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Sunday, August 31, 2008
Saturday, August 02, 2008
A year and a half ago, I raved about Vongo, the online service that for a flat fee of just $10 a month would let you download videos to watch on your laptop. Now I have discovered something better.
When you subscribe to the $9 a month plan from Netflix, not only do you get unlimited DVDs one-out-at-a-time snail-mailed to your home, you also get access to their "Instant Play" library to stream to your laptop or your Roku. Roku is a small box that connects to your home wireless Internet allowing you to watch the Netflix "Instant Play" videos on your television.
Roku is family-friendly. As a parent you login with your username and password to the Netflix website from your laptop and then select movies to add to the "Instant Queue". Without having to login, your children then use the Roku remote to scroll through the Instant Queue list on the television. Parents can add hundreds of videos to the Instant Queue for their children to choose from.
In addition to movies, cartoons, and toddler shows, my children have been enjoying the television series A-Team, Astroboy, Incredible Hulk, and Knight Rider. I have enjoyed Dilbert, Heroes, Tick, and The Life of Mammals.
You and your family members can flip between several videos and Roku remembers where you left off watching on each. Unfortunately Roku does not support captions so you have to use your wireless headphones with the volume turned up when the family is sleeping. The other issue is that you cannot power it off without unplugging it so it will dominate the auto-select on your composite audio/video selector switch until you do.
Since Roku uses a wireless connection to your Internet, it is easy enough to move and reconnect when you want to use it in another room but we are considering buying a second. For a one-time cost of $99 for each, the price is not bad, but you then need to upgrade to the two-out-at-a-time Netflix plan of $14 a month.
I highly recommend Roku, especially if you have kids. It has some quirks but it gives you thousands of videos to choose from to stream direct to your television for a small monthly flat fee.