Screen in the Bedroom – Part Three: Roku

The Roku box looks almost exactly like the Apple TV from the last post and does almost the same job. The differences are quite subtle, and which one you might end up wanting to buy might be as simple as whether you plan to rent your movies (or TV shows) from iTunes or Amazon (the Roku is one of the devices that will let you stream the free stuff from Amazon Prime, if you are that into the Amazon world). The Roku is a bit lighter; a stiff wire may lift it right up, and also has composite output, the familiar red, white and yellow RCA cables.

Roku XS inputs

This feature alone might be the deciding factor if the TV or screen you want to light up is more than five or so years old and does not have HDMI. Also, the Roku remote is not IR and does not need to be line of sight, so you can put the unit behind the TV or in the cabinet.

Roku front view

The three models of Roku add a bit to the confusion. They offer the HD, XD and XS models. The entry-level HD and the 1080p enabled XD cost about the same $65-$70, so deciding between those is easy. The XS adds a motion control remote that you can swing around like a Wii controller and an Ethernet port for about $35 more (basically the price of the remote by itself). So if you want to play the occasional game of Angry Birds with a satisfying swing of the game controller, and you want to have the Ethernet for maximum bandwidth available in the future (3D, anyone?), you might want to go with the XS.

Setup is easy and the standard channels (Netflix, etc.) are right there. It is a much more open platform than the Apple TV; a huge universe of private channels are available to add (although not all that many that you’d really want, but definitely check out what Nowhere Man is up to).

See the first post: Screen in the Bedroom – Part One: TiVo.

See the second post: Screen in the Bedroom – Part Two : Apple TV.

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