Your Digital Media Has Never Looked So Good

 
Bron
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First Impressions

Sat Aug 16, 2008 1:33 pm

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.
 
wideasleep1
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Sat Aug 16, 2008 2:46 pm

Excellent review, Bron..'cept the best 'soft-off' is a piece of dark tape over the light. :p
Then as it was, then again it will be
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M1000x2,M2000,Twonky 4.3.3 RC1 beta on LinkStation HGLAN400gig,Buffalo whr-g54s on DD-WRTfirmware-luv'in it!
 
Bron
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Sat Aug 16, 2008 4:55 pm

wideasleep1 wrote:
Excellent review, Bron..'cept the best 'soft-off' is a piece of dark tape over the light. :p


Thanks! Well, yeah, that works, too. ;)
 
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KennyJ
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Re: First Impressions

Thu Aug 21, 2008 3:19 pm

Bron wrote:
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.


I think everything I own on DVD is also on my Netflix Queue -- for exactly that reason. Laziness.... i mean convienience. :)
 
Bron
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Re: First Impressions

Thu Aug 21, 2008 4:49 pm

KennyJ wrote:
Bron wrote:
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.


I think everything I own on DVD is also on my Netflix Queue -- for exactly that reason. Laziness.... i mean convienience. :)


Ha ha, I hear you!
 
DoomsDay
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Location: Charlotte NC

Thu Aug 21, 2008 6:42 pm

I am hooked up via component and I still see the softness your 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.
 
Bron
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Thu Aug 21, 2008 8:33 pm

DoomsDay wrote:
I am hooked up via component and I still see the softness your 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.


I quite agree. Movie Industry = Stupid.

And, yea, I'm not hung up on HD like some. I like HD, but I still enjoy mostly SD fare, by my own choice. To go all HD would mean giving up too much right now. 480i/p is fine.

I understand the trap, though. Once you see HD it's very tempting. And very expensive. Thus my choice to be happy with SD for now. Though I watch it upconverted on a 32" CRT HDTV. Go figure. ;)
 
DoomsDay
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Location: Charlotte NC

Fri Aug 22, 2008 5:58 am

Bron wrote:
DoomsDay wrote:
I am hooked up via component and I still see the softness your 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.


I quite agree. Movie Industry = Stupid.

And, yea, I'm not hung up on HD like some. I like HD, but I still enjoy mostly SD fare, by my own choice. To go all HD would mean giving up too much right now. 480i/p is fine.

I understand the trap, though. Once you see HD it's very tempting. And very expensive. Thus my choice to be happy with SD for now. Though I watch it upconverted on a 32" CRT HDTV. Go figure. ;)


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 to 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. :)
 
Bron
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Fri Aug 22, 2008 2:54 pm

DoomsDay wrote:
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 to 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. :)


I totally understand the bit about SD being painful after watching HD. That's why I have purposely limited my HD viewing for now. ;)

Yes, I think it says quite a lot about the PQ!!! Thanks for the comments!
 
RC
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Location: Portland, Oregon

Kudos, great device.

Sat Aug 23, 2008 7:27 pm

0) All around, I've been really impressed, this is a cool piece of gear.
1) The remote is great. The design is really neat, and I get the feeling the battery cover won't end up falling off and being held on with tape like my other remotes.
2) I do wish that "no 480i support" would be included in the product description instead of the FAQ. I could've saved 20$ by not buying the component cable that is useless with my component switch and TV.
 
Bron
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Thu Jan 01, 2009 3:09 pm

Bron wrote:
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...

... Roku - if you like my power off idea, just send me a schematic autographed by the design team.


OK, Roku team, do I get my autographed schematic? I see you implemented my suggestion to have the light go off in stand-by mode in the recent 1.5 update. ;)

Please PM for my mailing address if you're game and I'll even pay the postage. And it doesn't have to be a schematic...anything handy would do. Just something cool for my wall! :D

Cheers!

Bron
Last edited by Bron on Fri Jan 02, 2009 12:27 pm, edited 1 time in total.
 
montlyfool
Posts: 50
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 12:01 pm

no problems so far

Thu Jan 01, 2009 7:14 pm

I have mine hooked up. Updated to 1.5 yesterday. No issues with HD or regular movies. Enough movies in my queue, so no problem finding them.

Waiting for the new update to add new features and channels..
 
Bron
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Re: no problems so far

Fri Jan 02, 2009 12:28 pm

montlyfool wrote:
I have mine hooked up. Updated to 1.5 yesterday. No issues with HD or regular movies. Enough movies in my queue, so no problem finding them.

Waiting for the new update to add new features and channels..


Yea, it's sweet. Hang in there. I hear more good stuff is on the way, but it will take time, so we'll have to be patient. Meanhwhile, enjoy!

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