back to article Why are we disappointed with the best streaming media box on the market?

If you are going to buying a streaming media box – and you really should if you want to watch TV shows or movies on a big screen – then you should buy a Roku. It really is as simple as that. Apple fanbois will, of course, point to the latest Apple TV with its little touchpad. Googlers will swear by Chromecast. And Jeff Bezos …

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  1. matjaggard

    Which country?

    I wish you said at the top of an article which country it was written in. I have no idea whether any of this is relevant to the UK. I haven't heard of HBO so I'm assuming it's American.

    1. Jon Massey

      Re: Which country?

      Not available in the UK except for in the locked-down NowTV version.

    2. Irongut

      Re: Which country?

      At the top of the article it says: "By Kieren McCarthy in San Francisco 28 Oct 2017 at 13:56"

      Do you need a link to Google Maps to tell you which country San Francisco is in?

      Also what cave have you been living in for the last 20 years if you have never heard of HBO? Ever watched an episode of The Sopranos?

      1. Muscleguy Silver badge

        Re: Which country?

        I've never watched The Sopranos. Gangster flicks don't interest me. I've watched the first Godfather movie once and that's it. So noone is wholly good or wholly bad, so knock me down with a feather.

        I do know what HBO is but not because I've watched the Sopranos. A lot of US TV that others seem to like leaves me cold. I had my fill of US TV growing up in NZ. Big Bang Theory, yes, much of the rest meh. We like The Brokenwood Chronicles from back in NZ though.

        1. Yes Me Silver badge
          Holmes

          Re: Which country?

          Brokenwood? Corny, cheaply made, ham actors, stories even less plausible than Midsomer Murders. Mind you, no storyline has ever been as ridiculous as Top of the Lake 1.

      2. Joe Werner

        Re: Which country?

        At the top of the article are just name and date (mobile version)... and even if it was apparent to the reader that the article was written in the US it still would nice to know where the product was available (not only UK vs US, but also elsewhere - international readership etc.)

      3. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge

        Re: Which country?

        Ever watched an episode of The Sopranos?

        Not me. I know the lead character is called Tony and I know the spoiler for how the final series ends. Game of Thrones might have been a better reference, though I've not watched that either.

        I know "HBO"; it pops-up at the end of some programmes shown on UK channels. As to what "HBO" is beyond "Home Box Office"; I'm not sure, but I'm guessing it's more than a production company. I don't know what "Hulu" is either and I have had no interest in finding out because last I heard it still wasn't available in the UK.

        I have a Virgin Media TiVo which supports iPlayer and other catch-up services, subscription free Sky, Freeview, Freesat, Chromecast, a PC desktop, a huge DVD collection, and an Android TV box in a drawer somewhere, so I haven't felt the need for subscription streaming services. I'm also guessing anything decent will eventually find its way to DVD, then into CeX and charity shops so I will eventually get to see it.

        1. Danny 14 Silver badge

          Re: Which country?

          kodi is great for local content but unless you have a windows box and a breakout script then you cant watxh netflix, amazon, iplayer etc.

          1. defiler Silver badge

            Re: Which country?

            @Danny 14

            There's a BBC iPlayer plugin for Kodi. I think it's called WWW iPlayer, so it's in the wrong place in the download list. I run it on my Pis. Can't check just now because the kids are watching The Crystal Maze, and I can't be arsed going upstairs to look at another :P

            I believe there's a mechanism for Netflix and Amazon that doesn't require Windows, but I've not looked into it in any depth.

          2. Dan 55 Silver badge

            Re: Which country?

            Kodi on Android can launch the Netflix or Amazon (or any other) app.

          3. Grandpa Tom

            Re: Which country?

            If you install KODI on the Amazon Fire 2 you have the best of both worlds. All the KODI features AND Amazon, Netflix, Hulu etc.

            Don't bother with the Fire 3 box unless you have 4K display. (Fire 3 is a bit of a downgrade from Fire 2 box).

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Which country?

      I don't get why anyone would buy this when a better spec Kodi box is half the price?

      1. MrXavia

        Re: Which country?

        can you get netflix on a Kodi box?

        1. defiler Silver badge

          Re: Which country?

          @MrXavia

          There are two ways to do it. You can either have Kodi launch an external application for Netflix (which is hardly in the spirit of the thing), or in the v18 builds there's a new feature called "inputstream.adaptive" which allows plugins to run Amazon Prime and Netflix.

          v18 is still in development, though, so you're on the potentially unstable nightly builds for that. Give it a little time until Leia is released, and you should be good.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Which country?

          "can you get netflix on a Kodi box?"

          Why would you need Netflix on a Kodi box?

    4. rodc

      Re: Which country?

      HBO? Its basically soft porn with stories.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Which country?

