What I Need to Set Up a Roku 2 Box or Smart TV in My Home
In an effort to increase our viewing options, my wife and I recently purchased two Roku 2 boxes. While I'm a pretty tech savvy person, there were a few things I had to wrap my head around and understand before installing the two Roku boxes. Honestly, there was nothing about hooking up the actual boxes to the television that was at all difficult, but there were things that needed to be done with my Internet connection before the Roku boxes would work. I thought I'd provide a short primer on the Roku and what you will need to make them work. (Incidentally, this information also applies to a Smart TV. If you do not have the proper router and cable modem, the streaming won't work well)
What is a Roku?
A Roku is a little black box (Roku 2 is the latest version of the box), about the size of a desktop hard drive, that streams video content over an Internet connection. It is connected to a television by either an HDMI cable or a component video cable. An HDMI cable is preferable because it provides better quality. All new televisions come with HDMI inputs. If your television is more than about three years old it's possible you do not have an HDMI connection, though HDMI connections have been around longer than that.
The Roku can stream video in 1080p, which is the highest quality video offered by most televisions these days. This is relevant if you have a bigger television. Televisions below about 32" don't generally have 1080p capability because the difference between the resolution quality of 720p and 1080p cannot be detected on a television that small. The Roku will work regardless of whether your television is capable of 1080p resolution, but some programming will look much better if you have a 1080p television.
What You Need for Your Roku to Work
There are two ways to hook your Roku to the Internet: directly to your router (which is connected to your cable modem) or wirelessly to your cable modem/router set-up.
The advantage of the Roku is that is has wireless capability, which means that the Roku can hook to any television in your house regardless of whether or not it's near your modem and router. For instance, my cable modem is in my basement along with my wireless router and the Roku boxes are in different rooms. One is on the other side of the basement where there is no cable connection and the other is upstairs.
Two important things about your modem and router
Both your modem and router must be capable of transmitting at the speeds required for the Roku to stream video without pausing and displaying artifacts (video squares that show up because all the information isn't there). If you haven't updated your cable modem and router within the last three years, it's very likely that neither can transmit at the speeds required for the Roku to work properly. Both your cable modem and router need to be able to transmit at more than 100mbps (mega-bits per second), though most cable modems and routers sold these days can transmit even faster than that.
With regard to the wireless router, I was thrown off by the fact that I had always thought my router was capable of very fast speeds because that was what I was told when I bought it however many years ago. Fact is, many of us bought a standard 54mbps router some time ago and it's served us well. That's plenty fast for surfing the Internet, but it's not fast enough to stream HD video wirelessly on multiple machines. You need to upgrade. I couldn't quite wrap my brain around this fact right away.
I've provided links to cable modems and routers that are compatible with the Roku and fast enough to stream video.
What You Can Watch on a Roku
You can watch almost anything on a Roku. There are hundreds of channels available via the Roku including HBO, Netflix, Hulu, Pandora, and others. In addition, if you are an Amazon Prime member, you can link your Amazon Prime account directly to your Roku and stream hundreds of free movies. Amazon has acquired a tremendous library of movies for their Amazon Prime service and it is well worth the $79.95 a year to sign up. If you have Netflix, you can stream movies and watch them just as if you put the DVD in your DVD player.
If you haven't yet considered purchasing a Roku, think about it. It's an easy-to-use device whose offerings are growing all the time. Although it's a bit of an investment if you don't have everything you need to make it work, it's well worth it. Eventually, my goal is to be able to drop my cable and just use the Roku. Those days do not seem far off.
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