Poor picture quality or quality control?

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Which method seems to provide the best picture quality?

The Roku Netflix Player
10
56%
Netflix web streaming via laptop
3
17%
Both great/no difference
5
28%
 
Total votes : 18

Poor picture quality or quality control?

Postby elmoglick » Wed Jun 04, 2008 9:10 pm

Well, I've been reading all the rave reviews, but either I've gotten two defective units or most folks' threshold for watchable quality is considerably lower than mine.

I've now used two separate boxes on two different LCD tv's via HDMI and can't believe how poor the picture quality is. Most sharp edges have very distinct jaggies. I've viewed parts of over a dozen movies with the same very marginal results. It looks almost like the chromic aberrations you'd see when watching a PAL dvd on a cheap NTSC conversion player.

I couldn't believe this is how the product was designed to work, so I hoped that this was simply a reflection of poor video source encoding, so I hooked up my laptop via the same HDMI cable and fired up the Netflix web player and WOW, what a HUGE difference! NO jaggies, with a sharp and very watchable picture on both my 30 and 42 inch TVs. Darn close to DVD quality on many of the movies.

I had expected that the dedicated unit would be able to perform at least as good as a laptop connection, but evidently that is not the case (not even close). I can't imagine that the Roku folks had ever done any A/B comparison of the video quality between Netflix Player and a laptop player. That would have been a 'back-to-the-drawing-board' moment.

Needless to say, I'm very disappointed and will be calling in the morning to take advantage of the 30-day money back guarantee, unless someone can convince me that I must be a victim of two defective units (or that I just need to watch movies with my glasses off)

El
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Postby RokuJamesL » Wed Jun 04, 2008 9:29 pm

Of course we've done side by side comparisons between the box and a PC. At the highest stream quality, playing movies via the box looks equal if not better than on a PC.

Let's start with the basics. What kind of broadband internet service do you have? DSL, cable or FIOS? What is the maximum rated speed of your service? If you don't know, you can run a bandwidth test to find out here:

http://www.speakeasy.net/speedtest/

Finally, and most importantly, when you play a movie on the box and it is buffering the stream, how many quality dot are you seeing (1 through 4, with 4 being the best). From your description, it sounds like you are getting one dot, which is the 500K stream. The best is four dots, which is 2.2 Mbps. If you are getting only one, two dots at best, then there is something about either your broadband connection, or your router's setup (if you're using wireless) that is affecting what stream the box is picking.
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Postby elmoglick » Wed Jun 04, 2008 10:15 pm

RokuJamesL wrote:Of course we've done side by side comparisons between the box and a PC. At the highest stream quality, playing movies via the box looks equal if not better than on a PC.

Let's start with the basics. What kind of broadband internet service do you have? DSL, cable or FIOS? What is the maximum rated speed of your service?


I have a 15mb cable (TWC) connection, (speedtest.net reports 14.3mb) and I've never seen less than four dots on the player. When testing via laptop, it also reports "highest quality". Both units were being used via wireless connection with a D-link router that reports a 100% quality link.

That should take care of the basics. By the way, I've also tried component connections with similar results.

So, could this really be a QC issue?
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Postby TaylorH » Wed Jun 04, 2008 11:26 pm

When you watch from the laptop, what resolution are you outputting to the TV?
I doubt you're using 720x480, which is what the player is outputting.

If you're displaying 1280x720, you're using the laptop's graphics scaler to produce an optimal picture before output.

By way of comparison you're using our player at 720x480 16:9, you have a stretched SD picture. Now you're using your TV's internal scaler to scale from 480p to 720p (or whatever the native resolution is of the set.)
With video compression like that coming from Netflix, scaling the video before output is going to look a lot better because it can remove those jaggies in the frame buffer. Once it comes out at 480p, the TV scalers often don't do as good of a job with it.

For apples to apples, set your laptop to 720x480 or 640x480 and display it on your TV and do the comparison that way.

When HD resolution support is added to the product, the picture quality should improve as it will be scaled by the NXP chip, then output in HD.

I'm not saying this is or isn't the reason why it's different. I'm just saying to consider this difference and see if it pans out.

