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Roku Digital Video Player Review-Pros and Cons

Updated on April 8, 2011
Forget scratched disks.
Forget scratched disks.

Digital Video Players-Replacing DVDs?

For many a long year I have kept my eye on digital video players like the Roku box. They've been lurking around for a long time, though neither Voodoo nor Apple's Itelevision saw much widespread success. But they invention couldn't be kept back for long. After all, with the advend of digital media players like the Ipod, which is quickly making hardcopy CDs obsolete, why couldn't a digital video player do the samt thing for DVDs? But, like any other piece of technoloy, the Roku digital video player has its pros and its cons. Let's take a look at what the Roku does, and who it might be good for.

If you are looking at the Roku as an alternative to blah and bland cable TV, visit my Hub "Why I Don't Miss Cable TV".

How Does the Roku Digital Video Player Work?

 The Roku digital video player gives you access to hundreds of movies and tv shows without you ever having to buy a single disk. You can watch movies in two ways at this point in time.

Firstly, if you are a Netflix subscriber you can watch up to 12,000 movies and TV shows for free, with no extra charge to your monthly subscription. The movies you can watch change from time to time, and may not always be brand spanking new, but this is due to the complex negotiation of rights to the movie. The selection used to be more limited, but since Netflix teamed up with Starz you can get many more movies and also new releases.

If you aren't a Netflix subscriber you can also rent or purchase movies on the Roku digital media player thorugh Amazon. Purchase prices range from around $7 to $15 for a movie, and rental prices range from $0.99 to $3.99 for 24 hours of access to a movie. You can also buy season passes to the latest shows, episodes of which are posted soon after airing on TV. This option is great because it allows you to keep up on the latest shows even without cable, and without waiting for them to hit DVD.

Roku Digital Video Player-Pros

Some of the pros of the Roku include:

  • A WIDE variety of movies to watch, especially if you utilize the Netflix aspect of the box. I currently have 115 movies and TV shows to watch in my instant queue.
  • It's small. The Roku digital video player is about the size of a paperback book.
  • It's wireless. The box will connect wirelessly to any router in your home, making setup really easy. No nasty cables to mess with either.
  • It's pretty darn reliable. Like any piece of technology, my box has had its "special" moments. Once it told me it couldn't access a particular film, and another time the sound just froze. But really, two mishaps in a matter of a year is a pretty good track record. I wish I could say the same for my computer.
  • It strems in HD. No need to buy a pricey Blu-Ray player on the side, the Roku box (with the correct cables) streams videos in HD. I got very excited when I learned this, having just bought a new flatscreen myself.
  • It's the forefront of technology. To be honest I see more and more media moving in a digital direction. From the Ipod, to the Kindle, to the Roku, less media is being published in hardcopy format than it used to be. I fully believe the movie selection on the Roku digital video player will only grow.

Roku Digital Video Player-Cons

Like any piece of technology though, the Roku isn't perfect. Here are some issues I have experienced:

  • The interface is clumsy. To browse through movies you simply click back and forth through all the titles. This may work OK with twenty movies, but when you have 115 like I do, it's a lot of clicking! It would be great if movies could be organized by title or genre, and searchable.
  • There is no "scene selection". One of the things that made DVDs such a big improvement of VCR tapes was the ability to navigate the movie by scenes. The Roku offers no such enticements, and you have to stumble through with a kind of fast-forward/rewind to get to where you want in the movie. Not too convenient.
  • Movie rights change. Yesterday my husband moaned and groaned because season seven of CSI had been pulled of the Roku digital video player without any warning. The moral of the story here: movie rights change. Netflix could only have permission to play the movie for a certain amount of time, and after that your luck is up. So if you reallylove a movie, you're still probably safer off buying it in hardcopy.
  • It eats up download memory, which is a problem if your internet service provider had an internet usage cap. Comcast currently caps customers at 250 GB a month, which is equal to 50 HD movies on the Roku. Some companies have even smaller limits which is a BIG problem. My advice on this one? It's not Roku's fault, switch to another provider and tell your current, internet capping company where to stick it. Politely, of course.


Do you think digital media is growing?

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Having watched digital video players grow for so long it was a no-brainer for me to buy one. And honestly, the math did work out. For $100 I got over 100 movies to watch, less than a dollar per movie/TV show, right? If you are content with your DVD player and cable package then that's just fine! But if you are looking for a way out of the cable trap, or for a more exciting frontier in movies, then the Roku digital video player might just be for you.


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    • ChasingAutumn profile image


      6 years ago from Machesney Park, Illinois

      I'm seriously considering cancelling cable and buying Roku/signing up for Netflix. This helps a lot! Thanks.

    • Painted Seahorse profile image

      Brittany Rowland 

      7 years ago from Woodstock, GA

      Great review! I've been very happy with the Roku my mom got. And since Netflix is moving more and more towards streaming and less towards mailed discs, it's good to pick up one of these devices if you don't have a Playstation or XBox. And if you're like me and don't like watching videos on a small computer screen.


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