ROKU Netflix Player -first impressions - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 46 Old 08-16-2008, 12:36 AM - Thread Starter
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Well, I've had a Netflix acct. for awhile and have been very happy with their service, and I have great faith in the ReplayTV guys and ROKU, so after waiting to see if they would honor their promises to release open source code, SDK's, and so on, I bit the bullet and just got my Roku Netflix Player today. Here's my initial experience and quick impressions.

First of all, it's an incredibly easy setup. Take it out of the box, plug it in and connect it to your TV and in less than 3 minutes you'll be ready to view movies (if you had yourself already logged in to Netflix to enter the activation code on their site). The box comes up and walks you through the setup and activation process on screen. It detects your network and configures itself automatically. I had no issues. I've had clock radios that were harder to set up! Within 10 minutes of opening the box you can be watching a movie. It's even better than described, IMHO, as far as most reviews, for ease of setup.

Next, I was really curious about two things, the "delays" and picture quality. I set mine up as wireless to start, thinking I might have to go wired, but that's completely not necessary. From the time I select a movie or TV episode until it begins playing is consistently 10-12 seconds. It takes me longer to load a DVD! I was very pleased with this. The rewind and fast forward feature is very, very cool. I like it a lot. The time to resume playing after I rewind or fast forward has consistently been 5-6 seconds. This is very acceptable. I truly find the ffw/rew feature as good or better than "normal" ffw/rew on a DVD player.

I'm a sci-fi buff, so my first 'tests' were with things like "Star Hunter 2300," "Earth 2," "Outer Limits," and so forth. The PQ was excellent. Truly near DVD quality. I should mention that I was in a hurry, so for now, the Roku is hooked up to my TV via a composite to a DVD recorder input and via that to the TV. Hardly ideal. Yet, even so, the PQ was great - especially for composite! I would expect component, HDMI, and even S-Video to be even better. So I'm in a worst case scenario and still seeing excellent quality.

For example, text on screen (e.g. white letters on black background) are very sharp, clear and easy to read. Color is good, no motion or compression artifacts noticed so far. Very slight softness compared to DVD, probably due to composite hookup, I am very, very pleased. I was not expecting it to be this good. (This is on an Hitachi 32" CRT HDTV.) It looks good up close and at normal viewing distances.

I'm sure source quality is a factor. I read as many reviews as I could find, and some seemed to experience lower quality. I'm sure older movies, some TV shows and some movies won't be as good. But I did flip through my queue of about 60 items and sample quite a few and all were quite good. My son dropped by and took a look and he was very impressed (even with his good younger eyes) with the PQ as well.

Wireless has been flawless and I am consistently getting 4 "dots" (the max) on streaming speed and quality. Of course, my Roku is setting right next to my wifi router! (I originally planned to hook it up with a short cable.) I have Comcast cable internet service, so no problems there.

The Roku team has done an excellent job. The "user experience" is simply awesome (just like the ReplayTV). I find the Roku player to be even more convenient than DVD's -- for example, I can browse several seasons of episodes of a series like Heroes and play what I want -- no getting up to swap DVD's, no space management issues. It really is pretty darn convenient. I really think this is the future or something very like it.

I saw a lot of comments about the content selection in reviews. I find the selection to be pretty good, though it is mostly older stuff. But there's plenty of good stuff. More than I have time to watch. I had no trouble putting 60 items in my "Watch Instantly" queue (you can have up to 500 at a time queued up). There's lots of comedy, drama, sci-fi, kids stuff, music, movies, documentaries, foreign films, classics, TV series, and so on. Lots of stuff I already have on DVD, but I'd certainly watch it this way and would not even bother to dig out my DVD most of the time. Of course, none of the hot recent movies are here (or even the bad recent movies). They'll still be in your DVD queue. But considering this costs you not one penny extra (other than the cost of the box itself), I'd say it's a pretty fair deal. I know I'm satisfied.

Usually, one of the first things I do is add a device like this to my MX-500 universal remote. But the Roku remote is so well designed and nice to use, that I may not this time. The user interface is very simple and very good. They were smart not to clutter it up. It's fun to use and works very well. Very intuitive. No manual needed. It looks good, too. Indeed, the remote, the box itself, the software -- all have a touch of elegance and class.