I have a 60" 1080p Sony digital rear projection TV and personally I think the quality is better on my Roku box. But different TVs show things differently.
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Postby elmoglick » Thu Jun 05, 2008 7:23 am

RokuTaylor wrote:When you watch from the laptop, what resolution are you outputting to the TV?
I doubt you're using 720x480, which is what the player is outputting.

If you're displaying 1280x720, you're using the laptop's graphics scaler to produce an optimal picture before output.

By way of comparison you're using our player at 720x480 16:9, you have a stretched SD picture. Now you're using your TV's internal scaler to scale from 480p to 720p (or whatever the native resolution is of the set.)
With video compression like that coming from Netflix, scaling the video before output is going to look a lot better because it can remove those jaggies in the frame buffer. Once it comes out at 480p, the TV scalers often don't do as good of a job with it.

For apples to apples, set your laptop to 720x480 or 640x480 and display it on your TV and do the comparison that way.

When HD resolution support is added to the product, the picture quality should improve as it will be scaled by the NXP chip, then output in HD.

I'm not saying this is or isn't the reason why it's different. I'm just saying to consider this difference and see if it pans out.

I have a 60" 1080p Sony digital rear projection TV and personally I think the quality is better on my Roku box. But different TVs show things differently.



I'm sure my laptop is outputting something like 1280x768. It looks great on my LCD TV. Why would I want to lower the resolution? And if the Roku box only outputs 720x480, why would I (or anyone for that matter) prefer that lower resolution?

You are mistaken: For "apples to apples" I would compare my best output on my laptop with the best output of the Roku box. The Roku is clearly poorer quality. It's really just a "better than nothing" kinda device, you have to admit. I don't know about you, but when I watch movies, I'd like to see them in the highest quality possible. The Roku box provides convenience at the expense of significantly poorer video quality than a laptop or PC connection.

Since I prefer quality over the convenience of a $100 box, I must not be part of your target market. Fair enough. Perhaps eventually the quality of the Roku player will improve and then I'll give it another shot.

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Postby markhood » Thu Jun 05, 2008 3:16 pm

elmoglick wrote:You are mistaken: For "apples to apples" I would compare my best output on my laptop with the best output of the Roku box. The Roku is clearly poorer quality.
El

I agree that the Roku box with the current firmware is probably not for you, but I think you miss Taylor's point: when comparing the quality of your TV's scaler with your laptop's scaler, your laptop wins; with somebody else's TV/computer combination the TV could just as well win. The Roku box itself doesn't make any difference in the outcome, since it doesn't do any scaling at all yet.

It's impossible to have an "apples to apples" comparison with the quality of Roku's hardware scaler until it's been enabled by the firmware, so I think your issue is with the lack of a specific feature at this point (which of course is completely valid for your specific situation).
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Postby elmoglick » Thu Jun 05, 2008 4:19 pm

markhood wrote:
elmoglick wrote:You are mistaken: For "apples to apples" I would compare my best output on my laptop with the best output of the Roku box. The Roku is clearly poorer quality.
El

I agree that the Roku box with the current firmware is probably not for you, but I think you miss Taylor's point: when comparing the quality of your TV's scaler with your laptop's scaler, your laptop wins; with somebody else's TV/computer combination the TV could just as well win. The Roku box itself doesn't make any difference in the outcome, since it doesn't do any scaling at all yet.

It's impossible to have an "apples to apples" comparison with the quality of Roku's hardware scaler until it's been enabled by the firmware, so I think your issue is with the lack of a specific feature at this point (which of course is completely valid for your specific situation).


I think you've nailed the issue. Since the Roku box does not do any scaling, it is inherently inferior to most current PC video output. I think most folks would be amazed at the picture quality they are capable of getting from even a low-end PC/laptop via just a simple VGA cable to the TV.

Perhaps Roku jumped the gun with this product, on the assumption that most folks wouldn't notice or care. Probably a valid business decision, but I'm returning mine until it has the ability to ouput 1080i. THEN, they'll have a killer device, without question.