        > HBO? Its basically soft porn with stories.

        You just know they have paid a marketing company millions of dollars to come up with something far less compelling than that.

    5. woolloongabba

      Re: Which country?

      Ummm, right at the top it says by K.... in San Fran.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Which country?

        "Ummm, right at the top it says by K.... in San Fran."

        ... so wihch San Fran?

        Argentina

        San Francisco, Córdoba

        Chile

        San Francisco Glacier

        San Francisco de Mostazal

        San Francisco, Pichilemu

        Colombia

        San Francisco, Antioquia

        San Francisco, Cundinamarca

        San Francisco, Putumayo

        Costa Rica

        San Francisco de Dos Ríos District, San José Canton

        Dominican Republic

        San Francisco de Macorís

        Ecuador

        San Francisco de Quito, formal name of the capital city

        Honduras

        San Francisco, Atlántida

        San Francisco, Lempira

        San Francisco de Opalaca

        Guatemala

        San Francisco, El Petén

        San Francisco El Alto, Totonicapán

        San Francisco Zapotitlán, Suchitepéquez

        Mexico

        San Francisco de Campeche

        San Francisco de los Romo, Aguascalientes

        San Francisco del Mezquital, Durango

        San Francisco Coacalco, State of Mexico

        San Francisco Cahuacúa, Oaxaca

        San Francisco Cajonos, Oaxaca

        San Francisco Chapulapa, Oaxaca

        San Francisco Chindúa, Oaxaca

        San Francisco del Mar, Oaxaca

        San Francisco Huehuetlán, Oaxaca

        San Francisco Ixhuatán, Oaxaca

        San Francisco Jaltepetongo, Oaxaca

        San Francisco Lachigoló, Oaxaca

        San Francisco Logueche, Oaxaca

        San Francisco Nuxaño, Oaxaca

        San Francisco Ozolotepec, Oaxaca

        San Francisco Sola, Oaxaca

        San Francisco Telixtlahuaca, Oaxaca

        San Francisco Teopan, Oaxaca

        San Francisco Tlapancingo, Oaxaca

        San Francisco, Nayarit

        San Francisco Tetlanohcan, Tlaxcala

        Nicaragua

        San Francisco de Cuapa

        Panama

        San Francisco, Panamá

        San Francisco, Veraguas

        Philippines

        San Francisco, Agusan del Sur

        San Francisco, Cebu

        San Francisco, Quezon

        San Francisco, Southern Leyte

        San Francisco, Surigao del Norte

        San Francisco, San Pablo, Laguna

        San Francisco, Bohol

        Spain

        San Francisco (Bilbao)

        United States

        San Francisco (Puerto Rico), a sector within the township of Old San Juan in the capital of San Juan, Puerto Rico

        San Francisco, Minnesota, an abandoned town

        Mission San Francisco de Potano, a Spanish mission to the Timucua Indians of Florida

        Mission San Francisco Solano (California), a Spanish mission in Sonoma, California

        San Francisco Peaks, a set of mountains in Arizona

        San Francisco Plantation House, a historic plantation near New Orleans

        San Francisco volcanic field, Arizona; includes above peaks

        La Villa Real de la Santa Fé de San Francisco de Asís (the original Spanish name of Santa Fe, New Mexico)

        San Francisco, Colorado, a small town at the foot of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains

        Venezuela

        San Francisco de Yare, Miranda

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Which country?

          "Re: Which country?"

          It's the only one without a proper social healthcare system...

        2. stephajn
          Mushroom

          Re: Which country?

          "... so wihch San Fran?" [sic]

          Oh man....where's a mic drop when you NEED one? Well done my friend!!!!

    6. macjules Silver badge

      Re: Which country?

      If you have heard of Game of Thrones then you have heard of HBO

    7. Valerion

      Re: Which country?

      I know of HBO from The Simpsons, when Bart and family are kidnapped by aliens and put on their spaceship

      Kang: "And on this giant TV you can get any TV channel in the universe!"

      Bart: "Does it get HBO?"

      Kang: "No, that would cost extra."

  2. NonSSL-Login
    Meh

    Android - open and not limited

    Costs almost 3x than my Amlogic based android box which has features the Roku Ultra lacks, such as Dolby Vision support, and matches it for everything else with HDR, HDCP 2.2 and audio passthrough of DTS-HD etc.

    A family member has a Xiaomi Mi box which supports every streaming service and of course the whole play store apps and games goodies available, also at a fraction of the price of the Roku.

    I really don't see why the Roku has such a following beside being available to buy in the high street shops.

    1. ridley

      Re: Android - open and not limited

      I also have one of the Xiaomi Mi boxes, nice bit of kit and much cheaper than the Roku.

