Family life on LA's Westside


We Will, We Will Roku

When my son had a play date recently at the home of one of his BFFs, the boy’s Perfect Mom (svelte figure, always beautifully dressed, finds time for yoga, baking and a career) gave me the five-cent tour of her new Apple TV.  In seconds, Perfect Mom cued up the latest kids’ movie, “The Pirates! Band of Misfits.”  I was pretty impressed.  But that was before I discovered Roku.

I plugged in my new Roku 2 XS, and followed the prompts to connect it wirelessly to my home wi-fi.  It was simple.  With my laptop on my rec room coffee table, I had my own customized suite of streaming services up and running within minutes.  Unbelievably easy.  I had Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon Instant Video and dozens of other channels at my fingertips.

While there is plenty of free content among the 600+ channels of movies and shows Roku offers, most premium services, like Netflix, cost about $7.99 per month for unlimited streaming.  No cut to Roku, but the Netflix selection is not everything you can get from Netflix by mail; and I learned the hard way when I tried to resume a movie several days after starting it that movies come and go from the line-up without warning.  Of course if you want the latest releases, you can get them on other services, such as Amazon Instant Video.

New release on-demand movies and shows are priced midway between the cost of renting from a video store – if you can find one – and buying the video to own.  With most of the services you get the option for one-time viewing for a limited timeframe, such as 24 hours or three days for $3.99, or you can “buy” the video for unlimited viewing for around $12.99.

The hardware for Roku 2 XS is as amazing simple as the set up.  The set-top box is palm size, even smaller than Apple TV.  The Roku 2 XS remote is a cross between a simplified TV remote and a Wi game remote, with a wrist strap for those who get sweaty palms surfing through all the programming, dancing to music on Pandora or playing Angry Birds, which is free with the Roku 2 XS. Though I still can’t get into the idea of watching movies and shows on a tiny hand-held screen, there are also free aps available for streaming on your mobile device.

Roku is general is pretty cool.  Not just the technology, but the company and its attitude.  You get a sense that Roku is run by some fun-loving folks from the tone of first email you receive as a new user, “Welcome to Roku – your new best friend.”  To their credit, Roku allows freedom of expression on their blog comments, even when the commenters are ranting disgruntled customers.  I didn’t see a lot of interaction with the commenters, but I can only hope their customer service people are all over the reported problems and issues.

As for me, I have no complaints.  In fact, when I ran into Perfect Mom the other day and began raving about my new best friend, my five-year-old chimed in, “Why do you always talk about Roku?”

Guess my enthusiasm is showing.  And this time I think Perfect Mom was impressed with me.

Roku 2 XS retails for $99.99 on and major retailers nationwide including  Amazon, Walmart, Best Buy and Target.