Ever since my wife and I moved into our new apartment, we decided that cutting the cord for good was the thing for us to do. The only real reason we ever kept Directv at our old house was the almighty NFL Sunday Ticket. I’ll have to figure that one out come August, but for the time being, we’re cord cutters. Fortunately our TV is a smart TV, having apps like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime built in, but it doesn’t have things like Twitch and navigating it can be clunky at times. I have a Google Chromecast, but for $35, sure you can do a lot, but I’m still tied down to my phone, iPad or having a laptop up with whatever I want to watch on it. Even our Sony BluRay player can do some content, but having to flip between three different devices to get all of what I want is just annoying. Enter a fateful trip to Best Buy and the recent subscription to Sling TV, the service that’s $20/month for ESPN, ESPN2, Food Network, HGTV and other popular cable channels. Even AMC is on there, so Walking Dead can still happen live on Sunday, not having to wait to watch it on demand. Back to Best Buy. We were looking at our Blu Ray player and the Roku 4 happened to be sitting right next to it. After a short discussion, I picked it up. We got home, I got it all set up and haven’t looked back.
Going through the packaging, it’s nice. It’s clean, concise, well put together from both a feeling of the product being protected well enough and also doing a nice job at presenting to the end user what’s inside. And, in case you were wondering what is inside, you get the Roku 4 player, the power cable, remote, batteries for the remote, and a set of ear buds since you can use those with the remote to listen to the TV if others are in the room and can’t or don’t want to listen to what’s on (this is going to come in extremely handy when my son is born later in June). Also, you get a couple of different earbud sizes to try to fit your ears.
Once the unit get’s all set up physically, the software set up is pretty straight forward. Turn on your TV to the input it’s on, turn on the Roku, and follow the on screen directions. You’ll have to create yet another account, this one for Roku, but it’s what ties everything to the box, and makes the use of the Roku App easy and efficient, but more on that later. Connect to your network, and boom, you’re at the home screen, ready to stream until your heart’s content.
If only you could start watching content immediately. Unfortunately you have to go through the process of setting up each app, and most of them require you to sign in on another device and enter a code to activate the Roku on your account for Hulu, Netflix, etc. The more you have, the longer it’s going to take. It’s the nature of the best, I suppose, but once you get the app on your phone and start using the in app keyboard to enter information in when needed, it goes a little quicker. In my case, I’ve covered all the highlights for our family, installing and configuring Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, SlingTV, YouTube, Twitch, Watch ESPN, Disney Movies Anywhere, Food Network, CBS All Access, and after half an hour getting those all set up, I think I am good to go.
Using the Roku is great. Between voice search in the remote, the practical layout and functionalities of the buttons, and the speed at which I can go back and forth between different apps, this streaming device is just about perfect. If you feel like watching something obscure, I’m sure you’ll find plenty of it with how large of an app gallery this device has. If you want to watch on WiFi, just about everything except SlingTV will work just fine with it’s Dual Band MIMO Wireless AC built in, but I prefer to be plugged in, even if it’s only a simple 10/100 NIC, and not a full Gigabit NIC. That’s the largest drawback for me. It’s not full Gigabit. But, being honest with myself, the only reason it is a drawback is simply due to the fact that I’m so used to all of my other devices having full Gigabit connections, that this not having that throws me off. And, if I’m being practical, there are not many people who will have an Internet connection that is greater than 100 Mbps, and streaming media in home doesn’t need full Gigabit network speeds, so it would be a waste of a part. Going with this is an easy way for Roku to save product costs, and I would hope that cost savings is being passed onto us, the consumer, because at $120, this feels like a good price point for this device. Also, the Roku app can be buggy, not working or finding the Roku on the network when it’s on, or crashing out when trying to opening, causing me to sometimes having to completely reboot my phone to get that app working properly again. For more details, check out my video review.
So, final thoughts: This is a great device to cover all of your streaming needs. This is a great device if you’re a cord cutter. This is a great device if you’re tired of having to flip between several other devices to try and cover all of your viewing pleasures. This is a device that will probably be relevant for several years, likely not leaving the end user the feeling of needing to upgrade for at least 3-5 years after having it. So, if you don’t have one, go grab it on Amazon, plug it in, and stream on. For this Geekin Dad, it was well worth $120.
Let me know on Twitter @geekindad or down in the comments below what you use if the Roku isn’t for you, and if you do wind up grabbing on, let me know what you think.