Saturday, July 30, 2011

Roku - The Little Black Box That Changed The Way We Watch TV

It's been almost 2 years now since we decided that we were tired of paying for TV programming that was interrupted every 10 minutes or so by commercials. Over the years I have learned to mentally block them out, but still, I hated the idea of wasting that much time sitting around waiting for something I cared so little about. More importantly, I realized that my youngest daughter, then age 9, was really buying into the crap, ideas and promises that these advertisements were soaking into her beautiful little spongy mind.

I cancelled the basic cable that we had subscribed to in order to get local programming on our humble outdated television set. We watched movies on DVD together as a family and didn't feel like we were missing much, but there were times when it would have been nice to have access to the news on-demand, documentaries, etc, so I started looking into affordable options and that's when I found Roku.

It seemed too good to be true, but the little black box turned out to be the perfect solution for our family. It delivered high quality movie streaming to our TV with no monthly fees and no commercials! Our only expense was a subscription to Netflix which cost about 10 bucks a month, plus the cost of our high-speed internet which we needed anyway for my work-at-home job.

This month, Roku released the new ROKU 2 XS and because we've been wanting an extra box to use upstairs anyway, we took a vote and pre-ordered one with some Amazon credit I'd been saving for a Chemex coffeemaker. I guess I'll have to wait a bit longer for a truly good cup of coffee since I kicked Mr. Coffee to the curb a while back when we turned our kitchen into a plastic-free zone, but that's another story altogether.

Our new Roku 2 XS arrived yesterday and it's so tiny compared to our older model. It's no bigger than box of crayons! It only took about 10-15 minutes to unpack and complete the set-up process which was easy peasy. I was pretty happy to see that all my settings and channels from my old Roku transferred to the new one, -all I had to do was enter my Netflix and Hulu usernames and passwords and we were ready to roll! Almost.

Oh yeah, did I forget to mention that the Roku 2 XS comes with a full version of Angry Birds? We're honestly not that big on gaming around fact, Gamecube and the great Animal Crossing addiction of 2007 is about as crazy as we've gotten in the video game world, but it's kind of awesome to have a game system on our TV now without all the extra clutter and cords. There's the box and the remote (which works similar to the Wii technology). That's it! Angry Birds took about 3 minutes to install/download and we were off slinging birds into towers of little green pigs. Holy crow, we're having a blast! Speaking of bird flingin' fun, try this tv-free activity with your kids before the summer's over.

The Roku 2 XS is definitely a step-up from the old version, but because I don't have a HDTV or any knowledge of the techy stuff that goes along with a so-called high-quality television experience, I can't really comment on the pros or cons of those sort of updates, although, I do like that fact that it uses less power than a nightlight.

What I do LOVE is that I can watch Amy Goodman every morning on the Democracy Now channel while I go without my fresh brewed coffee.

Okay, for those of you who are wondering, here's how Roku works; you buy the box, hook it up to your TV with the included AV cables and connect it to your high-speed internet (either wireless or ethernet wired). That's it! And best of all, there are no monthly fees!

Roku comes loaded with tons of free channels that you can add to fit your needs, everything from sports, news, weather and music to nostalgic favorites and silent films. It was kinda' cool to show the kids the old black-and-white Charlie Chaplin movies that I remember watching at the Shakey's Pizza Parlor as a kid! You can even use it to view your Facebook and Flickr photos! You also have the option to stream your Netflix and Hulu subscriptions and Amazon instant videos.

With a basic online-streaming subscription to Netflix and Hulu we have access to all the TV series, specials, movies, documentaries, and news that we need or want, all for less than $20 a month. Yes, you do get a few commercial interruptions with Hulu, but they are short and not nearly as miserable as regular TV and it allows us to watch our favorite shows the day after they air on regular television.

We watch what we really want to watch, when we want to watch it and don't waste our time skipping through the channels watching crap just because it's on. It's truly liberating! Honestly. Try it for yourself and see what I mean. Trust me, there will come a time when you realize that you can live a happy and full life without knowing who got voted off American Idol.

Okay, so, this mom's Roku review? LOVE it! No regrets. Definitely worth the investment, especially when you consider how much money you'll save by eliminating your cable bill if you choose to do so.

The new Roku 2 XS is available at and

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