Unlimited Instant Movies with Roku + Netflix

By Ryan

The Roku Box

Roku is a set-top box that plays Netflix movies. The box itself costs about $100. It enables you to watch unlimited “instant” movies via the Netflix service for less than $10 per month. Unfortunately, the movie selection available for “instant” viewing over the Internet leaves something to be desired.

If it weren’t for XBox 360 relationship with Netflix, the sheer quality of this product would bring me to predict marketshare dominance for Roku. However, that remains to be seen, given the current market penetration that XBox 360 has.

Getting Roku setup was a breeze. It took me all of 3 minutes (including the unboxing!). The user menus feel intuitive and tight. Using Roku reminded me of using the Nintendo Wii – family friendly. To watch movies you just add movies to your “Instant” queue in Netflix and these movies automatically appear on your Roku system.

After getting the Roku setup, I watched about 10 minutes from a few different movies. The picture quality is basically like watching a DVD. It’s alright, but on an HDTV you wish it was a little better. Given that this is a first generation product, that’s not bad though. The biggest frustration was the load time which was sometimes up to 30 seconds.

While the movie selection isn’t great, there are some good movies available on Netflix for instant viewing on the Roku box. There are thousands of movies to download but most of them are older movies. There are some recent releases, and some that are excellent. But, for the most part, the movies you really want to see just aren’t available for viewing using Roku and Netflix.

At the end of the day, I see Roku as proof of concept for the mechanism of subsription based online video distribution. Up until now, our only choices have been to pay per movie or to sacrifice quality and download movies for free (often illegally). Roku shows us the promise of IP based movie watching on our HDTVs … and that’s exciting!

Ryan blogs his thoughts on pop-culture at Thrive and is a co-founder of CC Matcher.

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