    2. Gordon 10 Silver badge
      FAIL

      Re: Android - open and not limited

      Maybe because you can get iPlayer, All4 and Amazon Video without pissing about with side loading or Plex?

      Not to mention NowTV for Sky and my annual GoT binge.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @NonSSL

      "I really don't see why the Roku has such a following beside being available to buy in the high street shops."

      Have to agree with you there. I just checked out their website and from what I read it can't even access media from your local LAN. Which, for me at least, is a must-have feature in a mediabox.

      Think about showing some of your vacation pictures or movies to your friends; I usually do that using my TV and the trustworthy AC Ryan mediabox.

      1. Gordon 10 Silver badge

        Re: @NonSSL

        LAN Content - works fine:

        https://support.roku.com/article/208754908-how-to-use-roku-media-player-to-play-your-videos-music-and-photos

        DLNA (Digital Living Network Alliance) is a standard technology that enables sharing of content between devices connected over a network. To play content stored on another device or computer on your Roku device using DLNA, the other device must be running DLNA server software and must be on the same network as your Roku device. Some routers and NAS (Network Attached Storage) devices have a built in DLNA server.

        Roku Media Player has been tested to work with the following DLNA servers:

        Windows Media Player/Center

        Serviio

        Plex

        Twonky

        MiniDLNA/ReadyDLNA/ReadyMedia

        PlayOn

        For information on setting up a DLNA server, consult the associated online support site.

        1. Alan Hope

          Re: @NonSSL

          So, Roku Media player will play my LAN content...

          "Not available in your region" :(

          Oh.

          UK users get a pretty poor deal from Roku.

  3. Warm Braw Silver badge

    The exciting future of ... personalization

    My local shopping centre keeps slapping "exciting new shopping experience coming soon" stickers on its (increasingly) vacant spaces. Would it be intolerant of me to suggest that perhaps we should gather up everyone who finds it exciting to exchange paper tokens for prosaic merchandise, or to have every detail of their life history assimilated in order to be told which fictional entertainment to pay for, and fire them into the sun?

    1. JetSetJim Silver badge

      Re: The exciting future of ... personalization

      I agree - I made the mistake of watching a few bland war films on Netflix and now it's difficult to find anything other than war films

    2. Flywheel Silver badge

      Re: The exciting future of ... personalization

      "exciting new shopping experience coming soon"

      AKA charity shops! Buy the same expensive sh1t that you always wanted at its true value.

  4. Timo

    agree completely

    We have three Roku boxes in the house. They're the quickest and easiest way to get smarts in a TV. Plug them in and they work.

    Started with Roku3 so we could stream Netflix, then a Roku1 to smartify an old projector to watch movies outside on the garage. Just upgraded a couple months ago to a Roku Stick ($45 USD), and honestly it does everything the Roku1 it replaced did, just a little bit faster. And that's about it. I loaded Plex on a machine and serve up a hundred or more movies for watching around the house. I specifically didn't go all the way up-range since they all do basically the same thing.

    I am waiting for some of the usual cable channel providers to de-couple themselves from cable and allow direct subscriptions. Roku may be in the best place with their content-agnostic strategy, any provider could come up with their own app and you subscribe directly (many offer streaming apps and for now you authenticate using your cable TV account, which is really strange.) PBS has an app but it could be better, and as you mention the Roku is blind to it. The overall user experience becomes handicapped by the quality and eccentricities of the app itself (Netflix's app is both good and frustrating at the same time). The Roku search function does well to find a certain show across all of the online libraries. In general it works but the seems to be nothing breathtaking about it. Casting is convenient but my Android phones don't seem to support it.

    You may not have experienced the oddities of the Roku app and how it struggles for control with the included remote. There's just something about how it is a dumb remote rather than an extension of the interface that is baffling to me. In my experience Tivo has a much better Android-app remote where it acts as a smart extension of the controls.

    1. Alan Thompson

      Re: agree completely

      ----snip----

      I am waiting for some of the usual cable channel providers to de-couple themselves from cable and allow direct subscriptions. Roku may be in the best place with their content-agnostic strategy, any provider could come up with their own app and you subscribe directly (many offer streaming apps and for now you authenticate using your cable TV account, which is really strange.)

      ----snip----

      Unfortunately, since most of the "usual" cable channels are owned by the largest US service providers, the resistance to decoupling them is very high. You'll likely be waiting a very long time.

      1. Tom Samplonius

        Re: agree completely

        "I am waiting for some of the usual cable channel providers to de-couple themselves from cable and allow direct subscriptions. "

        Probably never going to happen. Cable channels that license content, only get a license for broadcast. They they sub-license the channel and content it to a cable system. Cable channels that make their own content (ex. HBO) are a bit trapped. They would like to direct steam to subscribers, but it kind of cuts the legs of their licensing to cable systems. So they do this weird thing, where you if you have HBO on a cable system, you can stream it direct from HBO too. What is going to happen, is new guys will have to start making their content, and direct stream it, as Netflix and Amazon are doing. As soon a significant percentage of available content is produced this way, the other content producers will have to go full on with a digital-first strategy. Basically, cable networks will have to die.

