Watching a movie at home used to mean ordering a DVD online, waiting for it to arrive, then having it sit on your coffee table for weeks until you were in the mood to watch it.
Now, millions of people use Roku to choose what they want to watch instantly. Whether you are into exploring over 600 channels and hundreds of thousands of movies and shows, delving into what really interests you, or just stumbling across something new, Roku makes it happen easily, instantly and are affordable.
All of the Roku models can turn any TV, HDTV or an old analog model into a “Smart” TV, with the ability to stream hundreds of online video and audio channels and services, including Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon Instant Video, HBO Go, Vudu, Crackle, Pandora, Mog, Rdio, and MLB.TV. (Most of the best channels require separate subscription fees, but some — Crackle, Pandora, and others — are completely free.) All Roku models offer wireless Wi-Fi streaming and a universal search function (for finding content across multiple video providers). Roku can also stream photos, music, and video from smartphones and tablets via the free Play On Roku app (which can also double as a remote control), and stream media from PCs and Macs with the Plex app.
There are a few different models in the Roku line.
Roku LT ($50): The entry-level Roku includes all of the features above and retails for just $50. HD video output is limited to 720p, and it includes standard RCA (yellow/red/white) jacks for connecting to older analog TVs.
Roku HD ($60): The Roku HD is basically identical to the LT, except for the color scheme (black instead of purple). Unlike the LT (mostly an online-only product), the HD is available in many brick-and-mortar stores. The list price is $60, but it’s sometimes discounted to as low as $40.
Roku 2 XD ($80): The Roku 2 XD is a slightly smaller box than the LT/HD models, and it adds full 1080p HD video output. It supports an optional Bluetooth motion remote, but only a standard infrared remote is included in the box. Analog video output (for pre-HDTVs) is enabled via an included breakout cable.
Roku 2 XS ($100): The top-of-the-line Roku also offers 1080p video output, an Ethernet port, and a USB port for limited local file access. It includes a Bluetooth motion remote and a free copy of Angry Bi
The entry-level Roku models, which deliver the core feature set for as little as $50 (sometimes less, with discounts) is a great product. The Roku LT and Roku HD can be considered identical and interchangeable.
If you absolutely need 1080p video, you can pay extra for the Roku XD — but be aware that the resolution on most streaming video services won’t be sharp enough to see the difference between 720p and 1080p video resolution.
The Roku 2 XS will be overkill for most buyers, but it’s a good option if you need the dependability of a wired Ethernet connection.
As of this week Roku and Time Warner Cable announced at the International Consumer Electronics Show a deal that will bring up to 300 live streaming TV channels to the digital media receiver.