Can Roku Replace Cable TV Service?
If you're thinking about dropping your cable TV in favor of online TV and movie streaming, you should know about the Roku 3 box, which makes it simple to bring online video to your big screen TV. Here's a review of the latest Roku model, and my take on whether it can replace your cable TV subscription...
Roku 3 Review
Essentially, the Roku 3 is a very small WiFi streaming-media box that offers over 700 Internet "channels" of video and audio services, including Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon Instant Video, Crackle, Pandora, NHL, NBA, and MLB. The Roku product line brings internet movies and online TV shows to any standard or HDTV television sets, and its remote control with headphone jack doubles as a Wii-like motion-sensing controller for casual gaming.
Roku has built its reputation as one of the best values in streaming-media devices by continually improving its product and its service offerings. It's widely hailed as easy to set up and use. Although the latest box is dubbed Roku 3, the product has gone through several iterations since its debut in 2008. Roku 3, which replaces the discontinued Roku 2 XS, packs a lot of features into a palm-sized box priced at less than $100.
Four Roku models are available to accommodate different tastes. If you're into gaming, you will want the top-of-the-line Roku 3 model, priced at $99.99. It includes the motion controller you'll need to play games as more become available. (Angry Birds Space is included with Roku.) The Roku 3 sports an Ethernet port in addition to dual-band wireless connectivity, so you can connect to your Internet router with either wired or wireless. It also features a USB port so you can play local video, audio, and photo files. The Roku 3 supports 1080p HDTV, and can only be used with an HD-capable television. But don't worry, other Roku models will work with older non-HD TV sets.
The next step down is the Roku 2 XD model, priced at $79.99. It supports up to 1080p video quality, but doesn't come with Ethernet, USB, headphone jack or the motion controller. However, you can add a motion controller for an additional $30. The XD comes with an infrared remote for video control and menu navigation, but that device is not for gaming.
The entry-level Roku HD model costs just $59.99, but its HDTV capability is limited to 720p. Most people cannot tell the difference between 720p and 1080p, so if you want to save a few dollars, and you can live without the fancy features of the Roku 3, the Roku HD model is the way to go. With the HD, you can watch movies and TV shows to your heart's content. There's also a $49 Roku LT, which lacks the instant replay feature on the remote.
The Roku is so small it's actually cute. The Roku 3 box is only 3.5 inches square with rounded corners, weighs a mere 5 ounces, and stands an inch high. It's reminiscent of a hockey puck, but a bit curvier than older Roku boxes. The newest model comes with in-ear headphones and two AA batteries to power the remote. The Roku 3 is packed with connection options: an HDMI port (you supply the cable, or order one with your Roku for $10), a microSD slot, plus Ethernet and USB ports.
Can Roku Replace Cable TV?
So does it make sense to drop your cable TV package and use Roku to stream your entertainment from the internet to your TV? It really depends what you want to watch. The Roku box doesn't require any monthly fees, but some channels do require a subscription. However, there's plenty of free content to choose from, including free movies and TV from Crackle, CNBC, CNET video, Disney, Fox News, Pandora and a few dozen other niche focused channels.
If you add Netflix and/or Hulu Plus (both $8/month) and snag an occasional movie from Amazon Instant Video, you'll probably end up paying a lot less than what you're paying for cable now. Hulu has all your favorite shows from ABC, NBC, Fox, Comedy Central, MTV and other networks. Netflix has the movies pretty well covered. But if you're a sports fan, you'll have to add another subscription to the mix. Roku can't replace EVERY channel on your cable lineup, so you'll have to make the call. One service that's unfortunately not available on Roku is YouTube.
In case you're wondering, Roku is pronounced "row koo". If you catch your friends saying it as "rock you" or "rah koo" you can confirm your alpha geek status by setting them straight. The Roku product line competes primarily with Apple TV, and a few other also-ran streaming boxes, but because of its great features and pricing, it is well positioned to remain at the top of streaming-media heap.
Do you have a Roku? Tell me what you like (or dislike) about it. Post your comment or question below…
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 2 May 2013
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Can Roku Replace Cable TV Service? (Posted: 2 May 2013)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved