Yesterday Roku and Netflix released the first of a few set-top boxes that stream content from Netflix’s Watch Instantly service. The service which began early last year allows subscribers with the $8.99 plan and up the ability to stream a set of movies and TV shows from the Netflix library
This Roku Netflix Player is available immediately for a reasonable price of only $99.99. The set-top box is fairly small, 1.75-inches tall, 5.25-inches wide, 5.25″ deep. In that small space the player has HDMI, component, composite, and S-Video output as well as digital optical (no surround sound) and analog stereo audio output. Keep in mind that there are only a set of composite cable in the box so if you want to use another output you’ll have to find your own cables. Composite shouldn’t be too horrible an option though since the box is only capable of outputting 480i no matter what cables you use only outputs 480i unless you use HDMI in which it can then output 480p, although a firmware update could technically change this in the future.
When it comes to connectivity the player has an ethernet jack and Wifi, supporting WEP and WPA encryption. The device also has a simple and easy to use 9-button remote.
To be able to watch movies and TV shows on the device though you are going to have to populate your queue online with your computer, that means you can’t browse the watch instantly library on the device itself and if you want to watch something new you have to walk over to your computer and add it. But, once the movie/TV show is added to your queue it takes only a minute or so to show up on the Roku player and you don’t have to have your computer on to watch video.
Movie playback starts in less than a minute and you can fastforward and rewind with you remote, but you can also navigate through the movie by viewing thumbnails of the movie at 10 second intervals. Video quality is the same as it is on a computer and the video bit rate maxes out at 2.2Mbps.
One cool feature about viewing video on this is that when you stop the video the box tells the Netflix servers where you left off so if you want to pick up the movie again on your computer or on another Roku player in another room you start off right where you left it. Netflix currently allows each subscriber to link up to 4 devices to their account.
Right now there isn’t a whole lot of content available but Netflix is making new deals all the time with content providers.
I don’t know if I would suggest anyone to buy one of these, we already know that Netflix has also partnered with LG and two other yet-to-be-named manufacturers to make similar boxes, so I think it would be best to wait until those set-top boxes are announced to make your decision.