        It is going to take a while to sort this out. Plus, a lot of license deals have to expire. Some of those licensing contracts can be renewed perpetually, as long as the licensee keeps paying (right of first refusal). In Canada, we have this weird issue where Bell Media has direct licenses for broadcast AND streaming for vast amounts of US TV content, but doesn't stream anything except to cable customers. They are basically paying yearly to to ensure the license doesn't fall to someone else, like Netflix. It isn't sustainable to pay to prevent people from watching stuff, that you can't fully monetize.

  5. Bruce Ordway

    The exciting future of streaming TV is going to be in personalization

    If I were just starting out I'd probably stream but...I still prefer downloading.

    My wife also has just about every streaming device, streaming services and cable services so... I have been able to experience A LOT of media types. She gave me a Roku last Christmas. While I saw the potential I still felt like it was not "quite there" yet. Navigation felt clunky, limited personalization. Even with all that variety available to me (that is basically free)... I still prefer downloaded content.

    Granted downloading requires more gear, waiting time and storage space, etc...

    1. David 132 Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: The exciting future of streaming TV is going to be in personalization

      I have a couple of Roku 3's, a 4, and a Stick & mainly use them all with Plex to view my content library from my NAS. All are great, although the Roku 4 refused to do 4K on my HDMI 1.4 TV until I got an HDCP converter box (fuck you very much, HDCP and Roku for going along with that crap). The Stick, I find, has awful wifi performance - constantly dropping out or buffering where my previous Roku 3 in the same location performed perfectly.

  6. Stuart Halliday

    I want one that works...

    Give me one that works and works fast. I don't want to reset it every 2 days because it's ran out of memory and I want H.265 support to watch my PC stored movies.

    If it displays a blank screen for longer than 1 second, then that's too long....

    1. Steve Knox Silver badge

      Re: I want one that works...

      " I want H.265 support to watch my PC stored movies."

      Plex works with Roku and most other boxen and you don't have to worry about codecs.

    2. Geoffrey W Silver badge

      TLDR

      @Stuart Halliday

      Sorry. I wish I knew what you wrote but it took longer than a second to read it so...sorry...my loss, I know...I'm sure there were pearls in there but...you know...one second...oh look...shiny shining...

      1. DropBear Silver badge

        Re: TLDR

        @Geoffrey W NO. Warming up for twenty seconds is what vacuum tube TV sets did when the dinosaurs weren't born yet. My twenty-year old CRT set Just Turns On when I press the button. Fuck boot times sideways, I'm not going back to that shit. The MythTV box I use hasn't been off or sleeping for about a decade now excepting power cuts and incidentally plays whatever I want played - from local sources, without the headache of figuring out which shitty "sorry unavailable for you" service I never heard of has exclusive rights to whatever I happen to fancy watching - not that I do all that much of that anyway.

  7. TrevorH

    3D?

    Didn't that ship sail about 5 years ago with no-one on board?

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: 3D?

      Was going to say the same. Try buying a 3D TV now.

      I guess people buying Rokus are buying them for a TV which is a few years old... Bought when they could still be found.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: 3D?

        "I still use a PS3 as a media player"

        I have both consoles but use my Xbox for media playback as it's not Cinavia infected unlike the PlayStation...

    2. Neil Barnes Silver badge

      Re: 3D?

      3D pops up every twenty or thirty years. Give a while and it'll be back, just as crap as the last times, all the way back to 1840...

    3. Ol'Peculier

      Re: 3D?

      I'm another that thought the same thing. I don't know anybody that has ever owned one, or even contemplated buying one.

      I do remember going into a pub that was showing a football game in 3D, there were about 4 people watching it looking like rescued Chilean miners...

  8. Paul

    I still use a PS3 as a media player.. plays Blurays, DVDs, streams Amazon and Netflix, plays media off a local DLNA server, runs PlayTV in the UK. Sometimes I play games on it.

  9. deathchurch

    Nvidia shield is the best tv box on the market, is this article a paid advertisement or just bollocks?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Is that the one that's twice the price....the one reason stated as not suggesting the Apple TV?

  10. Tim99 Silver badge

    Content

    It seems unlikely that the existing content oligarchs would allow a single aggregator to offer a universal service without a disruptive change in the market. Apple nearly managed it with music (£10/month for 40 million songs) - Could someone do something similar for TV and Movies without intrusive advertising?

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