To their credit, I have to add that Roku support has been absolutely great. They are courteous, professional, and knowledgeable. When I originally thought my 1st unit was defective, I had a replacement in 48 hours. So I would have absolutely no qualms about buying an improved version when it comes out. They may have some qualms about selling it to me, though.... ;>

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Postby TaylorH » Thu Jun 05, 2008 4:21 pm

The bottom line is that the Netflix player by Roku is a standard definition (SD) video product. The laptop is giving you high definition (HD) video.
Even if the video source (the stream) is not of an HD resolution it still makes a big difference when the the playback device is upscaling to HD.

That's why an upscaling DVD player (to 1080i) looks better than a standard DVD player (at 480p) when they would otherwise be identical quality (at the same 480p). I would suggest that a similar comparison could be made between your laptop and our player.

Why would you want to use this player over your laptop? I can't answer that except that maybe you don't want to tie up your laptop to watch movies. But for video quality alone, I can't say you would.

That's like asking me to watch a DVD at 480p when I can use my upscaling DVD player to play 1080i.

HD output was designed in to this product from the start. We will be delivering a free software update to support HD output including upscaling (SD to HD out) as well as the capability to play HD streams when and if they're made available. At that point in time, the quality should be comparable to your computer.

If you were mislead about the HD capabilities, it is your choice if you want to return it. When HD is supported, the quality will improve. But I can't tell you to hold on to it based on mere faith of an upgrade.

I would hate to see you return it, we want everyone to be happy. I personally like the quality on my 60" 1080p Sony, and I'm not blind. But I'm also watching with the expectation that it's SD 480p, about on-par to my SD DVD player, which in your case, I hope that's the only reason it looks worse to you.

If the video quality worse in other ways, then I'm at a loss for answers. There have been some reviews lately which compare the Netflix player to some competitors and claim the video quality good.

Am I completely missing your point?
Last edited by TaylorH on Thu Jun 05, 2008 8:43 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Macktownjoe » Thu Jun 05, 2008 5:25 pm

For what it's worth:
I'm very pleased with the picture quality on my Sharp Aquuos 46" HDTV, even if it is 480p instead of what my TV is capable of. Previously I streamed from my laptop using the Netflix player. That was a good picture as well - but the Roku device makes everything easier and, to my old eyes and ears, provides a better view and better sound. Be sure to set for 16:9 and stretch for undistorted picture (if your screen is compatible).
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Postby elmoglick » Thu Jun 05, 2008 5:29 pm

RokuTaylor wrote:The bottom line is that the Netflix player by Roku is a standard definition (SD) video product. The laptop is giving you high definition (HD) video.
Even if the video source (the stream) is not of an HD resolution it still makes a big difference when the the playback device is upscaling to HD.

That's why an upscaling DVD player (to 1080i) looks better than a standard DVD player (at 480p) when they would otherwise be identical quality (at the same 480p). I would suggest that a similar comparison could be made between your laptop and our player.

Why would you want to use this player over your laptop? I can't answer that except that maybe you don't want to tie up your laptop to watch movies. But for video quality alone, I can't say you would.

That's like asking me to watch a DVD at 480p when I can use my upscaling DVD player to play 1080i.

HD output was designed in to this product from the start. We will be delivering a free software update to support HD output including upscaling (SD to HD out) as well as the capability to play HD streams when and if they're made available. At that point in time, the quality should be comparable to your computer.

If you were mislead about the HD capabilities, it is your choice if you want to return it. When HD is support, the quality will improve. But I can't tell you to hold on to it based on mere faith of an upgrade.

Am I completely missing your point?


Not at all. I think your perspective is pretty much accurate. I would even be willing to hang on to the player in the expectation of an HD upgrade in the near future, but then I would have to give up the 30-day return privilege if I still wasn't happy. If Roku were willing to waive that restriction, I'd tear up the RMA in a minute, but that's not very likely. So, returning it and re-purchasing later is probably my best bet at this point.

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Postby oarnura » Thu Jun 05, 2008 5:48 pm

elmoglick wrote:You are mistaken: For "apples to aIpples" I would compare my best output on my laptop with the best output of the Roku box. The Roku is clearly poorer quality.