It would be worth signing up for Netflix just to get this box and use it. I'm dead serious. It meets or exceeds all my expectations. That's pretty darn rare these days. Kudos to the Roku team behind this, they have done an outstanding job. So nice to see a well designed unit that performs well to boot.

If they get other content sites functional for this device, as they say they will, I will be in hog heaven. If not, it's worth every penny as is.

Finally - there's a lot of back and forth over the lack of a power button. In my opinion, they could solve that very simply by simply have a 'soft' power off/standby mode. Maybe it's as simple as having the light go off when the screen saver comes on or when you press a button on the remote or select 'standby' from the menu. Does not bother me, especially, but I think it was an omission. People like to be able to turn things "off" - even if they're not really off.

Bron

P.S. Roku - if you like my power off idea, just send me a schematic autographed by the design team.
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post #2 of 46 Old 08-18-2008, 07:35 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bron View Post


This is on an Hitachi 32" CRT HDTV ...

That's a relatively small screen by today's standards. I'm guessing the picture quality wouldn't hold up nearly as well on my 60" plasma. Nice review, though. It does seem like an intriguing gadget.
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post #3 of 46 Old 08-19-2008, 06:48 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gweempose View Post

That's a relatively small screen by today's standards. I'm guessing the picture quality wouldn't hold up nearly as well on my 60" plasma. Nice review, though. It does seem like an intriguing gadget.

Do any SD/DVD videos hold up well on your 60" plasma? From my experience, the further you go above 42", the worse an SD picture will look. Obviously individual TVs/hardware can have better scalers, but the general rule applies.
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post #4 of 46 Old 08-19-2008, 08:43 AM
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Can not get too excited about a review using composite video. The real test is how does it hold up to true DVD quality, not a dumb down version across an out dated interface.

What does it look like on component up-scaled to 720p or 1080i, Or the HDMI interface.
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post #5 of 46 Old 08-19-2008, 11:11 AM
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I have a Vudu box and I must say that it's pretty sweet. The PQ is amazing - it will do full 1080p and it looks perfect on my 50" plasma. Standard Definition movies look DVD quality or better (to me) and the HD content is superb. I'm not against the Netflix box and I'd gladly buy it to augment my entertainment options but I'm just not fully understanding a few things.

So here's what I don't understand about all the hype behind the Netflix box:
  • Content - why would anyone be happy with all the older content and no new releases? Maybe I'm missing something but from what I understand they don't have new content available. Is this true?
  • Interface - I also understand that you have to "seed" your queue via their website. With Vudu it's all availbel for browsing straight from the box.
  • Vudu is only $250 versus $99 for the Netflix box. Granted it's $150 more expensive but if the price point doesn't seem so dramatically different that it would stop most people from getting it.
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post #6 of 46 Old 08-19-2008, 12:50 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mebby View Post

[*]Content - why would anyone be happy with all the older content and no new releases? Maybe I'm missing something but from what I understand they don't have new content available. Is this true?

It seems like the people who question Netflix Watch Now service are those who don't have a Netflix account. Other than the one-time cost of the player, which isn't really needed anyway (I use my HTPC), the service is a free addition to your normal DVD rental service. It supplements the blu-rays, upscaled DVD's, new releases, etc. which you just absolutely need to have rendered with the best possible image quality that you are already receiving as part of your mail service. My Watch Now queue has 32 movies in it and growing. Movies and TV shows suitable for casual viewing or for painlessly "demoing" movies which I may be interested in owning. All without disrupting my stream of top tier rental selections which I receive as part of my mail service.

Jim
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post #7 of 46 Old 08-19-2008, 12:51 PM
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I think the vudu box and the netflix box are going for very different markets. Vudu is going for more of the high end market, while netflix is looking to enhance its current offerings to existing customers while growing its customer base.

Quote:
Originally Posted by mebby View Post

I have a Vudu box and I must say that it's pretty sweet. The PQ is amazing - it will do full 1080p and it looks perfect on my 50" plasma. Standard Definition movies look DVD quality or better (to me) and the HD content is superb. I'm not against the Netflix box and I'd gladly buy it to augment my entertainment options but I'm just not fully understanding a few things.

