As more of the content of cable begins to appear on the Internet, the idea of paying just for Internet rather than Internet and cable becomes increasingly appealing. The problem is that the lean back experience of TV isn’t the same on a computer monitor. One of the best solutions to this is the Roku XD, a small easy to use box that lets you stream a wide variety of videos onto your TV screen very easily.
Review: Roku XD Hardware (4 out of 5)
The Roku XD box is reasonably inexpensive at about 80 dollars. This includes the Roku box, a remote control and the wires to plug it in and attach it to your TV. None of these components feels cheap, but they are all plastic. The remote itself has only eight buttons if you include the arrows and the “OK” as five separate buttons. Otherwise, it has just five. This shows how easy the Roku XD is to control.
The Roku Box is very small, making it easy to slide in anywhere so you don’t have to worry about the extra room around your TV. This can fit almost wherever you want, as it is only about twice as big as the remote. It also picked up the Wi-Fi far better than I expected, even seeing several hot spots my laptop does not.
The only real issue with any of the hardware is that the remote only controls the Roku. Since most universal remotes do not have the Roku programmed into them yet, you may find yourself needing an extra remote or get a universal that can learn from the Roku remote.
Review: Roku XD Installation (5 out of 5)
Setting up the Roku box was very easy. I tried it wired first and then decided wireless would be nice if it worked. To do either you simply plug in the box, attach it to the TV with the standard yellow, white and red RCA cable and plug it in. For wired, you will also need to plug in the Internet connection. It then has you answer two or three questions about things like the clock and enter your Wi-Fi security password. For me, updating the software took twice as long as the setup.
Review: Roku XD Available Programming (4 out of 5)
The programming requires a bit more setup, but no more than any other device does. If you have a subscription to either Hulu or Amazon, all you need to do is go online and enter a code. These easy to use codes are necessary for every streaming device.
Finding programming you want is also straightforward. The first item on the menu is finding channels. If you don’t mind paying for Hulu or Netflix, there is plenty of programming. Buying things through Amazon is easy as well, but if you do not want to do that, the choices are a bit more limited. This factor appears to be improving.
Review: Roku XD Interface (4 out of 5)
The interface of the Roku XD is user-friendly. Since you have only the programming listings you choose, it can be as robust or limited as you want. You do often have to navigate several levels of menus in order to start the video you want. This is largely because of the amount of choices, but it is not as easy as cable. Being able to set up a list of programs you could go to easily would be nice, as would the opportunity for a simple list a bit more like Boxee.
The only real issue of the interface is that on an older, standard definition TV, the descriptions of TV programs were often hard to read. In particular, the episode numbers are difficult to make out, although the titles and images generally helped to overcome this problem. Still, if you are using a standard definition TV it is not as good.
Review: Roku XD Conclusion (4 out of 5)
With access to both Hulu Plus and Netflix as well as a far lower price point than most of its competitors, Roku XD earns a solid four out of five and is the current leader of set-top streaming boxes. There are still limitations on this device, and over the next years, it will likely be replaced by something considerably better. For now, this is both the least expensive and easiest way to get most of the quality streaming video you will want from the internet to your TV.
You can buy the Roku XD at their website or from at BestBuy for $79.99.
Source: Author's Own Experience
Image: Courtesy of Roku, https://www.roku.com/