Not really. Your TV's scaler could be of poor quality in this scenario. If you input a 480p signal and the TV produces jaggies its not the fault of the source.

It's really just a "better than nothing" kinda device, you have to admit. I don't know about you, but when I watch movies, I'd like to see them in the highest quality possible. The Roku box provides convenience at the expense of significantly poorer video quality than a laptop or PC connection.


Then you should buy or rent movies on Blu-Ray. Internet streaming will not compare to a HD movie on Blu-Ray. If you are such a stickler for quality you wouldn't watch movies on anything less than HD (Blu-Ray) with a surround sound system capable of the new lossless formats.


Since I prefer quality over the convenience of a $100 box, I must not be part of your target market. Fair enough. Perhaps eventually the quality of the Roku player will improve and then I'll give it another shot.

El


The quality of the player isn't the issue since others don't seem to have the issues you are having.

I am waiting for my box to ship. But so far of all the things I have read this is the first I have heard of these issues.

What brand are your LCD TVs?
Last edited by oarnura on Thu Jun 05, 2008 6:02 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Postby oarnura » Thu Jun 05, 2008 5:56 pm

elmoglick wrote:I think you've nailed the issue. Since the Roku box does not do any scaling, it is inherently inferior to most current PC video output. I think most folks would be amazed at the picture quality they are capable of getting from even a low-end PC/laptop via just a simple VGA cable to the TV.


Did you verify that the laptop over svideo or composite still outputs the best picture?

A low end laptop or PC is about $300-$600 and doesn't come with a remote or a easy to use set top box interface. Apple to Oranges.


Perhaps Roku jumped the gun with this product, on the assumption that most folks wouldn't notice or care. Probably a valid business decision, but I'm returning mine until it has the ability to ouput 1080i. THEN, they'll have a killer device, without question.


Since most people haven't complained about it, even professional reviewers that have tried it on 60" plasmas. I have to assume that the issue is limited to your brand of TV.
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Postby elmoglick » Thu Jun 05, 2008 6:08 pm

oarnura wrote:
elmoglick wrote:I think you've nailed the issue. Since the Roku box does not do any scaling, it is inherently inferior to most current PC video output. I think most folks would be amazed at the picture quality they are capable of getting from even a low-end PC/laptop via just a simple VGA cable to the TV.


Did you verify that the laptop over svideo or composite still outputs the best picture?


Since my laptop supports HDMI, there was no reason to verify lower quality output. What would that prove?

Since most people haven't complained about it, even professional reviewers that have tried it on 60" plasmas. I have to assume that the issue is limited to your brand of TV.


I don't think so. I've tested it on two different popular brands, LG and Olevia.

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Postby elmoglick » Thu Jun 05, 2008 6:25 pm

elmoglick wrote:You are mistaken: For "apples to aIpples" I would compare my best output on my laptop with the best output of the Roku box. The Roku is clearly poorer quality.


Not really. Your TV's scaler could be of poor quality in this scenario. If you input a 480p signal and the TV produces jaggies its not the fault of the source.


Not quite. I play regular DVDs all the time with a regular DVD player that outputs 480p. Looks great on both TVs. The nature of the source input is a critical determinant in TV's ability to scale nicely. I'm sure there are TVs with bad scalers, but mine do just fine with similar source material.

Then you should buy or rent movies on Blu-Ray. Internet streaming will not compare to a HD movie on Blu-Ray. If you are such a stickler for quality you wouldn't watch movies on anything less than HD (Blu-Ray) with a surround sound system capable of the new lossless formats.


I rent and watch both regular and Blu-Ray movies from (drum-roll please) Netflix.

The quality of the player isn't the issue since others don't seem to have the issues you are having.


The fact that three weeks into the distribution of this new product, few people have taken the time to express concerns on this forum with the quality of output can hardly be construed as evidence of outstanding quality. If I didn't have a laptop, I'd probably have accepted the quality with a shrug. But the difference is startling. I suspect when they upgrade to 1080i output, most folks with consider the improvement startling as well.

What brand are your LCD TVs?


Olevia and LG.
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