Roku Enables USB Port

Roku USB Port - MainFlipped on the Roku tonight and discovered a new channel. The Roku XDS box had added a channel to enable access to the USB port.

It took a few seconds to add the channel and then another minute or so to download the required software. Plugged in a USB with some media, and that’s all it took.

Navigation is streamlined and intuitive. The Roku interface stresses simplicity over options, so it’s easy for beginners, but maybe a little dull for advanced users.

The Roku doesn’t come with an internal hard drive, so many of the other manufacturers including Western Digital have played up that feature. I’d seen the Boxee and was impressed with the external-media capabilities. So far, for me, that hasn’t really been an issue. I mainly stream NetFlix and a few select channels, but that’s about it.

Even though I doubt I will use the USB port to stream movie files, I wanted to give it a try. The Roku easily displayed the MP4 files, but seemed to choke on the WMV files. Photos saved as JPEGs displayed with no problem, although Roku struggled with the thumbnails.

Roku USB Port - MoviesIn the end, it was a good user experience. Although, I must admit, I had low expectations, since I planned to use the Roku primarily for streaming. I don’t own many downloaded video assets. But new features — especially ones that don’t cost extra — are always welcome.

On a side note, a new channel for the Adam Carolla ACE podcast network also became available on the Roku. I like the podcast for my iPod Touch, but didn’t see the need to add it to my television because it’s only audio.

Roku XDS Week 1

Roku LogoWe’re a week into it with the Roku XDS. Let’s take a moment and review a few of my initial impressions of bringing Internet video into my living room.

NetFlix experience is quite good, but I find myself playing with my Instant Queue almost as much as I watch actual movies. The NetFlix recommendation engine is amazing, and it exposed me to several movies and documentaries that were right on target. Streaming NetFlix through the Roku is a pleasure.

Hulu Plus is definitely attractive, since I am a big fan of well-produced television shows. Something about a serialized story appeals to me in both comics and TV. However, adding another $7.99 monthly subscription on top of the NetFlix sub is going to get expensive fast.  At this point, NetFlix seems to have an adequate collection of TV shows, so I’ll stick with that for a while.

Adding custom channels is pretty easy, so I have updated the Roku XDS with Blip.tv and Revision3. Here the experience is rather uneven. The connection and content are fine, but some of the programming is barely a step above cable access. It’s too bad because I like the idea of watching long-tail TV shows.

That said, I am happy to watch iFanboy on Revision3 much more than I do on my laptop. Big improvement.

NetFlix LogoIt’s worth noting that this whole Roku and NetFlix upgrade traces back to the local movie theater raising prices last year. The ticket price of a first-run movie increased one week from $9 to $11. Just to be clear, I typically went to the movies on a Tuesday and the price increase was on regular 2D films. I can understand the price increase on 3D movies because there are special projectors, glasses, and good stuff like that.

It’s not like I couldn’t afford the $2, but it was kind of annoying that they skipped over $10 and went right to $11. Product pricing and perceived value is certainly a psychological game in every industry. In this case, the price jump bummed me out, and I was in the habit of seeing a new movie just about every week.

But I still need my movie fix…and good luck trying to find a local video rental store. Okay, we have a RedBox near us, but for whatever reason, I just never remember that when I am in movie mode.

So NetFlix on the Roku has filled the void left by regular movie theaters. It’s not quite the same, but the combined depth and variety of their library of movies, TV shows, and other content is truly impressive.

I’m looking forward to exploring more channels on the Roku, just to see what’s available. There are a few premium paid channels, and if the content is good and the price is right, I may give them a try.

Well, one week in and I am pretty happy with the Roku. I haven’t really explored it fully, nor have I tried plugging anything into the USB slot. Check back again for more Roku, NetFlix and other streaming reports.

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