Archives For Roku


iOS remote week continues here at ZNF… As the very fine Roku DVPRemote ($3) was updated early this morning to version 2.1. I’ve been using the app for a few days via my Verizon iPhone (seeya, AT&T), and the two most notable new features are the full fledged gesture area and graphical channel icons.

While DVPRemote has always provided a virtual representation of Roku’s physical remote, the update provides a toggle-able gesture area (above, right) designed “to support heads-up, TV screen-facing operation.” I’m not quite sure if I’ll be putting this feature to use on a regular basis, but there’s a pretty comprehensive list of smooth interactions to choose from:

  • U = UP, D = Down, L = Left, R = Right
  • Single finger swipe U, D, L , R for U, D, L, R
  • Drag finger U, D, L, R for repeated U, D, L, R
  • Single finger tap to select OK
  • Two finger tap to select play/pause
  • Two finger swipe R for fast forward
  • Two finger swipe L for rewind
  • Two finger swipe D for instant replay
  • Two finger swipe U for info

One of my favorite features of DVPRemote is direct channel navigation. Meaning, instead of scrolling through a list of Roku channels on the television one by one, simply tap a visual representation from the iPhone to bring that content up. The first cut was textual. But DVPRemote 2.1 makes it much more visually rich by using channel banner graphics. Which also happens to be more efficient. However, for better use of space, I’d like to see a 2.2 update move to grid view of channels over the current vertical listing. Continue Reading…

Revisiting The UFC on Roku

Dave Zatz —  February 28, 2011 — 9 Comments

It’s been nearly a year since live UFC bouts landed on Roku ($60). And, I have to say, it’s a much better experience in 2011 than it was earlier in 2010. From my original coverage (of UFC 113):

Quality was good. But probably not good enough.

Roku is a company I regularly chat with and, at some point last year, they suggested I take another look at UFC as a number of presentation improvements have been made since launch. Our schedules, and coupon codes, finally lined up this weekend… and I took in UFC 127 live.

Whereas I found UFC 113′s stream inconsistant and not high enough resolution, UFC 127 was another story. Indeed, a much better story. When initially firing up the live stream, I found myself watching unpleasant smudgy SD video. But after maybe two minutes, I was automatically elevated to what looked like a HD tier. Which is where I remained for nearly the entirety of the matches. At one point, I seemed to drop back down for a minute and at another point it looked like I was hit with some dropped frames. But these minor glitches are acceptable given the 2+ hours of smooth streaming and nice looking video.

Of course, your mileage may vary. Unlike cable company pay-per-view, there are many more variables that may impact your experience by taking video over the top (OTT) – including one’s broadband package, ISP connectivity, and home network. Without a doubt, the cableco provides a safer bet. But for those who don’t have cable or want to travel with PPV events, Roku is a very solid option for UFC. (Or NHL and MLB.) Continue Reading…

Roku: “DVR is Dead”

Dave Zatz —  February 24, 2011 — 23 Comments

TechCrunch has posted a series of video interviews of Roku CEO Anthony Wood. Who also happened to found Replay TV, one of the first two DVR products on the market. (Yeah, the other would be TiVo.) If nothing else, the link’s worth hitting to tally up the number and variations of “kill” and “death” in a classic Rambo-esque style. And the lede is particularly dramatic, “Meet the man who killed the television industry.” While there’s clearly a (small, but growing) number of cord cutters, neither Roku nor the DVR have yet killed the television industry. They’re doing quite fine. Not to mention, as I recall, the television industry had a hand in killing Replay TV. Having said that, I’ve been a huge fan of Anthony’s work as a satisfied owner of ReplayTV, Soundbridge, and Roku devices. In fact, we wholeheartedly recommend Roku here at ZNF… to augment pay television. Sure the landscape is evolving, and fast, but let’s keep it real.

The folks at Netflix ran a most interesting post yesterday on the company’s technical blog (via ReadWriteWeb). According to the director of engineering, one Netflix device is responsible for roughly 50% of total API calls. The same device, however, isn’t responsible for a comparable level of streaming traffic. In order to cut down on the “chattiness” level, the Netflix team is looking at redesigning the API for greater efficiency. And while the engineers are at it, they figure they’ll play with reducing overall payload (bits delivered) at the same time.

It’s great that Netflix is planning to improve its API, but the story certainly makes me wonder: which Netflix device is causing all that trouble? Is it one that continually drops signal, as some have reported with their TiVo boxes? Or is it one with a more advanced and therefore more demanding UI, like Dave’s favorite, the PS3? Netflix certainly won’t name names, but perhaps somebody else out there has an educated guess. I’d say it’s not the Roku given how long the little-box-that-could has been out, and the fact that API requests started seriously spiking only a few months ago. Anyone else willing to speculate?


ZNF friend Tech of the Hub has round up a variety of Netflix streaming hardware for comparison. They’re not the first to go down this path, but they are the most recent. Although I’d have liked to see an Xbox 360 in the mix, the Roku, Apple TV, Wii, PS3, and TiVo analysis is thorough… if subjective in many respects.

Tech of the Hub concludes the Apple TV provides the best experience. However, I’d argue the continually updated HTML5 PS3 UI and higher quality content puts it at the head of the pack. And we can probably all agree that TiVo has the most dated Netflix interface, yet the app’s limitations are significantly offset via TiVo’s universal search capabilities and “input one” position on the television.

At the end of the day, the best Netflix player is the one you have around. Fortunately there are quite possibly hundreds of devices to choose from.


Roku has finally launched official support for accessing USB-housed media via the current XD|S model and discontinued HD-XR. The “Roku USB Media Player” builds upon what was essentially a public beta by slightly broadening file support and reworking the interface. Unfortunately, release notes are slim and it’s not clear what the exact file encoding requirements or limitations might be. However, here’s what we do know thus far:

Plug in your USB drive to your Roku player and enjoy your digital movies, music and photos on your TV. Currently supports MKV (H.264), MP4 (H.264), MOV (H.264), WMV/ASF (WMV9/VC-1), MP3, AAC, JPG, and PNG files.

This channel requires firmware version 2.9 build 1529 which began rolling out last week. More detailed information on the latest firmware release and USB channel will be available soon.

As it’s 7 in the morning, I haven’t actually hooked up a drive and taken the new functionality for a spin – other than snapping these pics. Mari covered the pre-release channel, so perhaps we’ll go ahead and delegate an upcoming hands-on to her.

(Thanks for the tip, Chad!)

Got a Roku for Christmas?

Dave Zatz —  December 25, 2010 — 14 Comments

Given its low price point, wide array of content “channels”, and easy operation, I suspect quite a large number of folks are unwrapping Roku Christmas gifts this weekend. And we’re here to help.

Based on incoming search traffic, some are having difficulty finding and linking Netflix. First off, the Roku consists of two main areas – your channel list or dashboard and the “Store” of all blessed content. Netflix should appear on your dashboard by default. In terms of navigation, the left directional button doesn’t send you to the prior screen as seen on many other boxes. Instead, use the up button to return to a previous area or menu or, alternately, try can the new back button symbolized by an arrow. Additionally, the OK button in the middle of the remote is equivalent to ‘select’ or ‘enter’. So you’d scroll towards the right using the directional button to highlight Netflix and then click OK. Once the Netflix apps comes up for the first time, it’ll walk you through linking your account – you’ll want to have computer handy to enter an authorization code into

In addition to the Channel Store, “private” channels also exist. These are often content offerings that have yet to be approved or are inappropriate for a wider audience to stumble upon (think porn or corporate training). Two in particular may interest you… Continue Reading…