So here's what I don't understand about all the hype behind the Netflix box:

Content - why would anyone be happy with all the older content and no new releases? Maybe I'm missing something but from what I understand they don't have new content available. Is this true?

Currently true, they are trying to get more recent content available, but it involves studio contracts. Of the 410 items in my current netflix queue, 41 of them are available to watch instantly.

Quote:


Interface - I also understand that you have to "seed" your queue via their website. With Vudu it's all availbel for browsing straight from the box.

My queue is already "seeded" with the items from my existing DVD queue.


Quote:


Vudu is only $250 versus $99 for the Netflix box. Granted it's $150 more expensive but if the price point doesn't seem so dramatically different that it would stop most people from getting it.

2.5 times the price is a pretty significant difference. Also, you seem to look at the roku streamer on its own, and not factor in the fact that many people already have netflix service. For the same monthly price I am paying now, $99 would get me instant access to thousands of titles. With vudu it would be $250 + a rental fee per movie.

Personally, I'm waiting to see when Netflix gets HD content available, and what other devices will get the functionality. I know Xbox 360 and an LG player will have it by end of year, not sure what else.
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post #8 of 46 Old 08-19-2008, 06:33 PM
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We have 2 Netflix boxes driving 2-42 LCD TV'S (seperate rooms) via HDMI.

Is the picture quality HD - no!!
Is the picture quality DVD - more often than not - it depends on the speed of your broadband connection.

Movie selection is good. If you find something not in the WatchInstantly selection, rent it from Netflix.

I believe Netflix will eventually have HD content for Instant Watching, their box is designed for it.

If you are one of the priviledged few who live in the rarified air of TOTAL High Definition land......................than the Netflix offering is not for you!!!

Sorry if this sounds like I'm ranting................I just had a need to say something positive.

Regards
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post #9 of 46 Old 08-20-2008, 06:15 AM
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Good points. I never really thought about the Netflix box as a supplement to existing users of Netflix. I can see the appeal to that.

I'm currently satisfied with Vudu as a replacement of my Blockbuster or Netflix mail service but it's still got room to improve.

I also have an Xbox 360 so I'm eagerly awaiting the fall dashboard update to see how the new Netflix functionality works with that. Between that and my Vudu I'll hopefully be fully content.
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post #10 of 46 Old 08-21-2008, 06:37 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gweempose View Post

That's a relatively small screen by today's standards. I'm guessing the picture quality wouldn't hold up nearly as well on my 60" plasma. Nice review, though. It does seem like an intriguing gadget.

Yes, that's why I made a point of mentioning it.

I have seen some people with large displays who liked it, some who did not. I'd be interested to see someone who has one with a large display pick a title with known good quality and then give their opinion.

I have gotten up real close and inspected the output, and I must say, it still looks pretty good for most things. Obviously the old TV stuff not so much, but recent (last 5-6 years) DVD's look good to me. But, yea, such a large display will show all the warts.

It is indeed an intriguing gadget. If they get any other content provider signed up, it will fly out the door. I know a lot of people who are just waiting to see if that happens. Personally, I'd say it's very worthwhile even if they don't, but, sure, I'd like to see hulu content and more as well!
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post #11 of 46 Old 08-21-2008, 06:40 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GPowers View Post

Can not get too excited about a review using composite video. The real test is how does it hold up to true DVD quality, not a dumb down version across an out dated interface.

What does it look like on component up-scaled to 720p or 1080i, Or the HDMI interface.

Then buy one, hook it up, and tell us!

Personally, the quality over the composite is as good as I've ever seen over composite and very satisfactory for normal viewing on my tube size. It's so good, I'm in no hurry to hook it up via component. But, sure, that should be even better.

And, the parts of my review concerning usability and such are still relevant, right?
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post #12 of 46 Old 08-21-2008, 07:19 PM - Thread Starter
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Yes the vudi is a more capable box. No question.

As for the selection, I now have over 93 items in my queue. Great foreign flics, lots of good sci-fi from a few years old and older, lots of fairly recent movies (2006, 2007, 2008), fairly recent TV series (i.e. Heroes Season 2), lots of *great* older TV Series (you have all the seasons and episodes available, e.g Dick Van Dyke show), lots of documentaries, concert videos, kiddy fare and family stuff, and so on.

