Saturday, April 17, 2010

The Roku Delivers

For the last several months, I've been thinking about buying a Blu-Ray DVD player. I've been reluctant because, when I converted to CD ages ago, it meant re-purchasing every beloved album in my cassette library. When I converted from VHS to DVD, it meant the same. I always said I'd rather be damned than purchase "Better Off Dead" for a third time. The re-purchasing issue has sort of been solved by the fact that Blu-Ray players are backwards compatible with the standard definition DVDs in my collection. Still, I feel that we've reached a point of diminishing returns with Blu-Ray. Do I really need to see John Cusack flail his limbs about in glorious high definition in order to fully appreciate "Better Off Dead"? The answer, of course, is No. Aside from that, I'm running out of room to store the DVDs that I have already purchased. "Almost Famous" is one of my favorite movies, but, aside from the infrequent times when I drag it out to play it, it just sits there in the case among its other seldom-watched brethren gathering dust. There has to be a better way. Can't someone else hold onto the content and deliver it to me when I want it?

I got interested in Roku because it's just a simple box whose purpose is to push streaming media content to your television. The primary thing I use this for is to watch Netflix instant movies on my television. Yes, a number of new Blu-Ray players will also do this. However, Roku also streams other services that I subscribe to such as Pandora and Motionbox along with several other content channels such as Major League Baseball and Podcast TV. The only way this thing could be any better is if it supported Hulu, which, I am told, should be coming soon.

But what does this do for me? For $80 (normally, $100 but I got $20 off for joining Netflix) I have a small box near my TV that outputs high definition content to my television. I have a Netflix account with plenty of streaming movies to watch, and, if I really want a DVD, I add it to my queue, it gets mailed to me the next business day and I send it back when I'm done with it. My daughter has already decided that she loves Roku because it means that she can watch episodes of SpongeBob anytime she wants. That's not quite the use I had intended for Roku, but I'll accept it as a fringe benefit.

In the end, I know that, eventually, I'll have to buy a Blu-Ray player. The standard DVD player can only last so long before it gets destroyed by a wandering band of drunken college students or before it spontaneously combusts once its secret "expire date" is reached. For now, however, I'm happy to be able to mock Sony by telling them "This is ONE dollar you won't be getting from me.....for at least the next year or two".

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