Archives For Roku

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With a show as ginormous as CES, it’s safe to say lesser staffed outlets (such as yours truly) will overlook a number of interesting technologies. Fortunately, our readers have us covered and Jeff G. turned us onto the VOXX Digital Antenna with Roku. Wha?! While we did encounter Roku a number of times Vegas, all third party Roku Streaming Stick integration was HDTV-based. Whereas this off-the-wall antenna “will allow consumers to receive over-the-air local HD broadcast and streaming entertainment from the Roku platform which features hundreds of” over-the-top apps.

My first reaction was one of enthusiasm as the holy grail of home entertainment is seamlessly merging OTA and OTT content onto a single platform. Yet I suspect the MHL-equipped digital antenna, scheduled to ship Q4 under the Terk and RCA names, may run more than the actual Roku devices that start an economical 50 bucks. Not to mention all modern HDTVs ship with ATSC tuners and there’s no mention here of incoming DVR capabilities to augment live television viewing. So if your goal is access to both over-the-air network programming and streaming apps like Netflix via Input 1, a more practical solution would be the $100 Vizio Costar… with HDMI pass-thu and current availability. But we give VOXX credit for thinking well beyond the box.

Roku-TWC

Roku, a cord cutter favorite for over-the-top video streaming that’s now approaching 5 million units moved, is trumpeting the imminent arrival of Time Warner Cable onto their platform here at CES. The app, scheduled to drop this first quarter of 2013 and available to current Roku models, will bring 300 channels of cable to TWC subscribers. Similar to what competing provider Verizon once demoed. Yet, without a numeric keyboard on the remote and given presumably Internet-streamed video, changing channels won’t exactly be “television” like and we suspect this “cable” box would be most suitable for secondary rooms and home gyms. And it’ll be interesting to see if TWC counts this data usage against their metered broadband, unlike Comcast’s brushes with net neutrality piping Xfinity to Xbox.

In other Roku CES news, they’ve hit the 700 channel milestone. While you won’t be interested in most, there’s bound to be a few worth catching. And amongst the new offerings, Vevo and PBS will surely joining my rotation. Additionally, the Roku Streaming Stick is now compatible with several new MHL-equipped HDTV partners — although I’m not convinced there’s a market for this poorly understood technology. No mention yet of a possible YouTube channel or the promised UI refresh… but the show is still young and Roku will be on display tonight at the Digital Experience press event.

UPDATE: As of 3/5, the Time Warner Cable channel is now available to TWC subscribers with Roku 2 models.

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After Google had Roku remove their unlicensed YouTube channel and indications over a year ago that a new channel was under development, CEO Anthony Wood tells analyst Michael Wolf that YouTube on Roku “isn’t far away.” By the same token, he mentions that Google now requires partners to integrate their YouTube HTML app and Roku has found performance on their current “cheap” chips “unacceptable.” Unfortunately, Continue Reading…

Aereo Headed to Smart TVs

Mari Silbey —  December 6, 2012 — 1 Comment

Video Nuze VideoSchmooze 2012 Colin Dixon and Chet Kanojia

At yesterday’s VideoSchmooze conference in New York, Aereo CEO Chet Kanojia told the audience that his company will soon release more applications for the 10-foot television experience. Aereo is planning to launch apps for a variety of smart TVs shortly, and for adjunct TV devices, including the Roku. Aereo has a private channel for the Roku today, but will release a more complete experience for the device in the near future. Kanojia also noted that “conceptually” games consoles make a lot of sense for Aereo too.

To date, Aereo is still only available in New York City, and it continues to fight for its legal right to exist. Broadcasters want to shut Aereo down because the company gets around retransmission fees by assigning a tiny antenna to each customer and transcoding over-the-air signals for delivery over IP. So far the courts haven’t forced Aereo to close its doors, but the legal battle has only just begun.

Meanwhile, Aereo’s technology is sophisticated enough that I’m still theorizing the company has a back-up plan if its current business model doesn’t survive. Aereo also has an advantage in that its technology costs are minimal. Kanojia threw out one stat yesterday that drove home that point. He said that the cost of transcoding a single stream of video a couple of years ago was around $6,000. Today, that number is in the single digits.

netgear-neotv-max2

Another week, another streamer? A year after introducing their Roku competitor, Netgear expands the NeoTV streaming line with “Pro” and “Max” models. And, as we’re wont to do, we picked up Netgear’s latest. Similar in form factor to that aforementioned Roku, I was prepared to dislike the NeoTV MAX ($60-70) given it’s sluggish response and pixelated fonts… as seen from many sub $100 streamers. However, a recent update has sped up the UI to mostly acceptable levels and Netgear offers a few compelling features versus the competing Apple TV and Roku devices.

The most obvious enhancement is the bundled QWERTY remote… which looks positively svelte next to Gigantor the Vizio Costar equivalent. However, it’s obnoxiously encumbered by “the bullshit buttons” — presumably paid placements, by the likes of Best Buy’s CinemaNow, that you’re bound to hit at inopportune times.

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Also on the value-add list is integrated Intel WiDi reception capabilities. Much like Apple’s Airplay, WiDi allows you to beam content from specific Intel-powered laptops to your television screen. Related, unlike Apple TV or Roku, NeoTV can also receive content via DLNA network resources.

On the appearance front, Netgear’s interface exceeds Roku’s simplistic approach. Although many of the NeoTV apps are really just aggregated feeds powered by Flingo. But, hey, at least they provide YouTube — still missing from Roku devices, along with a promised UI revision.

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Thus far, we’d say the 1080p Netgear NeoTV MAX is a solid and promising streaming player at a competitive price given the broad channel selection, including Vudu and Netflix, QWERTY remote, and integrated Ethernet (as we’re somewhat disappointed that Netgear chose to forgo dual band 802.11n wireless capabilities). Yet, while the space continues to expand, we find ourselves somewhat uninspired given overlapping features and lack of innovation compared to say the mobile industry.

roku-remote

Hot on the heels of the Roku pico projector announcement, the Roku Streaming Stick ($99) is now available for order and a revised RF Roku remote passed through the FCC today. This accessory looks quite similar to the Bluetooth gaming remote bundled with the Roku 2 XS streaming player, yet appears to feature two minor differences. Instead of dual status lights under the A/B buttons, Roku Streaming Stick marketing material indicates there may be a single LED. Eh, whatev? More interesting are the two new side rocker buttons. While it’s not entirely clear what these are, (programmable) volume control would be welcome. Especially if the remote is made available for purchase to existing Roku 2 owners.

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Despite being announced three times (1, 2, 3), the Roku Streaming Stick isn’t yet available… however, release nears, as the Stick just passed through the FCC and it seems we’re still on track for an October launch. Roku’s goal with the Stick is to bring “smart TV” capabilities to perhaps dumb sets, without actually requiring a box. But, while the Roku Stick may be a compelling concept, it’s an idea whose time hasn’t come. It’s MHL-compliant, integrating with a host television (or Blu-ray player) via a shared HDMI port. Unfortunately, there’s only a small number of devices that currently utilize MHL and I suspect a large number of customers will be quite disappointed to learn their new Christmas gadget is incompatible with their television – despite select partner hardware to be branded “Roku Ready.” Further, at the same price or more than a traditional streaming box, the $99 Roku Stick really only offers a reduction in clutter. And while that often motivates me, I’ve moved my Roku LT out of sight by mounting it onto my television. Having said that, I was pleased to learn the Roku Streaming Stick will provide dual band wireless capabilities — featuring 5GHz, in addition to 2.4GHz. Not to mention there will be two models, the 3420 in black and the 3400 in Roku purple.