TV Answer Man
Which Roku Player Should I Buy?
Washington, D.C. (June 29, 2014) - Editor's Note: TV's Answer Man, aka Swanni, takes your questions regarding how to best use the latest products and services in TV technology. If you have a question about TV technology, ask TV's Answer Man by sending an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
Q. My brother was telling me about the Roku player and he loves it! I was thinking of buying one, but which one should I get? -- Adam, St. Louis, Missouri.
For those not familiar with Roku, it's a set-top box that can stream video and audio channels over the Internet to your TV. You connect the Roku to your TV using an HDMI cable and then capture the signals either using your wireless home network or a direct wired connection.
(For more information on how to connect a Net TV device, click: What Is a Smart TV? How Do I Connect It?)
Roku, which says it has now has more than 1,000 channels, offers a mix of free and subscription-only or PPV channels. The latter category includes Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, Vudu, MLB.TV, NBA League Pass and Hulu Plus. They either require a separate monthly subscription or, in the case of Vudu, a Pay-Per-View fee for each movie you watch.
Roku has quite a few free channels, too, such as CNET, Wall Street Journal Live, Crackle, Pandora's music service, HBO Go (if you subscribe to HBO and your Internet provider permits you to watch HBO GO) and foreign language channels, among many others. Here's a link to Roku's Channel page.
Important note: Unlike TiVo, Roku does not require a monthly subscription fee for its service, only for subscription channels such as Netflix.
At Amazon now, Roku set-tops start at $49.99 -- that's the price of the entry-level Roku LT, which streams in 720p HD video. The player offers the same channels that any Roku player would so the big difference between this unit and the others is the picture quality and some accessory features which we will explain below.
The Roku 1, which also costs $49, does deliver HD video in 1080p and has basically the same features found in the LT.
The Roku 2 now costs $59.99 and offers HD video up to 1080p. The set-top also includes some nice benefits that the Roku LT and Roku 1 do not include, such as a remote with a headphone jack so you can listen to your programs without disturbing others.
The last Roku to consider is the newest model, the Roku 3, which is now going for $84.99 at Amazon. The Roku 3 has a 5x faster processor inside so it responds extremely quickly to your commands. The unit also has that remote with a headphone jack (in-ear headphones included, too); delivers 1080p HD video; a free Angry Birds Space game; and a free Android and iOS app so you can use your mobile device as a remote, if you so desire.
Roku also has a streaming stick, which eliminates the set-top by allowing you capture the streaming signals by inserting the stick into your TV's HDMI port. The stick, which is now priced at $49, can also be controlled either by the remote or a mobile device and it can deliver video up to 1080p HD.
So which one should you buy, if you're buying only one? Despite the speedy processor found in the Roku 3, I would recommend the Roku 2 because it's $25 cheaper, still offers 1080p HD video and it also has the remote with a headphone jack. You basically get the same features in the Roku 2 that you do in the Roku 3, but you pay less. That's always a good thing.
You can't go wrong with any of the Roku products, but the Roku 2 is our pick for total value.
For more information on the Roku products mentioned above, click below:
Roku Streaming Stick
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