In the last few days I've watch a greek play ("Antigone"), "Cashback" (good movie), an episode of "Heroes", A CREAM concert video, a CSNY concert video, several Outer Limits episodes (original series, they have the new series as well), the JIMI HENDRIX documentary DVD, "Letters from Iwo Jima" (2007 -fairly recent), Pan's Labyrinth (2006), Paris, Je T'aime (2007 foreign), an old "Sonny and Cher" TV episode, some old 60's rock TV clips, and more.

Not watched yet, but in queue: Phantasm (1979 classic sci-fi horror), "The Air I Breathe" (2008 indie film with Kevin Bacon, Sarah Michelle Gellar, etc.), "The Man From Earth" (2007 sci-fi), "Silent Running" (1971 Sci-fi classic starring Bruce Dern- great flic), "The Contractor" (2007, Wesley Snipes et al), a whole slew of comedy acts (many played on comedy central), "The Good German" (2006, George Clooney, Cate Blanchett, etc.), "The Remains fo the Day" and many more.

It's kind of like having the last 10 years of cable, DVD's, and TV, plus a lot of never aired stuff, all available "on demand" for free! Not sure what I'm in the mood for? Well, I've got 12,000+ choices currently.

And I still have my DVD's shipping for more recent fare. Anyway, it was a bit of a surprise. You don't realize until you have it how it will change your viewing habits, just like my ReplayTV's did many years ago. And I am now seriously thinking of dropping my cable back to basic or going OTA. It's that good.

I know I'm sounding like a bit of a fanboy (LOL) -but this thing has just hit the sweet spot for me, as you can tell!
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post #13 of 46 Old 08-22-2008, 06:59 AM
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Thanks for the info Bron - maybe I'll have to check it out.
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post #14 of 46 Old 08-22-2008, 10:46 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bron View Post

Then buy one, hook it up, and tell us!

I have tried the Netflix watch instantly service on a 36" 720P TV using the VGA input and a PC. The quality was not that great. No where near the picture quality of an upscaled DVD on a cheap DVD player (60 bucks) using component. Or comparing Netflix vs. Hulu. Hulu's picture quality is far better, but you must put up with the commericials. Oh well...

In regards to a set-top box, I will stick to my linksys media extenders, XBOX360, or a direct attached PC.

Thanks for the review.
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post #15 of 46 Old 08-22-2008, 12:34 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GPowers View Post

I have tried the Netflix watch instantly service on a 36" 720P TV using the VGA input and a PC. The quality was not that great. No where near the picture quality of an upscaled DVD on a cheap DVD player (60 bucks) using component. Or comparing Netflix vs. Hulu. Hulu's picture quality is far better, but you must put up with the commericials. Oh well...

In regards to a set-top box, I will stick to my linksys media extenders, XBOX360, or a direct attached PC.

Thanks for the review.

Were you comparing Hulu's HD shows vs. Netflix or the SD shows? I have heard from a couple of people that the quality seems better via the roku box than it does via the video out on their computers. Not sure how accurate the reports are, but that is what I heard.
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post #16 of 46 Old 08-22-2008, 02:19 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by mebby View Post

Thanks for the info Bron - maybe I'll have to check it out.

You're welcome, my friend. If I had a vudu, I'd be pretty happy, I think.
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post #17 of 46 Old 08-22-2008, 02:24 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Scyber View Post

Were you comparing Hulu's HD shows vs. Netflix or the SD shows? I have heard from a couple of people that the quality seems better via the roku box than it does via the video out on their computers. Not sure how accurate the reports are, but that is what I heard.

Can only comment on what my eyeballs saw. It was 480p hi res version. But yes the 720p is even better.
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post #18 of 46 Old 08-22-2008, 02:35 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GPowers View Post

I have tried the Netflix watch instantly service on a 36" 720P TV using the VGA input and a PC. The quality was not that great. No where near the picture quality of an upscaled DVD on a cheap DVD player (60 bucks) using component. Or comparing Netflix vs. Hulu. Hulu's picture quality is far better, but you must put up with the commericials. Oh well...

