Thinking about cutting the cord? Do it with a Roku

For quite sometime now, I’ve been displeased with Comcast’s service.  Unfortunately, there really isn’t much out there in the way of cable TV service that is any better. Quite the opposite, I have heard many people complain about Verizon, Dish, EchoStar and other such services. So, given our choices, we have decided to just cut the cord. Period.

However, we do enjoy quite a few shows that are not on over the air broadcast television.  What to do.

Well, actually, there’s plenty of options out there. Since we would keep the Comcast High Speed internet service, we had one major option.  Internet TV.  Dad’s are another.  But, I don’t want to buy a bunch of DVD’s, especially for things like Diner’s, Drive In’s and Dives.

I started looking at the various set top boxes (didn’t want to put a computer on every television in the house.) I immediately ruled out Apple’s Apple TV device, even though I am a fan of the device.  I pretty much forces you to buy TV shows through iTunes. Of course, it does have Netflix, but so does the Wii.  Big deal.

Western Digital has a nifty device, but it is mostly a ‘bring it yourself’ type of device where you supply the content.

Boxee Box, while fitting the bill, was just too costly. At nearly $180, I didn’t think it was really worth the money, considering you have to pay for many of the services (like Netflix and Hulu Plus) anyway.

Enter Roku.  Roku sells several boxes, ranging from $49 to $99.  The box I settled on was $79.  The tiny little box has composite and HDMI video and audio outputs. And packs a punch.  It is just slightly smaller than the Apple TV and has a somewhat more sophisticated remote control. 

Setup was spotty. No, actually, it was a pain in the ass.  Physical setup was a snap: plug in the cables and that’s it. No, the software setup was a pain. You NEED a credit card or PayPal just to activate the damn thing. While you don’t get charged, they do check the validity of the card. Without this vital step, you bought yourself a tiny little brick.

Once activated and your Roku account is all set, you can add channels to the device. This part was somewhat easier, but, as with anything, your mileage may vary.  Most of the channels will require some kind of payment, but they are worth the nickel and diming you will get. There are also apps available, though most are games.  And, some of those games require Roku TV game remote.

There are, literally, hundreds of channels to add. Some free, some free to add and others are paid channels. You have to be careful, some of them say they free, but, they are not. Some are free to add and then invoke a use tax, so to speak, saying that the preview channel is set to expire and you need to pony up the money to keep on trucking.

Most of the channel want you to ‘tie’ the channel to your device. You are given a URL on the ROKU, you go to the computer and type the URL in and, viola! You’ve got programming.

The quality of the video will, of course, vary with the source, but, when true HD video is playing, man…you realize just how good you have it.  Audio quality was hard to tell as we are using the television’s built in speakers.  Overall, it sounded great.

At $79, the device is well worth the money. I don’t know that I would buy the more expensive version as the only apparent difference is the remote.

Our experiment with cutting the cord is off to a strong start.The different service on the Roku make it easier to do this, but time will tell.  Now, we need some kind of DVR and then life would truly be great.

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