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Roku Part One

Maggie from Milwaukee asks:

I watch Netflix online and am thinking about buying a Roku. Can you tell me anything about them?

Thanks for the question, Maggie. For several months, with no cable access where we live, and being too cheap to spring for a satellite dish, we watched Netflix on a TV connected to a laptop (not a particularly useful computer task). However, I recently received a Roku 2 XD as a gift and, technological pioneers that we are–3 1/2 years after they were introduced—a Roku now provides the Netflix gateway to our television.

The Roku 2 [1] is the current evolution of streaming media players from Roku that, through a wireless connection delivers internet video to a television screen. The three styles (HD, XD, and XS) offer different features at different prices, with a range—at the time of this writing—of $60.00-$100.00. For example, the XS (the most expensive) offers an Ethernet port for wired Internet connection and a USB port from which videos, photos, and music can be accessed from a USB drive.


The actual device is about 3 1/4 inches square and comes with a remote.


Connection to the TV is through the HDMI [2] or A/V Out ports. The Micro SD slot adds storage space.


The Remote

The remote incorporates an admirable simplicity, with only basic, essential controls, but that has its drawbacks. When typing is required, it’s done with an on-screen keyboard, using the arrow and selection keys. For that reason, it’s much easier to configure and update accounts on a computer and just access the preset information through the Roku. Once everything is in place, navigation with the remote is relatively easy.


Using the arrow keys, scroll to a channel and click the Options button to reveal the choices shown below.


Remotes with newer devices may also be equipped with buttons dedicated to accounts (Netflix, Pandora, etc.).


Roku requires payment information (credit card, PayPal) to activate the device. Not surprisingly, if this is mentioned at all in their promotional material, that mention is not very prominent, but it’s certainly something to consider before making a purchase. Based on online comments, many people consider this intrusion to be a dealbreaker.


On the setup screen, press OK


…to get the activation code.


At Roku.com/link [3], begin the set up.

Once the online setup was complete, our Roku quickly made adjustments, and was ready to use almost immediately.

Click the Home button on the remote, make a selection, and you’re on your way.

So, there it is, Maggie. The device costs between $60.00 and $100.00. The current monthly charge for Netflix streaming is about eight bucks, and while their selection certainly won’t please everyone, the thousands of movies and TV shows available make it a pretty good deal for us. And, Netflix is only one of dozens of channels available through Roku. The next article will take a look at some of those channels and at navigation methods.