Thursday, July 10, 2008

Netflix Roku Box/Player Review

Netflix Roku Box/Player Review

The Wonderful Idea:
Users of Netflix have had the option for a while to "watch it now" using their computer. While a lot of people complain about the service due to difficulty in setup, it is really not that hard to do. A few downloads for Microsoft Media player to get up to date and ad (of course) a DRM security update and it works - with Internet Explorer, at least.
But who wants to watch movies on a computer LCD? Sure they are great for computer displays, but they stink as HDTV's or TV's. They were not made for the job! Computer monitors are all about resolution, TV's are all about contrast ratio - two of many differences in overall design.
So how about a box, that you connect to your network, wireless or wired, connect to your TV/HDTV and/or Home Theater with any of the usual audio and video connections.?

Well here it is! The box basically allows you to watch any movie or TV show that is set up by Netflix for their "Watch it Now" Service. Connect the Audio and video as you would your cable box or DVD player, connect an Ethernet cable or Set it up for your Wireless network, enter a code into Netflixes website and away you go! I must say, the Interface itself is very "Apple like" in it's simplicity and ease of use.

A/V Connections:
* HDMI for Audio/Video
* Component Video
* Composite Video
* Optical Digital Audio
* Stereo Audio

Network Connections:
Wireless 802.11g (no n)

The setup time was very fast, and the entire process was easy, unless you have to enter your wireless encryption code, which is a bit time consuming. The connectivity options are perfect for most TV,s/HDTV's and Surround Sound Systems. A Coax output would help, but you can't put everything on a box of this size at this price.

Picture Quality:
The picture quality was watchable using Ethernet or Wireless 802.11g within the same room as the wireless router. During the Netflix/Roku network quality test, the Ethernet only got three stars, while the wireless connection got 4 stars. Weird. My Internet connection hits around 3Mbps maximum on download, so I don't have the ultimate connection. In any case, the picture quality was pretty good for the data speed. It was, of course, not as good as the better DVD's and nothing like HD material, but was at least as good as many Cable TV channels, and it was really wide screen when the program material supported it.
Optical and HDMI seem to support 5.1 surround sound fine, and sound ok. Without more time, there's nothing to add to that.

It's a great box. It is a wonderful addition to anyone's Netflix account.

More time with the unit:
Quality seems to go up and down. Motion artifacts can be a bit annoying since data rates are rather low and original quality sometimes is lacking. Mind you everything is pretty watchable, as long as you have good Internet bandwidth. Not as much content as I'd like - but for a free* add-on to a Netflix account who's complaining?
Rediscovering old overlooked program material is actually pretty fun. Really a lot of good stuff to enjoy. Movies seem to work fine and widescreen movies are presented in widescreen, but there are few configuration settings such as stretch 4:3 to 16:9 which would be nice for plasma owners.

***This review was edited from original, which had a reference to a problem which didn't exist.

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