In regards to a set-top box, I will stick to my linksys media extenders, XBOX360, or a direct attached PC.

Thanks for the review.

My 32" Hitachi is 720p/1080i -- I'd bet the Roku has better output than the VGA out from your PC. Also, the up-scaling varies form set to set. I have a fair bit of experience with different devices (I have 3 different DVD recorders, 2 up-scaling, 3 ReplayTV's, OTA HD receiver, and I view on laptops,etc.) The Roku on the TV looks better than the instant view on my laptop. When I say the composite output is as good or better than any composite out I've seen, I'm not kidding. It looks like S-Video. Rock solid and sharp, no flicker, just a slightly softer picture than a DVD.

Now the only hedge is that the composite form the Roku is going to my Toshiba DR-5 (an awesome recorder) and from the DR-5 to the TV. It is actually possibly that it's the DR-5 that's so damn good and is cleaning up the signal. So we need to get feedback from some more people to be sure. But at least one other person in this thread is reporting similar results here and I have seen others reporting the same elsewhere. So...

But with all the great gear you have, I can see why you might not be interested. My main point is to reassure those with any concerns about the output quality, since some of the reviews were iffy on that point.

Everyone should keep in mind that the choice of source material and the quality of the upscaler in the TV can have a big impact on final quality. I know my Hitachi does a good job upscaling, so I always feel pretty good about my tests using it. I have looked at the same stuff on an LCD monitor and sometimes it looks awful by comparison, sometimes fine (depending on the LCD) -- so I know it can make a big difference.

Thanks for the reply!
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post #19 of 46 Old 08-22-2008, 02:42 PM - Thread Starter
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P.S. Here's a post from another thread where he reports similar quality over component. This is as I suspected. So I'm in even less of a hurry to switch - I may just leave it on composite.

"I am hooked up via component and I still see the softness you're talking about. it doesn't really bother me that much as the picture quality is still very fine for me. I had a friend stop by and look at it and he wasn't impressed at all. He is very much into HD and he didn't like it because it wasn't in full HD 1080p. Oh well, can't please everyone. I am enjoying it and I think they did a great job. My only complaint is that I can't get 1080 over component but thats not roku's fault, thats the fault of the movie industry being stupid and trying to force a half ass product on us in the form of hdmi."
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post #20 of 46 Old 08-22-2008, 02:49 PM - Thread Starter
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One more post from another thread. Last one as I think I've made my point.

Quote:


Well, whats funny is that I have all but quit watching SD shows since I got my HD DVR for directv. I have gotten to the point that watching a regular SD show on a 65" tv is just too painful for me. Yet I have no problems watching anything coming from netflix. That should say something about the quality of the PQ coming across.

So I think PQ is not a big issue with the Roku. In fact, the excellent PQ is a nice bonus and somewhat unexpected.

Cheers!
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post #21 of 46 Old 08-26-2008, 12:11 PM
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I've had a roku for some time now. I use it with a 720p PJ (older sony), component input. The quality is pretty variable but on average, I'd say SD-. Still it's very watchable. For $100 and no incremental cost, it's pretty awesome.

I've considered a Vudu but really don't like the fact that it rings the register every time I use it. It takes the HW cost and runs it way up if you use it much at all. I can live with the netflix instant-watch-it-now-instantly limitations for $0 incremental cost. They really need to get their marketing act together on the name, by the way.

Anyone else think the whole concept of the instant queue is lame? I sure hope they are coming out with an update that allows me to skip the whole queue thing. I really don't like going to my PC to set up access for my Roku.

Finally, I have to say that their remote control is incredible! It has excellent hand feel and weight. The action is just about perfect. I'd give it 9.95 out of 10. Steve Jobs could learn a thing from those guys.
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post #22 of 46 Old 08-26-2008, 08:34 PM - Thread Starter
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Philba, thanks for the info on PQ. Yes, it's definitely SD, but pretty good SD.

A lot of people have questioned the instant queue bit. Personally, I'm on my laptop so much and have to visit Netflix to update my DVD queue anyway, so no big deal to me. I always just go out and browse and add a few items to my queue. Normally over 100 items queued. Then, when watching TV, I browse my queue on the Roku and watch whatever I'm in the mood for. Works for me.

I and some others have suggested that an improvement might be to have some other standard queues (same for everyone) setup that you could access via the Roku, like "New Arrivals", "Top 50", "5 Star Movies" and so on. This might help.

Totally agree on the remote! Most of the time manufacturers screw up the remote, in fact, setting a new unit up on my universal remote (MX-500) is usually one of the first things I do. Not this time. I liked the Roku remote so much, I don't mind having a second remote laying near by - it just works so well and feels right. Kudos to the Roku team for an almost perfect design. In fact, the total Roku package gets a 9.95 from me. It's a nice treat to see someone get it right for a change!
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post #23 of 46 Old 08-28-2008, 10:43 AM
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I looked at the Vudu, I was even thinking of becoming a dealer, but passed, no residuals. I love my netflix box. Some content looks very good ( on par with DVD ), but then again most of what I watch are old tv shows, which won't look good on any system.

BTW, I am viewing on 135 inch screen at a 36 degree FOV.

Sailn...
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post #24 of 46 Old 08-28-2008, 06:44 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sailn View Post

I looked at the Vudu, I was even thinking of becoming a dealer, but passed, no residuals. I love my netflix box. Some content looks very good ( on par with DVD ), but then again most of what I watch are old tv shows, which won't look good on any system.

BTW, I am viewing on 135 inch screen at a 36 degree FOV.


Sailn, that's good to hear. Mine looks great on my 32" HDTV, but I am thinking about hooking it up to my Epson pj for kicks when I have some free time. I just got turned on to front pj's this year and WOW! It's another great viewing experience. If the Roku looks good on my 80" screen, I will be very happy!

I assume you are using a pj, correct?
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post #25 of 46 Old 10-14-2008, 04:16 PM
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Is there any reason you cannot use more than one of these in the same house/on the same account?
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post #26 of 46 Old 10-14-2008, 05:34 PM
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check over at www.roku.com/forums
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post #27 of 46 Old 10-14-2008, 07:55 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Charles J P View Post

Is there any reason you cannot use more than one of these in the same house/on the same account?

You may use up to 4 devices on one account with no problem.

You do have to upgrade your Netflix plan to support N "unlimited" viewing where N is 1-4 depending on how many devices you plan to use at one time.

Even the max 4 devices with simultaneous unlimited viewing is only about $24, I think. And you get 4 DVD's to boot (i.e. you can have 4 DVD's on hand for viewing keeping them as long as you like, every time you send one back you get the next in your queue, plus the unlimited "Watch Instantly").

It's a super deal. I only have one, but I am enjoying it immensely. The new StarZ, Disney-ABC, and CBS deals added a lot of new content and makes it an even better deal -- and more is sure to come.
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post #28 of 46 Old 10-14-2008, 11:04 PM
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It is fun. Now if my DSL down TX would stay stable. On the edge.
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post #29 of 46 Old 10-18-2008, 07:24 AM
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From what I understand of the Roku box, they aren't doing anything differently than all the other devices capable of playing Netflix. Hence, whatever you get out of your computer is very likely to compare with the Roku (perhaps some degradation with wireless). I think the wireless in the Roku is only wireless-g, but I could be wrong.

I have a 50' Plasma (Panasonic) and if the movies via Netflix are of decent quality (source), then it is DVD quality with 720p on my Television. This is not via Roku, but instead via HP MediaSmart Connect X280N. I was watching Weeds the other day and it looked almost as good via Showtime HD. No joke.
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post #30 of 46 Old 10-18-2008, 07:28 AM
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Oh BTW,

The DRM for Netflix is just a registry key (that is not tied to any CPU or computer, it is generated by Netflix when you install their player).

If you ever get a DRM error about more than four devices, just grab the registry entry for Netlfix in your existing OS and import it into another comparable OS. Easy. Google instructions if needed. Really, all you need to do is search for "Netflix" in your regedit.

Also, if you do have more than four devices and can't or don't want to do the registry trick. The license expires after a week on any given device. It used to be a year, but Neflix has managed to get it down further.
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