Obviously, there are plenty of alternatives vying for your attention – and your hard-earned money. You can buy a Smart TV. But I've yet to find a Smart TV to which I can give a confident thumbs-up in regards to features and functionality; besides, they're expensive. You can also get cord-cutter TV with an Internet-enabled DVD player, such as the Sony BDP-S590 or a DVR like the TiVo Premiere, but you probably already have a perfectly good DVR and DVD-player. You could also consider an Apple TV or a WD TV Live Media Player. But if you are going to get just one device to watch Internet TV – and how many of us need more than that? – then a Roku is hard to beat.
Here are my five reasons why:
Roku players are affordable. The prices start at $49.99 (list) for the Roku LT and go up to the top-of-the-line Roku 2 XS for $99.99. The LT model is the cheapest of all the mainstream Internet TV devices, but you still get access to all the TV channels. And it supports 720p HDTV.
4. Internet TV channel support
All the streaming box options support Netflix, but Roku supports more than 600 Internet TV channels. You name it, Roku supports it. Are you a horror, cult, fantasy, and exploitation movie fan? Check out Midnight Pulp. Want to know what's with technology? Check out Revision3. Like classic movies? Visit Movie Vault.
3. Support for Private TV channels
You expect the "regular" TV channels on one of these devices. You might be satisfied with the specialized channels. But Roku has another benefit: Besides the public networks, Roku lets people put up their own "private" channels, TV streams that aren't vetted by Roku. Adventuresome TV watchers can find just about anything on these channels. Some, like Nowhere TV, perhaps the best of the private channels, bring together a wide variety of free Internet videos, while others are for adults only.
2. Ease of use
Back in the bad-old days, which weren't that long ago, hooking your TV to the Internet was a nightmare.
Here's how you setup a Roku box today: You plug it in, you hook it into your network, you login to your channels, you start watching TV. With a Roku, anyone can do it.
Once you're connected, picking what shows to watch is mindlessly simple, whether you use the supplied remote or the Android or Apple iOS remote software. In stark contrast to what you get with Smart TVs and DVD players, the Roku on-screen display is both easy to view and to navigate.
Most Internet TV streaming devices give you some kind of search facility, but Roku has the best search function. You can quickly and easily search for movies and TV shows across Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, Hulu Plus, Crackle, VUDU, and HBO GO by title, actors, or directors. Since one of your day-to-day Internet TV major annoyances is "Where the heck is that show!?" I can't understate just how valuable this feature is.
Put it all together and what do you get? With Roku, you get the best darn single Internet TV device available today. If you're going to have just one Internet TV media streamer, make it a Roku. You'll be glad you did.