In case you haven’t heard of it, Roku is a small $99 set top box that lets Netflix subscribers watch over 12,000 on demand shows and movies for free. We bought ours shortly after we canceled cable and have been really pleased with it. Here’s why…
1. It’s like having a free on demand cable box without having to pay for cable: If you are already a Netflix subscriber, all shows and movies on Roku (approximately 12,000) are free. If you aren’t, you can sign up for a $8.99/month unlimited Netflix plan. So for less than the cost of basic cable, we get unlimited instant rentals each month.
2. Much cheaper than Itunes. We recently got hooked on the show Heroes and watched the entire first season (23 episodes) on our Roku for free. If we bought the season on Itunes, it would have cost $64.99.
3. No commercials: Unlike Hulu.com, there are no commercials – even on the TV shows. So you can watch your favorite one hour TV shows in about 42 minutes.
4. Easy to use interface. The remote only has a few buttons and the graphic interface shows a picture of each DVD on the TV screen. So simple that our three year old can find his favorite shows and play them on his own.
5. Great for kids. Since titles are added from a master account on our computer, the only shows and movies on the Roku are one’s we have personally reviewed and think are appropriate for our kids to watch. And if we make a mistake or change our mind, we can easily update the queue remotely at any time.
Any downside? Sure, when we first got our Roku, there was a limited selection of current movies. This has gotten much better, mostly due to their recent partnership with the STARZ movie channel. Since most brand new releases still take a while to appear on Roku, we still watch a lot of movies the old fashioned way (DVD) using our Netflix subscription. But since our membership includes 3 DVDs at a time as well as unlimited Roku movies, we almost always have something good to watch on TV.
2011 Update: Roku now offers 3 different models with pricing dropped to $69 for a basic model up to $99 for their deluxe model. Roku also now supports Amazon Instant Video, which lets you instantly watch current releases for about $4 a piece.