headphone is a really cool idea for those of us who like to watch TV in bed and prefer not to wake the wife.  We've watched two movies so far and neither experienced any delays in loading, buffering, or hesitation.  They were smooth as silk.  The only negative thing I can think of is the fact that my crappy U-Verse router won't connect to the Roku when I move the player into my family room.  That was expected because our lives have evolved to being within line of sight of that feeble excuse for a router for 2 years.

Thanks for reading.