We’re kicking off home entertainment week here at Tech 4 Moms. Now that our family is back on a school schedule, we don’t have as much opportunity to pack up the circus for an all-day, official-like family togetherness activity. So we’re planning for the unfortunate days we can expect in the approaching months, when being outside is a punishment and you just don’t have the gumption, or the time to organize a field trip. There are many at home options for family togetherness.
That’s where the Roku 3 comes into play.
The Roku 3 basically takes all of your TV and Movie content sources, plus news, music and games, and puts them all together in one happy place with an intuitive user interface. It comes preinstalled with several channels (i.e. Netflix, Hulu Plus, Redbox, Blockbuster, M-Go, plus limited content from Disney Channels, PBS Kids, History Channel, ESPN Watch…etc. Subscription is needed for some), but there are other free, or paid, channels that you can download, to suit your family needs. Basically it gives you the benefits of a smart TV without having to buy one.
It comes with some other channels already loaded on the device which I didn’t appreciate. I ended up deleting some because there doesn’t happen to be a content filter for the Roku 3. I found that several of the channels with the free movies have objectionable titles in their library–at the ready for my unsuspecting kindergartner to stumble upon.
If you don’t check the content of each channel personally, someone–you–definitely needs to supervise what the kids access. The image below illustrates how to delete channels. It took me a minute to figure it out.
Games traditionally played on the tablet can become a family affair with the Roku 3, Wii type remote. Angry Birds Space is the only preloaded game. The other games cost money, menial amounts, usually between $.99- $4.99, which is way less expensive than taking the family out to an amusement park, or to the movies, or even out to eat.
Roku 3 also comes in handy for movie rentals and purchases. If you can’t summon the energy to venture out into the blistering cold just to save a few bucks on a Redbox rental, you can download it using your choice of movie source, and it’s cheaper than On Demand and has more variety. M-GO was especially sleek, showing the Rotten Tomatoes reviews right there next to the movie description, which saves my hubby some time and effort because he’s the one who does the movie review research in this family. And the purchases are added to your UltraViolet library.
My favorite feature was definitely the YouTube channel. Yay wonder of wonders. Not a big deal. But the cool part is that if I pull up a YouTube video on my phone, it gives me the option to watch it on my TV via Roku 3, and then I can use my phone to navigate YouTube, like a remote.
Although the Roku 3 user interface is much sleeker than my Blu-ray player, which has a similar set up for streaming and downloading content from many sources (but happens to have a cursor that moves at a whopping .3 inches per minute—rough estimate—which makes navigating the browser a nightmare), the Roku still isn’t as easy as using a phone or a tablet. So being able to zip through YouTube from my phone is much more fun, and much less strain on the eyes since the fam can watch it on the TV.
Beefs, I’ve got a few. Of course I’m not wild about the inability to block mature content. Picture quality can be pretty shoddy on some shows or channels. I suppose quality is up to the channel supplying the content, and can be affected by your WiFi bandwidth, so we won’t blame it all on the Roku.
Since you have to provide your credit card info upon setup, I live in fear that my four year-old will one of these days dedicate himself to cracking the four digit pin so he can download all varieties of Angry Birds. I do believe he has the patience to do it.
My other big complaint is that the Roku 3 pauses streaming in order to load. Quite frequently on some channels (this can also be a WiFi bandwidth problem). It makes watching a half an hour Human Weapon episode rather unpleasant. None of my other devices have any trouble streaming 1080p off of our WiFi (and no other devices were using the WiFi when this was occurring,so bandwidth wasn’t a factor). So I can only conclude that it’s something to do with the Roku 3, or the servers of the channels I’m watching. Either way, that’s got to go.
But, I’ll leave you on a high note. One of the happy surprises the Roku 3 had was the headphone jack on the remote, which enables me to listen to my show without blasting the volume as high as it can go to drown out the kids. I like to watch TV while I fold laundry and the kids don’t like to stand by and be silent while I do, so it works out.
In a nutshell, I’d say it is worth the $99 price tag if you are looking to up your home entertainment options or searching for a solution that allows you easy to access your digital streaming sources like Netflix, or Hulu, or Blockbuster, or Redbox. Or all of the above.
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